Tag Archives: Women and Diabetes

DOC Brides Infographic!

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Allison, April, Kerri, and myself are featured in a DOC Brides Infographic with tips and suggestions that we learned through trial and error.

This was put together by Sanofi and is shown on the Discuss Diabetes blog.  Click here to check it out!

Also see my guest post, “Diabetes on Your Wedding Day” for more things I wish I’d known before walking down the isle.

Happy Wednesday!

2012 Diabetes Sisters Conference, See You There?

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The 2012 Diabetes Sisters Conference is taking place in Raleigh, North Carolina this May 18-20.

I wrote about my experience last year.  But that post can’t do it justice because in the past year since the conference, I’ve kept in touch with a handful of the women I met and have been SO thankful for the friendships that have resulted.  I would not know these women if it weren’t for this conference and I’ve been so pleasantly surprised at how easy it is to bond with women whose struggle is similar to my own.

This year I’m excited to make this a bit of a family affair.  My husband, Alex has been helping Brandy’s husband Chris (along with Diabetes Daily’s David Edelman) to plan the first ever, Partner’s Perspective Program.  And Alex will definitely be attending the program.  It should be great.  I mean, we know our partners deal with a lot and perhaps aren’t too comfortable with telling us for fear of making us feel bad so I think it’s wonderful that there will be a place for them to meet, relate, and discuss the unique aspects of being with someone who has diabetes and all the issues that arise as a result.  I hope these partners also gain some insight into what we would like from them in certain situations.  I also think it will be a great opportunity for all us women to give our partners a big collective, “thank you!”

I happen to literally have a diabetes sister, my type 1 sister Ana, who will also be attending the conference this year.  She used to be a lot more involved with diabetes stuff, even attending the Children’s Congress in Washington D.C. as a Delegate the same year Diabetes Mine’s, Allison Nimlos went.  (Allison and her husband will be at the conference, by the way.)  Ana also loved her Diabetes Camp experiences as a younger kid and I’m so excited she’ll get to experience this event.

Something I really like about this conference is women with any type of diabetes are welcome.  So though I can obviously relate more to someone who has type 1 when it comes to certain things, I find it really wonderful to learn from a woman with type 2 about what it’s like for her.  I always end up realizing that we are all really in the same boat.  We struggle day to day with making a multitude of choices, choices which impact our health and our lives.  We all have to worry about food and pay a little too much attention to it.  We all check our blood sugar.  We all feel the threat of diabetes complications and we all want to live the best life possible with our diabetes.

That brings me to another awesome benefit of the conference.  The learning experience.  There are a wide range of speakers on an array of relevant topics to women with diabetes.  The speakers are really professional and invested in the topics at hand.  I appreciated getting away from my children long enough to take notes about things like heart disease last year and sit and think long and hard about why I take care of myself instead of worry about it in fleeting bits while chasing my kids around the living room.

That’s the other thing.  It’s a safe environment.  You can laugh, cry, and check your blood sugar without feeling out of place.  Brandy Barnes calling her organization “Diabetes Sisters” is right on the mark.  It’s rather self-explanatory now that I think of it.  If you want to attend, please register quick before it’s too late.

Click here to register and learn more.

I SO hope I see you there!

Welcome to Fabulous Fridays

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We women are something else.  We often try to do it all and be it all.  We often put our partners and children first, our families and friends and jobs first, and worry a lot over a billion different things each day.  And it’s no wonder.  I think today more than ever, we’re expected to work, raise children, keep a house, be a great host, be interesting, stay fit, do what we love, cook a knock-out meal, and look glamorous all the while.  It’s not realistic, it’s too much, and I don’t know about you but even before I had kids, I found myself cracking a little underneath the pressure to be so many things.

I felt a lot of relief when I put more focus on self love.  For many, the concept of self love seems quite selfish.  The idea however, is that we appreciate ourselves for who we are.  This includes embracing the good and the bad-yes even the bad, because that’s the only way to take care of the dark parts of ourselves and allow the light to triumph.  This means we can be honest about who we are and who we are not and become more aligned with our true selves.  And that means we can stop feeling so much pressure to be everything.

Personally, I’m on a journey to come to terms with who I am and am not and so far it’s been liberating.  Doing this reveals our authentic self and the more I do that, the more people are accepting of me.  They’re like, “Oh yeah, this is YOU!”  Because our authentic self shines through whereas our fake or undiscovered self always seems a little off or a little lost.

Ana and I will be supporting your path to self love each Friday by posting a short story, a picture, a quote, a fun tip, a question, a product we can’t live without, or an interview, etc.  But it will all focus on you and your path, or rather, our journey, to fully loving and accepting the fabulous women we already are.  I think that’s ultimately our key to the health, happiness, and joy we seek.

So thanks for reading and stay tuned!

XOXO

Wednesday Revisit: The Dreaded Monthly Visitor

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Here is something I posted originally on:

October 24th 2009

Diabetic Women and the Dreaded Monthly Visitor

It’s basically a list of things that I implemented to help greatly alleviate my period related symptoms.  I really did go from super painful periods to mild ones that tend to get worse the farther I stray from the things on this list.  So for me, they work pretty well and maybe they’d help you or someone you know.

Happy Wednesday to ya!

Headed to the Diabetes Sisters Conference!

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I feel so lucky that the Diabetes Sisters National Weekend for Women Conference is happening in Raleigh, North Carolina.  I’m a few hours away in VA and will be attending!  Diabetes Sisters is an organization out to spread awareness and education about the unique issues women with diabetes face.  They sum it up nicely on their website stating that women with diabetes deal with “fluctuating blood sugars due to the hormones of puberty, menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause and increased health risks for cardiovascular disease, depression, eating disorders, body image issues, osteoporosis, and ketoacidosis.”  Preach.

This national conference is to be educational and uplifting.  I’m excited for several reasons.  First of all, as you can see by the title of my blog, I like to focus on the unique aspects of diabetes met by women because I am a woman and I believe in the great big role we play in our society.  We need to be aware that taking care of our health has super important implications for our families and our society.  We need to learn to prioritize with ourselves at the top so that we are in the best state for all the other stuff we do.  We need to love ourselves, respect ourselves, and take care of well being because we deserve it and because our families depend on us.

Secondly, a weekend away from my husband and kids-as much as I will miss them, could not come at a better time.  I haven’t left the house much since I got pregnant with my twins two and a half years ago.  I haven’t left my kids for more than a couple hours at a time.  I have been immersed in the world of being a wife/mom/homemaker and it all happened so quickly my head is still spinning.  It’s a wonderful world to be immersed in but a short break from it will be really nice.  I’m one of those who tends to serve others and forget about myself.  Well, my family needs me and in reality, the healthier I am, the more I can do for them.  Therefore, I look forward to this opportunity to center myself and think about why I do what I do for my health. 

Last but not least, I am excited to learn things from the amazing speakers that will be in attendance and to relay their messages back to you upon my return.  If this sounds interesting to you maybe you could plan to attend next year’s conference.  Perhaps it will be in a city near you!

I’ve never driven anywhere further than 30 minutes by myself so wish me luck in getting to Raleigh on time.  I have a GPS to use but I will not underestimate my rare and impressive ability to get lost ;)

Have a great weekend!

Diabetes, Being a Girl, and PCOS

 

If you’re a girl you will get a lot of this.  If you’re a guy I’d be honored if you bravely read on…

I know men don’t have it easy.  But as a girl I often get frustrated by the unique struggles we face all while holding diabetes’ hand.  We carry children or children do not come into this world.  We’re the ones who might attempt to breast feed, which isn’t easy for everyone and involves carefully adjusting insulin needs.  Our careers, our relationships, our lives are sometimes negatively smattered with our once a month hormone excitement called PMS.  Once a month we women menstruate, sending a surge of hormones through our bodies, causing insulin needs to often rise and mess with our diabetes.  <sigh>  All this despite the fact we already make less money at work than our male counterparts.

In many women with diabetes, polycystic ovarian syndrome is another matter to deal with.  And it’s not an easy one.  I don’t know if it’s true but I’ve heard PCOS is the number one cause of female infertility in the US.  Here is my problem with it: Doctors have told me I need to control cyst formation by taking birth control pills for a long time.  Yet, these pills cause leg cramping for me-a serious side effect that is not to be ignored because it’s a sign of blood clots.  So the pills are officially out.  Pregnancy makes the cysts go away because of all of the extra estrogen.  But getting pregnant while raising two toddlers and feeling up to my ears with diabetes and parenting definitely doesn’t sound like the right thing to do either.  I’ve been off of the pill for long enough now that my cysts are growing again.  I have tenderness and cramping in my abdomen and my PMS symptoms are worsening every month.  This includes my moods.  I had no mood swings while pregnant and was shocked at how calm I actually am.  Since I’ve been dealing with PCOS for a long time however, my periods have always been torturous and my mood swings have left me feeling like someone fought me and won.  I feel like I have 2 decent weeks out of every month.  So half of my life is being seriously challenged and I don’t like it.

I could improve PCOS by having no sugar, by keeping insulin levels low.  Yet, how do I do that when I need sugar for lows and when type 1 diabetes often means giving extra insulin, not for food, but to lower blood sugar?  It’s a wretched cycle to be in and I don’t see a way out.  I’ll be talking to the doctor about metformin soon to see if that will help me use less insulin because lowering insulin resistance is supposed to help with PCOS.  Left untreated, ovarian cysts can turn into cancer so I don’t want to do nothing to help the matter.  They also hurt and can cause cramping that can make a gal scream (I’m exhibit A on that one).  Three years ago I ended up in the hospital with really bad abdominal pain from a ruptured cyst.  I don’t want to get to that point again.  I already eat pretty well and I already exercise.  I’m not overweight but I could lose a few more pounds.  I maintain my weight eating 1200-1400 calories a day.  (Clearly, I don’t eat too much)  I have other symptoms of insulin resistance even though I use one unit of insulin per 15 carbs.  We’ll see what the doc says.  In the meantime, is there anyone out there who has PCOS and has found a way to manage it?  Does it cause you to have terrible PMS symptoms?  Since PCOS causes infertility and increases risk of miscarriage, how did I get pregnant and carry twins you ask?  My doctors and my family and I all agree: a miracle.

I’ve made it through that, now I’ve somehow got to get through this.

My Full Diabetes Twin Pregnancy and Birth Story

Me, 2 days before giving birth to twins
Me, 2 days before giving birth to twins

 

I’ve been emailed so many times for more details about my pregnancy and birth of twins as a type 1 diabetic that I just figured I’d make a lengthy post for those wanting to read more of the experience.  So here goes!

I got married at the end of August of 2008 and by October was pregnant. I had just been told I probably couldn’t conceive and yet somehow this test I took after missing a period said otherwise. I remember being out of town for work, feeling strange cramping in my abdomen and thinking about what the doctor said about my ovaries.  I laid on the floor of the hotel room closing my eyes, wishing, wishing that what the doc said wasn’t true.  I was one week pregnant then.  But I didn’t know for three more weeks after that trip.  My husband and I were very nervous upon hearing the news because I was passing lots of tissue for some unknown reason. Assuming my diabetes was too much for pregnancy I figured the tissue loss meant I was losing the baby. I didn’t have an appointment with an OB doctor for a few more weeks.

We celebrated the news with family in a semi-joyous event. I was so nervous about my cramping and tissue loss and just sadly watched everyone drink their champagne. I thought about the little bit of beer and wine I had the weekend before and wondered if that was going to hurt my baby. I thought about my blood sugars. Had they been good enough for this? I also couldn’t shake the feeling that lately I had been craving a lot of steak and vegetables.

I made an appointment with my general practitioner, an internal specialist, right away and asked if we could do every blood test available so I would know how I was starting out the pregnancy.  Luckily, my A1c was a 4.6%. My lowest ever.  My other labs came back within normal ranges.  The doctor didn’t check my vitamin D level.  My allergist did months later and we found it was low, which he said was a risk factor for children to have allergies and other immune system related issues later in life.  I got the level up quickly by sunbathing and taking cod liver oil every day.  Anyway, my A1c before pregnancy gave me confidence in knowing the diabetes aspect should (hopefully) be alright. At least to begin with.

My appointment with an OB was in December where the hormone test came out so high the nurses assured me I was still very pregnant and shouldn’t worry about the tissue loss. After all, I have Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome and maybe my cysts were shrinking and naturally passing due to pregnancy hormones-namely estrogen. Because I am a diabetic and the hormone test was so high, the doctor decided to go ahead and do an early ultrasound test.  I prayed she’d find a heartbeat going strong and since I was unable to read the strange figures on the monitor I just watched her face for clues.  She sort of got wide eyed at one point and smirked and gave the nurse a funny look and then the nurse looked closer at the screen and smiled.  Phew!  This must mean they see the embryo!  The OB looked at my mother and I and said, “Are you ready for this?” I looked at the screen and saw what looked like two bubbles… Confused I just looked blankly at the doctor who sputtered out “you’re having twins!”. I looked at my mom and she at me and we both started laughing and crying all at once. I was so shocked-mostly about my body’s ability to get pregnant with two!  My faith was so small I felt I couldn’t even handle one. Shame on me. 

This was the beginning of a wild journey.  I began having very severe morning sickness during the 2nd month of pregnancy. This was so severe and the only thing that would help the smallest bit was eating carbohydrates. Problem was, this meant I had to give insulin to cover the carbs. Since I was so sick I would often throw up and then my blood sugar would plummet. My husband endured many scary moments handing me juice box after juice box as I, in front of the toilet bowl, tried to keep from going unconscious while my blood sugar stayed in the 30’s. This severe morning sickness lasted day and night for several months.  So much for being happy newlyweds. By the 3rd month of pregnancy I was outgrowing clothing. A twin belly grows really fast! I was still throwing up a lot. I couldn’t handle much of the usual foods. I couldn’t stand many smells. I became severely anemic and yet couldn’t stomach the iron pills-although I did take them. I worried about my blood sugars and if the babies were getting enough nutrients. I was pale and sickly looking. I was often so dizzy and fell down flights of stairs twice during this time, once injuring my already dislocated tail bone.  I had many low sugar episodes during the first trimester (due to needing less insulin) which occurred mostly in the middle of the night which was very stressful for my husband. One night in my sleep he caught me mumbling “I can’t go on…I’m not going to make it…I’m so tired…” and he frantically woke me up. I tested and found my sugar was 32. Yikes!  Way to go hubby!

During the 2nd trimester the morning sickness lessened (but didn’t completely go away). I was already as big as someone carrying one baby at 40 weeks and was going to physical therapy for some lower vertebrae which are out of place due to tight pelvic floor muscles (go figure). This included my tail bone. So not only could I hardly walk or stand, I could hardly sit or even lay without pain. I wondered every day if I was going to make it. I cried every night for fear that I wouldn’t. I worried about every high blood sugar reading and prayed constantly that my babies, a boy and a girl, would be ok. I left work while 5 months pregnant due to all of the above. (Did I also mention I couldn’t sneeze without a pad on?)

As my 3rd trimester began I got my eyes checked and for the first time discovered one or two leaking blood vessels. I had just had my eyes checked right before becoming pregnant and everything looked good so I was told this was due to the strain of the twin pregnancy. (Did you know that towards the end of a twin pregnancy, one’s body’s supply of blood has literally doubled?) I had my A1c checked again and found it was 5.3%. Not bad. So checking 12-18 times a day works eh? I quit wearing high heels during the 6th month.  During my 7th month of pregnancy I  finally started to swell. My ankles and feet mostly. My blood pressure began rising and my nerves were really getting wracked. I wasn’t able to sleep more than 5 hours a night just due to feeling so darn awful and having to pee every 2 hours. At this point I was testing even more just to ensure great blood sugars for the babies. I wanted them to have perfect blood sugars themselves when born and I knew it depended on my blood sugar. My birthday came and went with me on the couch in an awkward position because my son was head down in the birth canal. I was now going to the doctor every other day and each time found out my daughter had drastically changed location (I felt her wild movements and imagined she’d be a whimsical child and guess what? she is!) Her moving around above and then below her brother caused lots of pain as my super stretched skin tried to extend itself a tiny bit more to accommodate her. (My doctor was very impressed with my belly-she said it was one of the biggest she had ever seen in her career!) (I wasn’t so much impressed as scared I was going to tear open at the seams.)

Finally at 34 weeks and 5 days I went to my check-up appointment. The night before went badly. I felt panicky, couldn’t breathe well, felt my pulse racing, saw strange flashing lights, and otherwise felt like it was time because mama wasn’t going to hang on much longer. Around 3 am when I couldn’t sleep I went to the computer and typed in “symptoms of preeclampsia”.  Yep, I knew it.  My body’s ability to carry about 12 pounds of baby-not including their personal sacs and fluid environment, had finally expired. My doctor walked by me into work while I waited outside her office and she took one look at me and rushed me in ahead of the others for a stress test. I must have looked bad.  Thankfully, the babies were fine. (Sighhhh) But, what about mom? Blood pressure was really high.  I was experiencing preeclampsia. A nurse said that was the first time in my entire pregnancy that she had seen me look that way.  She said I always came in all dressed up, hair fixed, make up on, smiling and this time I look scared and like something was sucking my life away.  Honestly, that’s kind of the way I felt, physically speaking.  My doctor nodded and I was told to go straight to the hospital. I wanted to cry and felt myself about to start panicking. I went out into the waiting area to find my mom when a lady sitting in front of her asked about my twin pregnancy. She had been talking to my mom and said she was 3 months pregnant with twins and scared about what would be next. I looked at her and noticed that she looked really healthy and thought, “Well without diabetes you won’t have such a hard time I’m sure…” Not to mention she was really tall.  Did you know most women who carry twins are tall?  It’s a bit more of a natural fit, apparently.  There is more room to expand.  My doctor said my short stature was a bit of a disadvantage to me.  Anyway, I instead say to her, “You’ll be fine! it’s wonderful to carry twins!” We laughed and as soon as I walked away and down the hall I began crying. I told my mom what the doctor said. She comforted me yet could barely control her excitement. The babies we had all worked so hard for were coming soon!

In the hospital I spent over 24 hours in induced labor, trying hard to have a natural birth. I went 12 hours without any painkillers and endured harsh back to back contractions which, by the way did NOTHING to dilate me past 1cm. The pelvic exam done by a different doctor which had never hurt before was suddenly so painful I screamed all the way through it.  Not to mention that doctor had the biggest hands I’d ever seen.  I still shudder when I see a pair of large hands, I’m not kidding!  I think when I get very nervous my muscles extremely tense up.  Not ideal when trying to give birth.

I ended up having a c-section around 6pm the next day and to my surprise heard both of my babies crying and breathing on their own as they were pulled from deep inside of me.  I felt every bit of the c-section, only I felt no pain.  I was very nauseated when they took out “baby B” which was my daughter, because she was up between my ribs.   My husband watched the whole thing and now boasts that he knows me very well on the inside.  Not so funny to me but, anyway, when we both heard both babies crying after being pulled out of me we were so happy! They came out needing no assistance despite having been born early and to a type 1 diabetic mother (who didn’t always have such great A1c’s, mind you). I went unconscious for a while after the birth and this period of time is still cloudy to me.  I think later that night I awoke with family congratulating me.  I remember hearing that my son looked like my husband and my daughter looked like me, which we still hear.  I was still so scared and tired and I wondered what the future would hold.  How would I take care of two babies when I felt like I needed a month long hospital stay to recover from all this? 

I was given a lot of magnesium to combat a possible seizure from the high blood pressure and this meant double vision for several days. It was like having four babies. I cried over the fact that I couldn’t see my own children clearly-and everyone else could.  It didn’t feel right. (These were mostly hormones talking, I’m sure) The magnesium prevented me from moving and at one point I couldn’t chew and I couldn’t attempt breastfeeding for a long time. I also had so much liquid pumped into me through IV that I was carrying around 35 pounds of water weight (I only gained baby weight during my twin pregnancy although I did lose tons of muscle). This water weight lasted 3 weeks and made it very painful to walk or move at all.  It felt like my feet, my hands, my legs were going to explode.  The c-section healed nicely yet, hurt much more than I imagined, mostly because I didn’t take painkillers since they passed into the breast milk (and I didn’t want my little ones to get so sleepy they’d be unable to fight for air when they choked on spit up). 

The first week was so difficult I don’t think back on it with fond memories.  In fact the first several months were “hellish”  I don’t even remember my babies during their first few months.  I was barely there.  There was a serious lack of sleep and a lot of post pregnancy hormones to keep me on a crazy emotional leash.  I pumped breast milk for 4 months every 3 hours round the clock which, I found is a great way to control blood sugars! But, taking care of two babies while dealing with carpel tunnel and tendonitis is not ideal.  I wouldn’t have made it had my mom not visited me almost every day while pregnant and driven me to all the doctor appointments.  My family was very supportive and when I visited they would make me comfortable on the couch, serve me food, listen to my fears.  My husband was in the trenches with me and never went out without me just so he could stay with me through it all.  He saved me from countless lows, from panic attacks in the middle of the night, and from exhaustion by always being there.  It was a tough job, I know it was.  My mom came to help with the babies almost every day until their first birthday and I can’t imagine what would have happened to my sanity had she not.  I definitely want people to know the truth.  I had a lot of help and it was still extremely difficult.  And yes, much of what made it more difficult was my type 1 diabetes.  But, talk to any new parent of twins and you’ll find out having twins is no picnic, just like having one isn’t either.  Twins are double the joy for sure but, the experience was so overwhelming to me that one day I want to start a foundation that helps new parents of twins or multiples to get help and support during the first few months.  They really, really, need it. 

People tell me I look like my old self now that a year and a half has passed.  Truthfully, I’m not exactly like my old self.  If you look at my stomach it’s completely wrecked beyond recovery (tons of stretched skin that just hangs there and as I’m told by other twin mothers and doctors-won’t go away) which as you can imagine does a lot to one’s self esteem.  I weigh the same as before though and I can actually run more miles than before (something about being a mom makes you more like superwoman I think).  My eyes have been checked since and thankfully, the blood vessels have shrunk away.  I have a lot more broken capillaries on my legs than before the pregnancy-probably due to all the extra blood flow but, also the 35 pounds of water retention I endured after the birth due to being hooked up to an IV for so long.  It’s not cool going into the hospital feeling like a whale and coming out even larger, I’ll tell you that lol.

I won’t sit here and tell you my pregnancy was easy. It wasn’t.  It was so hard you could send me into a panic attack by telling me I’m pregnant.  Yet, for 8 months of suffering I got these two little miracles who have already given me so much in return. This includes teaching me how to have faith and teaching me that working hard on good diabetes management can have immense payoffs! I hope everyone reading this remembers to place your diabetes first. You need to have good glucose control for good health.  There is no way around that.  But, I know you can do it!  There was a time I didn’t think I’d see my 21st birthday.  Then I didn’t think I could carry one child, much less two. The body (even a diabetic’s) is really amazing! Don’t you forget it.

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