Wednesday, July 8, 2009


Sorry it's taken so long to post this! Here's the rest of the story...

It kind of all started on Friday, May 22nd. My obstetrician was very interested in taking the baby out ASAP because my blood pressure was continuing to go up, and we were worried that (among other things) this was putting my eyes at risk of retinal haemorrhages because of my diabetic retinopathy. But on the 22nd, the baby was only at 36 weeks, so there was a risk that the baby’s lungs were not sufficiently developed at this point (apparently it takes a baby of a diabetic mother longer than usual to develop). To check this, I had an amniocentesis (a big long needle stuck in my belly – actually not as bad as it sounds), and then I had to wait at the hospital for the results to find out if she was ready to come out. The test showed that her lungs weren’t quite developed, so the doctor sent me away and we scheduled a c-section for the following Monday (the 25th), with doctor’s orders being bed-rest for the weekend.

Well, you know what they say about the best laid plans…. As it turned out, my body wanted the baby out sooner than my doctor did. At noon on Saturday (May 23rd) I got a bad retinal haemorrhage. It was very scary. I could actually see blood seeping into the vitreous of my eye and clouding my vision. It looked like a spatter of blood everywhere I looked. Definitely one of the scariest things I’ve experienced. I made a few calls – to my nurse friend, to Health Links, to my “retinopathy mentor”, and finally to my obstetrician….at home. He was adamant that he wanted the baby out ASAP, and said he’d make some calls to find a hospital with room and a doctor with time to do a c-section. Within about 20 min. he called me back to tell me to go to the hospital and he’d meet me there (on his day off) as soon as he’d dropped his daughter off at a friend’s house. (This man is my hero….I truly truly love him. He has a heart of gold.)

So we got to the hospital and waited for the last of my food to digest before they were willing to take me in to surgery. (Ask me sometime about the half-a-pickle story…ugh.) By early evening I was in the OR and by 7:30pm (or 7:41pm, depending on who you ask), our daughter was born! The c-section went remarkably well…especially for someone woozy and squeamish like me. My husband actually watched part of it, and saw her get yanked out by her little bum. Oh yeah…for those of you who don’t know, I had to have a c-section because the baby was breech, but also because my ophthalmologist was worried what pushing a baby out would do to my eyes. So a c-section was a clear choice. I got to see my little girl for all of 3 seconds before she was whisked off to be poked and prodded and tested and monitored. Judging by her deep purple colour, I’m pretty sure that was the safest option for her. She was beautiful, though – even with only 3 seconds and bright purple, I knew she was beautiful! Later in recovery I was able to spend about 10 minutes with her, and then they brought her down to the Intermediate Care Nursery (one step up from the Neonatal ICU), which was her home for the next three weeks.

For those of you interested in the “stats”, our little bundle of joy was 8 lbs 9 oz, and almost 22” long. Pretty big for 36 weeks, but I’m told that’s common for babies of diabetic mothers (even with well-controlled diabetes like mine). Her eyes are blue (for now) and her hair is black (for now…so was mine when I was born, and look what happened).

I was in the hospital until the following Wednesday. The recovery from the c-section has gone very well. Before long I was actually feeling pretty good and having very little pain, but I did definitely have to take things slowly for a while. My blood pressure stayed high for a number of days until I got on some new meds for it, but it is finally made it’s way down. (I’m just weaning off of the last of my meds now.) After-the-fact now, we’ve realized that I had pre-eclampsia – pretty scary. It’s actually quite shocking how swollen I was, now that I’m back to a reasonable post-pregnancy weight. In the first 4 weeks after the baby was born, I lost 40lbs – some of which was baby and amniotic fluid, obviously, but a large portion of which was water weight. I lost 20lbs in my 4 days at the hospital, and the next 20lbs at home in the next few weeks. (It takes a lot of peeing to lose that much water weight….trust me!) My eye got a bit worse for a few days (almost certainly related to the still-high blood pressure), but has settled down since. It is still a mess to look through, but the blood is slowly dissipating. My friend who has had a similar experience has told me that it may take a number of months to go away altogether, but that hopefully it will. I had an appointment with my ophthalmologist soon after the c-section and he wanted to wait and see if it goes away on its own, but there is a procedure (vitrectomy) that he can do if it doesn’t. It’s not a very fun one, though, so he didn’t want to do it now with everything else that is going on in my life. It doesn’t sound like there’s a huge risk of permanent damage if we leave it to see if it goes away on its own, so that’s definitely my preference. As of my most recent appointment with him, he is seeing improvement too, and is very comfortable just waiting for it to clear up on its own. Whew!

Also the week following the c-section (while I was still in the hospital), my husband came down with strep throat, so that really complicated things for a while, and also kept him from being able to see the baby, which was very difficult. Thankfully he got onto antibiotics very quickly and was feeling better in a few days, and was able to visit at the hospital again.

Our daughter was in the hospital for just over three weeks. Because she was early, and because she’s an IDM (infant of a diabetic mother), she had a bit of maturing to do before she could come home. Because her lungs weren’t sufficiently developed, she needed to be monitored constantly to ensure she was getting enough oxygen. She didn’t often completely stop breathing, but she did often breathe too shallowly. She had an oxygen tube in her nose for a number of days. She was also jaundiced (also common for an IDM), which made her very sleepy. Between the breathing problems and the sleepiness, she also had a lot of trouble feeding – often she couldn’t stay awake long enough to finish and needed to be tube-fed (a really tiny tube that goes down her throat to her stomach – didn’t seem to bother her at all). When she was awake enough to eat, she sometimes had problems coordinating the “suck-swallow-breathe” process, and unfortunately sometimes forgot the oh-so-important “breathe” step. She needed to have 3 good days before she could come home. The neonatologist kept saying that she was progressing really well and he had no concerns. It was just an exercise in patience.

We went to the hospital for a number of hours every day to visit her. Some days she was really sleepy and we just cuddled her and fed her if she was awake enough. Other times she was quite awake and we could watch her make funny faces and grab at anything that gets near her hands. When we weren’t at the hospital, we were both really trying to relax and get our health back (and my blood pressure down). Our friends and family were so very supportive! We really really appreciate all the support we have received.

On June 15th our little one finally came home from the hospital! It was interesting getting “used to” having a newborn when she was 3 weeks old already, but we were SO GLAD to finally have her home. Since then we have really been enjoying getting to know her better. She definitely has some fussy moments, but she sleeps very well at night and she is usually pretty easy to calm down during the day when she does fuss. It helps that she’s starting to get into a bit of a routine with her naps so I know how to work around them. We really feel more like a normal family with a new baby now, and are starting to put some of the less pleasant aspects of the experience behind us.

So it’s been an interesting ride. Not the one that we’d hoped to have, but we were able to make the most of it and stay positive for the most part. We realized throughout those difficult first weeks that in a short while life would be back to normal (well, new-baby “normal” anyway), and that this would all just be part of the story – which now it is. When it comes right down to it, we really are very lucky.

So I guess that's the end of my story here. If there's one thing I've learned through all of this it's that good control of your diabetes is IMPERATIVE during pregnancy...but that things can go wrong even with good control, and it's important not to beat yourself up about it if they do. (Is that one thing or three things?) A diabetic pregnancy IS riskier than a non-diabetic pregnancy - for mother and baby - but in my mind it's still DEFINITELY worth the risk. When it comes down to it, my bloodpressure is going down now, my eye is going to heal, and my beautiful baby girl is healthy at home. Everything that went wrong is/was temporary. We'll definitely have to have some serious discussions with my doctors (my OB, my endo, and my ophtho) before we decide if we want to have another one, but it's definitely not out of the question. These problems we've dealt with were a small price to pay to end up with our beautiful daughter.

Another thing for those of you considering having a baby to keep in mind when you read about my experience is that I have had diabetes for almost 30 years now...with quite badly controlled diabetes for a large number of those years, and neither the technology (i.e. pumps) nor the medicine (i.e. super fast-acting insulins), nor the knowledge to better control it. I had complications (i.e. retinopathy) going into this pregnancy already. If I didn't, chances are this would have gone much more smoothly. So keep in mind that my experience will not necessarily be your experience....but also that good diabetes control during pregnancy will significantly reduce your risks of having some of the complications I did.

So, I guess this is my last post, unless I feel inspired to write more at some point. Please do feel free to email me anytime, though, particularly if you have any more questions....

Thanks for reading!