Friday, February 24, 2012

Week 24: There Is A Reason I'm Exempt From Fasting

First of all, completely unrelated to the rest of this post: next week, I go for another ultrasound to make sure that the Statesman is not in danger from whatever kidney problem, if it even is a problem, that he's having. At this point, though, I'm not worried about it. I just can't imagine there's anything wrong, because my belly is getting so, so large. He's active, and I can tell his movements are getting stronger. The kidney dilation may not be gone, but my womb still seems like a good place for him to be. Sometimes you don't need a fancy ultrasound to tell you everything is just fine!

And, now, for a discussion of fasting, pregnancy, and Type I diabetes. I know, they probably don't even belong in the same sentence together, much less in practice. But such is my foolishness.

When my husband and I entered the Catholic Church two years ago, I wanted to be as Catholic as possible. In my mind, that required Lenten prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. After all, fasting was recommended by our Lord himself! At a minimum, all healthy adult Catholics are expected to fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, and may offer additional fasting for special intentions (special emphasis on the word healthy).

I often think of myself, despite having Type I diabetes, as being no different than most healthy adults, so when I surveyed fasting requirements, they seemed very do-able. In fact, I had been assured by all my serious Catholic friends that the requirements had been significantly reduced following Vatican II. If current fasting consists of two half-meals and one small full meal (no snacks), that should be a piece of cake, right?

The first time it came up was Ash Wednesday of 2010. I had only just found out that I was pregnant with Braveheart, and thought surely no harm would come to a baby of only 6 weeks gestation if I fasted. I figured he would just take what he needed and I was the only one who would suffer. However, when my husband discovered my plan, he swiftly and decisively told me he did not approve. I gave it a half-go at breakfast, but decided I would be better off heeding my husband's wishes. Plus, fasting is hard, even if the requirements have been taken down a notch! Good Friday passed without any attempt at fasting, but mostly in grudging acceptance of my husband's wishes in the matter.

Ash Wednesday 2011 came around, and now I had a 4-month old. Now was my chance! I don't think I told my husband about my plans this time, and so I proceeded with fasting (again, two half-meals and a small full meal). This time, I learned what a mistake fasting is for milk supply. By that evening, I could tell that my son was NOT getting a sufficient amount of milk to satisfy him, and things continued much the same way for the next 36 hours or so - at least into Friday. I felt HORRIBLE when he would choke up at the end of a feeding, and knew that this choice had been a bad one. Besides, my blood sugars were also unpredictable, not on the day of the fast itself, but over the next couple days. It caused me some pain to forego it, but Good Friday 2011 involved no such attempt.

Ash Wednesday 2012 happened last week, and I was apparently still not convinced that fasting should be off-limits for me. I knew that a full fast (two half-meals and a small full meal still hardly seemed a fast, but I grudgingly acknowledged that might even be too much at this point) was inadvisable, but I thought I could at least eat a LITTLE less than I normally do.

So, at 23 weeks pregnant, I ate slightly smaller meals than I normally do and skipped snacks except to raise my blood sugar.

This was a big mistake.

I suppose it probably has something to do with what happens to your insulin resistance when you are not consuming normal amounts of food, but my blood sugar was 28 after dinner. Big fail.

I ate a little to bring it up, but because I was so darn hungry, I over-ate, and then needed to give a small amount of insulin to compensate. Two hours later? 25. Big fail number 2.

By now, it was the middle of the night, my blood sugar was low AND I just wasn't thinking clearly, but knew that I was ravenously hungry and my blood sugar was low. So I tiptoed into the kitchen, ate more than I needed to raise my blood sugar, was then put in the position of having to give a small amount of insulin again to compensate, and collapsed back in bed. Four hours later? 37. Big fail number 3.

For the next day or so, my blood sugars were trending quite low, in spite of the fact that I was eating normal meals and snacks. No more 30s, but a few 40s and a lot of 60s. Big fail number 4.

So, the conclusion is that fasting is a bad idea for nursing and pregnant women, but especially for diabetics. I think I have finally laid to rest the idea that I may never be able to fast. It pains me, because I want to be able to do what the apostles and saints have done, and I want to engage in physical disciplines that bring spiritual maturity. Maybe I will re-visit it when I'm older, I'm not pregnant or nursing, my children are grown, and I can figure out how to adapt my insulin regimes for a few days to accommodate a fast. But for now, I have enough trouble keeping my blood sugars in line with two babies on the outside and one on the inside when I'm eating normal foods, so other physical disciplines will just have to take a back seat.

A good Catholic friend who self-reportedly "over-did it" on fasting noted that good control over my diabetes probably required regular "mini-fasts," at certain meals or certain times of the day. She's absolutely right about that - and it also reminded me that the best physical disciplines I can engage in right now are the ones that will keep me and the baby inside me healthy.

Please note that pregnant women and adults with health conditions that may be negatively affected by fasting are, in fact, exempt from required fasting that is normally required of healthy adults on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. Nursing women are similarly exempt. My attempt at fasting was not a requirement of the Church, but borne of my desire to imitate more closely our Lord and the apostles. This was completely of my own initiative, so there's no need to think that the Catholic Church is just trying to keep me down.

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