Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Olympic Skier with Type I Diabetes

I'm a little behind the eight-ball on this one, since the Olympics were a month ago. But here's an article about a neat athlete named Kris Freeman. As an amateur professional athlete, he was diagnosed with Type I Diabetes at age 19 and told he probably wouldn't be able to continue competing. Instead, he set about learning as much as he could about the disease and his own body. He collapsed during a race with a low blood sugar at the 2010 Olympic games, but he came back to Sochi in February of this year:

"He immediately started taking insulin and testing his blood sugar. He knew that he had to alter his lifestyle but refused to believe his career was over. Freeman read everything he could about diabetes in his spare time, setting out to tame the disease similar to the way he dominated mountains. He gained control over his body and lifestyle, adhering to a strict diet and carefully managing his health. Even though there was no track record to follow in terms of diabetes management for workouts and endurance competitions, he was determined to continue his career...

"Four years later, Freeman continues to adjust his diabetes management in a quest to master his body and avoid the diabetes-induced disappointment of 2010. The difficulty is that regulating blood sugar is a bit like trying to kick a football through moving goalposts; the body constantly evolves, as do external circumstances, such as food differences around the world and varying air pressures. What works one day might generate poor results due to different conditions on another day...

" 'Sometimes if he has a bad race, I feel it should be about the blood sugar, and he doesn't, Caldwell says. 'The last thing he wants is to be defined by diabetes'...

"At age 33, Freeman's hopes of medaling in Sochi are slim. But the ability to represent the United States as well as the diabetic community in the Olympics for the fourth time is a testament to the diligence and intensity that has characterized his training and diabetes management since his diagnosis and particularly in the last four years...

" 'I don't want anyone with diabetes to feel like it's a limitation and that you have to set your sights lower,' Freeman said. 'It certainly makes some things more difficult, but I don't believe the disease has to stop anyone from reaching their dreams.' "

Read More:

I feel like there are a lot of comparisons between being pregnant and having children and competing in athletic events. It seems this man's experience as a professional athlete is very similar to what I have experienced as a pregnant, Type I diabetics: doubt about my ability to do it successfully, determination to know as much as possible about my disease and my body and experiment with treatment options, major low-blood-sugar failure, continued diligence and experimentation, and the conviction that diabetes makes many things more difficult, but not necessarily unattainable or foolish.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Week 25: So Normal, So Extraordinary

I've felt that there has been little interesting to say about my pregnancy in the last several weeks. In my first pregnancy, I'm pretty sure I never thought or felt that. It was so new! And strange! And painful! And exciting! And then as soon as I started writing for this blog, I tricked myself into thinking that reflections I had about pregnancy were more interesting than they actually were, just for the sake of having something to say.

But ever since I found out, at 20 weeks, that the baby appears to be developing normally, I guess things have just seemed pretty normal. Normal aches and pains. Normal(ish) blood sugars (at least the awkward overnight lows have been fewer and farther between). Normal doctor's appointments. Normal shortness-of-breath. Normal schedule, normal this, normal that.

Pregnancy was so shocking the first time I did it, partly because it was so HARD and PAINFUL! And I couldn't even take ibuprofen for the symptoms! And I was so TIRED all the time! And I couldn't even bend down to tie my own shoe! Sitting down in a chair practically knocked the wind out of me! And then I was chasing a couple toddlers, I was changing two sets of diapers, AND I was pregnant! A  very good friend of mine, at that time, when I was pregnant with my third, asked me, " gets easier, right?" And in some ways, that's true. For example, you get more efficient at clearing the breakfast table and getting everyone into the car. You know exactly when to check your blood sugar and what you need to have with you before you leave the house. But efficiency can only get you so far before the difficult tasks of daily living demand your attention once more (and sometimes, all at the same time). So what it really boils down to, and what I told her, is, "No, it doesn't get easier. You just get used to being tired and in pain."

This truth is one I have known intimately, for I have been living in the depths of pregnancy-, baby-, and toddler-induced fatigue and pain for 6 years. The minor aches and pains and irritations of  pregnancy or nursing or parenting are just so ordinary and normal at this point. Perhaps that seems horrifying to you. It was to me, too, for a long time...except for the fact that it was my life and I still had to live it. And you know what? I just can't afford to be outraged about the horror of it all all the time. So I've given in, and stopped being mad about it. I've stopped feeling like I'm special, or that life is unfair, or that everyone should congratulate me all the time because I have diabetes and children. All the aches, pains, fatigue, and irritations are just par for the course now. The good news is I'm still alive, and those problems haven't caused my demise yet. Nothing terrible has happened, and in fact, very many good things (ages 26 weeks gestation, 1, 3, and 4) have happened! They are continuing to happen right before my very eyes.

So the most extraordinary thing I have experienced during this pregnancy has nothing to do with all the things that I normally write about, that is, the physical symptoms related to diabetes and pregnancy. The most extraordinary thing I've experienced these last few weeks is interior collection and peace. For all I know, being tired actually helps with that...not a lot of excess energy to be mad, complain, or try to change the world to AVOID ALL THE PAIN. All the fears and anxieties that have lived in me for so long, for so many pregnancies, are gradually fading away. I am not worried about labor, I am not worried about recovery, I am not worried about bringing a new baby home, I am not worried about high blood sugars, I am not worried about low blood sugars, I am not worried about whether my baby will be too big, and I am not even worried about having a c-section. My life is still full of aches and pains and irritations and exhaustion and minor failures but those don't seem so shocking or new or strange anymore.

Instead, all of the day-to-day pains and irritations are fading away before the extraordinary joy of being present and open to my children each and every day. What's so shocking, strange, new, and exciting now is all of the lovely things they see and do and notice and say. Like when my 4-year-old Pious One starts coming up with math problems in his head and solving them out loud, or when 3-year-old Braveheart courageously "makes a sacrifice" and decides to walk through the grocery store so that his two brothers can sit in the grocery cart, or the fact that two of my little Statesman's first words happened to be "brothers" and "excited." Or when the Pious One tells me, after much careful thought, that he is afraid of death in one way, but not in another. Or when Braveheart proudly declares that he will NOT wet his bed tomorrow night, or the next night, or ever! Or when the Statesman gently lays his head down on my shoulder, sucks his thumb, and gently says, "Mama."

I don't know. These things may not seem that extraordinary to you. I guess they didn't seem all that extraordinary or exciting to me a few months ago, either. A few months ago, I just couldn't wait for them to get to the next phase, or at least get to the point where they just wouldn't NEED me so much. I was so impatient and constantly felt like their needs were dragging me down and I JUST NEEDED TO GET AWAY and HAVE A NAP and SOMEONE GIVE ME AN IBUPROFEN AND TEACH MY KIDS HOW TO DO STUFF FOR THEMSELVES. I've had to make a conscious effort to slow down and work harder at the things that are important: caring for my achy body, being attentive to my diabetes, and addressing all the needs of my children that I possibly can. And then, I do my best not ti worry about all the things I can't do. Sometimes they cry and I can't be there for 10 more minutes. Sometimes I'm absurdly hungry and I just have to wait 15 more minutes until I can get a healthy meal prepared. Sometimes I'm so mad that they did that thing again that I've always told them not to do and this time, one of my mom's dishes is broken all over the kitchen floor and I have to clean it up right at this very moment when the oven timer is going off and oh by the way, my blood sugar is starting to get low. But I've decided I'm not mad at them or my life for requiring my attention anymore, and I'm not worried about all the things I'm not doing anymore. And now, all these anxieties, pains, and irritations truly pale in comparison to the amazing little things that I am seeing in my children's lives. And that has been so, so beautiful.

The only ache that really matters to me anymore is the ache in my heart that I feel for all the ways I've pushed my children away and resented their needs. I wish I could take back all the angry words and all the running away, all the times I rolled my eyes because they were crying again about wanting the same thing that I took away in the first place because they kept breaking it. I wish I could go back and open my heart to them in the past. I might still have had to say no, or left them crying for a long time, or taken away a toy, or done something else that made them upset; but at least I could have left my heart open and avoided treating them like they were the enemies of my happiness. Because they are definitely NOT the enemy of my happiness - they are the very substance of it! For that reason, I also burn with another kind of heartache: wanting to love them more and give them more. I still find there are a thousands of things I want to do for and with them, to teach them, and to say to them. There don't seem to be enough hours in a day. I'm not even sure there are enough moments in a lifetime for it all.

So in the last few weeks, this pregnancy has been very normal in all the ways that I usually write about: fatigue, bodily aches, joint pains, blood sugars, medical testing, etc. But it has been very extraordinary in ways that are more difficult to speak about. The aches are in the heart, and those aches have flowed from an abundant joy that I've experienced in the presence of the very people that pregnancy is all about. Caring for the child within is much easier in weeks like these, when I am able to catch a glimpse of all that's coming for him, and for us together, in the next few years!

Friday, February 28, 2014

Reducing C-Sections for First-Time Mothers

This is an excellent piece of news from NPR:
"Women with low-risk pregnancies should be allowed to spend more time in labor, to reduce the risk of having an unnecessary C-section, the nation's obstetricians say. 
"The new guidelines on reducing cesarean deliveries are aimed at first-time mothers, according to the American College of Obstetricians and the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine, which released the guidelines Wednesday online and in Obstetrics and Gynecology
"About one-third of all births in the U.S. are done by C-section, and most of those are in first-time mothers. There's been a 60 percent increase in these deliveries since the 1990s, but childbirth hasn't become markedly safer for babies or mothers. 
"That discrepancy has led many to conclude that the operation is being overused. A C-section is major surgery. The procedure can increase complications for the mother and raise the risk during future pregnancies. 
"Women giving birth for the first time should be allowed to push for at least three hours, the guidelines say. And if epidural anesthesia is used, they can push even longer. Techniques such as forceps are also recommended to help with vaginal delivery.
Read the full story here.

Homebirth midwives have often noted the wide variation in "normal" birth patterns that they've observed through years of experience. This is especially true of first-time mothers, whose bodies haven't ever done the enormous task of labor and delivery. Now there's apparently some observational data to back that up. Let's hope doctors take notice!

This would also be useful information for women who had a c-section with their first and are pregnant again. Doctors are fond of saying that such women will experience labor like it's the first time. Again, let's hope they'll take this advice to heart and give women attempting vaginal delivery an adequate amount of time and patience to try.

If either of these things apply to you, don't hesitate to bring this article to your doctor's attention!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Learning NFP

I have no idea how many of you are unmarried, and I would gather the answer is probably, "not many." But just in case there are a few single, Type I diabetics who come across this blog with some curiosity, and they  are interested in natural methods of preventing pregnancy as well as natural methods of giving birth, I'd highly recommend learning fertility awareness before marriage!

I stumbled upon natural family planning during college. I was a summer intern with a pro-life organization in DC. I was definitely on board with the anti-abortion part, but squeamish about some of my Catholic co-workers' opposition to contraception. At first, I was all like, "no way. Don't touch my birth control." And then this young woman literally took 20 minutes of her time to explain it to me, and I came away absolutely convinced that it was the only way I would even consider preventing pregnancy. All before we had even started work in one morning! I began charting during college, about two years before I got married, and I was really glad that I had all that extra learning in me before preventing conception would actually depend on it in marriage.

Highlights of natural family planning, from my perspective: knowledge of your body, respect for and attention to your body's natural patterns, and lack of side effects from hormonal contraceptives. Relationally, it's very affirming to know that your husband is willing to patiently wait for you, and sacrifice his desires for your good, every month. I also wrote a whole post about why it's not absurd here. I also wrote a bit about charting after you've had a baby here, here, and here.