I think it's appropriate to call the title of this post "ironic." I'll explain that in a minute.
During my last two pregnancies, I focused on resting my body and eating a little less. This served the purpose of controlling my weight gain and my blood sugar levels. Reduced weight gain reduced both insulin resistance and blood pressure readings. Reduced food intake kept my blood sugar levels more even. Everyone was happy, and babies were born at 8 pounds each. Perfect.
This pregnancy, though, the doctor I saw during the first several months at my rather large OB practice insisted that I needed to be walking for at least 30 minutes every day. "No big deal," I thought, because we live in a small town with a post office, a library, a parish, several friends' homes, and even a grocery store within walking distance. Plus I have boys, we homeschool, and it was a perfect opportunity to squeeze in some P.E. and get those little guys moving.
Over the summer, though, I was walking a lot less because of the heat and the fact that trying to keep four little boys safe on bikes is a bit like herding cats. There were days when it was downright terrifying. So I felt guilty answering, "Yes," when the doctor queried me about the walking. Basically, it was only happening a few times per week. She grew concerned about my weight gain one month when I had jumped up about four pounds in four weeks. I began to think that perhaps she was right, and I should be more intentional about getting that 30-minute walk into my day. For their safety, I'd have to do it without the kids.
The only way to do it was early, so I started waking at 5:30 every morning. This was refreshing for a couple of months. I probably would have said that I enjoyed it for a couple of months. I got to walk at sunrise every morning under the shadow of a mountain that I have come to love dearly. Waking up the birds as I walked past the tree where they were sleeping and praying the rosary first thing in the morning became a lovely and delightful routine. So really, I did enjoy it for a couple of months. It had some positive effect on my blood sugars. I certainly noticed that they went haywire if I skipped a few days of walking... I began to trust that this was good, and it would work to keep my weight gain down and my baby's weight gain down. So far, so good.
But then September came and it got kind of cold some mornings. Mornings were darker and it was pretty clear that cars didn't always see me until they were a little too close for comfort. One four-day period it rained every single morning and I told my husband that I could do cold, I could dark, or I could do wet, but I simply couldn't get up and walk when it was all three outside.
I was also exhausted. I pulled myself out of bed by sheer willpower to walk three miles every morning. I was actually finding myself falling asleep during the day. Like, while driving. Yikes! I always thought it would be a low blood sugar that would do me in if it came to that... I was crying from fatigue every night before dinner. I was only sleeping for about 6 hours every night. I began to develop something like a stress fracture in my foot. I could barely keep myself from eating all the leftovers off my kids' dinner plates because I was so hungry all the time, yet I knew that I had to put the brakes on for every single meal because otherwise my blood sugars would get too high.
And still, I pressed on. Doctor's orders, right? It's good for baby. I have to. Plus, it was corroborated by all popular wisdom, the recommendations of countless other doctors, and every magazine article you've ever read. Eat more fruits and vegetables, exercise more, and all your problems will disappear.
But you know what the worst part about this plan was? I mean, aside from the falling-asleep-while-driving and crying every day part? I've gained more weight during this pregnancy and my A1Cs have been slightly higher all pregnancy than during the last two. Walking 30 minutes per day was prescribed to help lower my blood sugars and to keep my weight gain down, and it has done neither. In the last six weeks, I have gained 10 pounds. I haven't experienced pregnancy weight gain like that since my first pregnancy when I was eating like a horse! My latest A1C really was pretty good (5.9), but still somewhat higher than in other pregnancies. My last two pregnancies, which were completely devoid of exercise and full of rest, had lower A1Cs throughout and much more moderate weight gain. My total weight gain up to 35 weeks this pregnancy is now 40 pounds. Last pregnancy, I gained less than that the whole nine months.
At my last doctor's appointment, when I saw the number on the scale clock in at a full 5 pounds higher than my visit a mere two weeks before, I resolved to utterly abandon the walking plan. I slept nine hours the first night, eight hours the second, and no less than seven hours ever since. I took two (yes, two) naps on Sunday and still went to bed at 9:00. And I feel great. I decided not to worry about weight gain at all this pregnancy and just call it water under the bridge, since what has happened since the beginning is someone else's fault and no one has a crystal ball to tell me what will happen in the last few weeks. My blood sugars, which I was especially worried about, have been totally great since I stopped walking. (That part I can't explain, except perhaps to thank the patron saint of our in utero baby, to whom I have been praying unceasingly about this anxiety).
So I have returned to trusting my "gut." That is to say, trusting my instincts about how to get through a diabetic pregnancy safe and sound, given all the circumstances of my life. At the beginning of pregnancy, I planned to follow the pattern of the last two, eating moderately and resting a great deal, because those two ended really well. But then my doctor's insistence that I exercise got in the way. I wish all along that I had ignored her counsel and trusted what I know has worked before!
And as I mentioned at the beginning, the ironic part about "trusting my gut" is that I find I actually have to say 'no' to my gut an awful lot. I don't eat everything I want to, and I pretty much want to eat everything all the time. At least now I don't feel like I have to get out of the house and run away from it by walking three miles a day. I just pour myself a glass of sparkling water and take a nap!