With a happy, positive pregnancy and birth under my belt already I was much less anxious going into my second pregnancy. It was all set up to pan out in the same way as my first baby. Still on an insulin pump, same endocrinologist, same obstetrician, same hospital. Good HbA1c before pregnancy. What could go wrong?
To be honest – nothing drastically wrong at all – I’ve got a healthy, happy six year old boy running around the house with his big sister so it all turned out fine in the end. But this pregnancy, birth and newborn period was much more wrapped up in my diabetes and the worry and guilt hung around for a long time afterwards.
Pregnancy #2 – the one affected by diabetes
It all started well. I had good HbA1cs before I got pregnant and because I’d had a straightforward pregnancy first time round I wasn’t as obsessive over my blood sugar checks (6 a day instead of 10 a day). The doctors were all happy with me and my blood sugars, and my HbA1cs stayed in range throughout the pregnancy (5.7% at 5 months pregnant).
Things were all fine until I got to the 18 week scan. Something about the baby’s heart didn’t look quite right. Straight away I started thinking about my diabetes and risks of abnormalities in the baby, thinking about what my blood sugars had been like at the start of the pregnancy and going over and over what I might have done wrong to make this happen. It turns out he had tiny holes in his heart at that stage which I was reassured was quite common and that they were expected to close up on their own before he was born. The doctors weren’t worried about it but told me the baby’s heart would be checked again after the birth to make sure all was well. It was scary but I kept my fingers crossed that it would be OK by the time he was born (they were right, his heart ended up being fine).
The other thing that happened was that the baby started getting quite big. I put on a lot more weight too (I went from 55kg to 70kg). My usual doctors didn’t seem concerned about this, but late on in the pregnancy (around 36 weeks), I saw a doctor I’d never met before who was covering for my obstetrician while he was on holiday. He threw around words like “macrosomia” and talked about my “risk of pre-eclampsia” and “risk of late term still birth”. He examined me and said that the baby was “big but not enormous”. I left that appointment feeling pretty rubbish, and again thought a lot about whether I was having a big baby because of my diabetes and because I just hadn’t dealt with it well enough (ignoring the fact that my blood sugars had been kept in a tight range throughout the pregnancy).
The plan for the delivery was the same as the first time round, except the induction was going to be brought to 38 weeks instead of 39 (I think because of the baby’s size). As it turned out, I went into labour at 37 weeks a few days after starting maternity leave. I distinctly remember driving to the hospital with my husband and stopping at a petrol station to stock up on hypo supplies for the labour!
The labour itself was fine and was over quite quickly – I arrived at the hospital at 9am and my son was born at 2pm. My husband took over the blood sugar checks during labour and kept me in range throughout. He was very diligent about making sure I didn’t go hypo which I almost did towards the end, but he had me sipping on a sweet drink (even though I was protesting and really didn’t want to drink it) and I never went low.
My lovely son was born and he weighed in at 3.9kgs (8lbs 11 oz) at 37 weeks. After he’d been weighed I had a cuddle and started feeding him. Then I started feeling him get a bit cold and clammy. I told the midwives I thought he was having a hypo. They quickly mixed a bottle which my husband fed to him and he guzzled it down quickly. The paediatrician was called and my son’s blood sugars were checked to make sure they were going up. After the bottle they seemed OK, and that night I went to bed thinking everything was fine. In the middle of the night a nurse came to see me to tell me that my son had been taken into the special care unit for monitoring because his blood sugars had been unstable and they decided he needed to be put on a glucose drip.
I woke up the next morning and went to the special care unit to see my baby. The nurses were all busy when I walked in but it was a small room and I found him easily. Seeing my baby with a needle in his tiny hand hooked up to a drip really upset me. There were plasters on his heels from the blood sugar checks. I felt so awful for him, I felt like it was all my fault, that this had happened because of my diabetes, I should have checked my blood sugars 10 times a day, I was too complacent, I should’ve done more. It was horrible. I still to this day haven’t quite shaken off that guilt, even though I know people have big babies sometimes and the nurses at the hospital told me that sometimes babies have unstable blood sugars whether they have mums with diabetes or not. It took two days for him to come off the glucose drip, then he was allowed back into my room with me. That was short lived because then he had jaundice and had to go back to special care to spend 24 hours under the blue lights in an incubator. About 5 days after he was born we went home.
Fast forward six years and my little boy is healthy and happy, completely unaffected by those days in special care. Nobody has ever blamed me or my diabetes for what happened and I know that I managed my blood sugars well. Maybe it would have all happened in exactly the same way even if I didn’t have diabetes? I’ll never know, but I just have to accept that it happened, it wasn’t very nice and now it’s over and stop beating myself up about it.