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In 2004 my first child was delivered via c-section. The c-section was planned, as was most everything about the pregnancy:

  • The switch, prior to conception, from oral medication to insulin (MDI - Multiple Daily Injections)
  • The counting of carbohydrates and adjusting of doses as hormone levels changed
  • The umpteen appointments with the endocrinologist, obstetrician, and perinatologist
  • The very many ultrasounds
  • And the birth plan that specified the endocrinologist’s favored delivery time: 11 AM

While I was grateful to be pregnant, I did not love the experience of it, as many women do. Instead, the frequent monitoring served as a constant reminder of the risky environment I felt I was providing for our growing fetus. Having a birth plan felt reassuring.

I was relieved and excited when the delivery date arrived. September 10, 2004 was a busy day in the labor and delivery wing. (Evidently, I wasn’t the only soon-to-be-mother hoping to spare her child a September 11th birthday.)

Despite my most proactive efforts, 11 o’clock came and went.

“Excuse me, my c-section was scheduled for 11 and it’s 11:30 now. I have diabetes. My blood sugar’s okay right now, but I haven’t eaten since 9 last night.”

“Excuse me, I can see you’re busy, but I was supposed to have surgery 90 minutes ago. I have diabetes and I haven’t eaten in over 15 hours…”

“Excuse me…”

I continued politely bothering the busy hospitalists. Eventually, 2 hours after the scheduled time, off we went to the operating room. I met the team, got hooked up to some equipment, was anesthesized, and within about a half hour everything was underway. Probably sensing that I'm nervous about the surgery, my OB made light chit-chat:

OB:      So, Emily, do you guys have a pediatrician picked out?
Me:      We do – it’s Dr. Papadopoulos.
OB:      Aww, he’s terrific! And such a nice man. Here’s a challenge – can you spell his last name?

[That I cannot spell the pediatrician’s long, Greek name doesn’t surprise my OB. It surprises me, though, as I’m generally a good speller. It’s my first clue that something is amiss.]

OB:     (New topic) So, when you're in recovery where should your blood sugar be?
Me:     Well… Mmmmm... I think... Whatdidyousay? (Is that slurring?)
OB:     After surgery – your blood sugar. Where does your endo want your sugars?
Me:     (Can’t. Quite. Reach. The Words.)

Something’s wrong, I think.
I manage to ask the anesthesiologist if the anesthesia is scrambling my thoughts. Nope.
Something’s wrong, I think.

“Something’s wrong,” I say,I’m low. What's my blood sugar?”

Anesth:   Where's your meter?
Me:           I’m in surgery..I'm naked. I don't have my purse.
Anesth:  I don’t have a meter.

(thunk.)

Me:           But – the plan... the blood sugar... how will you know if I need insulin?
Anesth:   We’re not doing any of that.
Me:           But, the plan...! I'm low. I'm very, very low.

[I’m not thinking anymore about the baby, or about being cut open. All I feel is the panic of an extreme low. A low that the plan – the one that nobody is following – was designed to prevent.]

I want my OB to remind everyone of our plan, but at this moment she’s tugging the baby out of me. I can’t catch her eye. I’m not her priority and I feel very afraid.

I hear the anesthesiologist say, “There's no meter; every floor is supposed to have one.”

I'm not a player in this scene anymore. I am tired. I close my eyes so I can focus on listening, which now requires some effort.

I hear someone say, “Get her some orange juice.”
I hear my husband ask, “Are you sure you can give her orange juice during surgery?”
I hear a code announced over the PA system.
I start to wonder about the code, but doing so takes too much effort.

I hear drawers opening and closing. They sound like the junk drawers in our kitchen at home. The ones that have AAA batteries rolling around inside. I don't feel afraid anymore. I feel tired and calm and focused and I wonder why a drawer in an operating room contains AAA batteries. I'm aware of the chaos around me but I feel detached and too tired to care about it.

Somebody finds 500cc of dextrose in a drawer.
10 seconds and I feel the change. So much faster than juice.

Someone asks how I feel.
“It's helping. I'll feel better soon.”

“You have a beautiful, healthy baby girl.”
I smile from the post-low haze.

It will be hours before I really feel better, but this lovely baby helps a lot.

Greta's-birth / diabetes-and-pregnancy
Happy, Lucky.

4th Annual Diabetes Blg Week 2013 / Diabetes-and-pregnancy

This post was written for Diabetes Blog Week

The Prompt (suggested by Jasmine at Silver-Lined): Share a memorable diabetes day. 

I have a bit of a thing for Greek and Roman myths.

As a kid, I loved learning about the gods and goddesses and their varied gifts and shortcomings. In college I traveled around Italy, revisiting the myth in paintings, frescoes and statues. As a parent, I encourage my girls to explore these heroic tales over the ones that are thrust upon them. (Seriously, can any Disney princess hold a candle to, say, Athena, Goddess of wisdom, battle, and craft, who sprang from Zeus's head ready for battle?)

But the tale of Icarus and Daedalus (read a summary of it here) remains a favorite.

***

Sad though the ending is, I have always been fond of this myth. I admire the father’s courage and ingenuity. I like that Dad and son hatch a plan, build wings, learn to fly, and set off on an adventure. And, even though it didn't work out for them, I've always imagined that it could have. The story celebrates human potential. People are smart. We have the ideas, knowledge, and courage to do amazing things. At the same time, it's about moderation  overriding temptation and following good advice.

So, that's the diabetes metaphor I’ve had in my head since adolescence. The reminder to remain optimistic and to steer clear of the highs and lows.

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