“HOW MANY weeks are you?” asks the woman in the pink t-shirt. The women reply: “27…25…31…32…25.” “Oh right, I wonder why I got tested so early?” Ignoring the elephant in the room, I ask pink t-shirt: “So how many weeks are you?”
The room being a grey room, filled with a large table and mismatched chairs. Part of it is sectioned off by a curtain.
“I am just 21 weeks. They referred me for the test at my 20-week scan, I wonder why,” she says.
Seated next to me, Ms 31 Weeks says: “I was referred because my BMI was over 30.1”. That registers with lady number one, Ms 21 Weeks. Ms 27 weeks laughs and says she was referred because she is old. No one else says a word.
Of six pregnant women, only two had healthy BMIs. I was one of them. But I was told the Friday before that I had gestational diabetes. I’d spent all weekend looking at low carb, low sugar recipes that don’t taste like dirt. Turns out there aren’t many.
I scrutinised every yogurt I was going to buy and replaced all our pasta with low carb alternatives. Luckily, the father of the baby that is causing the diabetes issue for me doesn’t really mind what he eats. Seated in the stuffy room on a cold November morning, looking out though small square windows over the grey city, I couldn’t help but feel that I had been utterly betrayed by my body. I was surrounded by five other women all of whom had gestational diabetes. Four of them were obese. What had I done to deserve this?
In March I ran a half marathon in a decent time. I was lifting in the gym again and was back to 90-minute Ashtanga Yoga classes every week. I hit 10 weeks pregnant and couldn’t stop being sick. I was sick in the morning, afternoon and evening. It didn’t matter what time it was. I was so tired I couldn’t manage more than walking the dog twice a day. And that was so hard I sometimes cried when I got home.
Sixteen weeks in and I was still being sick (“It stops at 12 weeks,” they said. That came and went. “It stops at 20 weeks,” they said. Sometimes they just need to say this is how it is, it might not stop.)
I had developed sciatica and a horrendous pain in my back and what felt like someone was periodically sticking a red hot poker into my pubic bone. Referral to physio, a strap to hold my pelvis in place and a course of pregnancy yoga was promptly booked. I didn’t have a bump so I felt like a fraud, that I shouldn’t be complaining.
The pain left me unable to walk on two occasions, so I worked from bed, shuffling across the landing for a wee.
At 25 weeks, I was tested for gestational diabetes. I am high risk because there is diabetes in my family history.
To be told I had gestational diabetes felt like the world was crashing around me and quite frankly the last straw. I sobbed on the midwives in the antenatal clinic.
How is it fair that I live a healthy and active life and yet have been dealt such a bad hand in this pregnancy?
Meanwhile, the room is getting warmer. The larger ladies are stripping down to t-shirts and vests. They squash into the chairs, arms digging into their large expanses of stomach – no bump in sight. I’m still in long sleeve top and cardigan.
Ms 31 Weeks tells me she hasn’t had breakfast and was gutted because on her way in she’d wanted a hot chocolate with whipped cream from Costa – but it was closed. However, she and her husband (seated awkwardly in a corner) were going for fish and chips for lunch.
Even though she would have known all weekend that she had the diagnosis, she still thought it was okay to have a hot chocolate and fish and chips. I don’t understand how she could do that to herself, to her unborn baby. I admit I have indulged in hot chocolates – but minus the whipped cream – because I have gone off tea and coffee and sometimes warm water on its own doesn’t cut it.
I’d had breakfast – half a wholemeal bagel, avocado and a poached egg – and was worried about what I would eat for lunch when I met my sister-in-law after my appointment.
She continued to say she was a vegetarian, and that the thing she made most often was spag bol with quorn and a jar of sauce.
I restrained from shouting and screaming and telling her to stop being lazy and chop an onion, a bit of garlic and open a tin of tomatoes, because she finished by telling me that if she wasn’t pregnant and found out she was diabetic she “wouldn’t bother with any of it”.
Diabetes, including type 2 diabetes, can have complications if you don’t manage it properly. You can go blind, lose limbs, have kidney failure. Now add growing a baby into the mix. By not managing your diabetes your baby has to use its insulin to combat the sugar.
It gets bigger, too big. It can lead to complications in birth and in the more serious cases it leads to stillbirth.
But hey, who can say no to a hot chocolate with whipped cream and a chippy tea?