Understanding the past by going through the present

I don't like posting on iPad. It's a bug of sorts, Chrome won't let me go back and edit anything, so if I write, I need to do it in one go, from end to finish, and my brain doesn't work like that.

But I want to write more than I am annoyed by this bug, so I will do it, for now. Today, anyway.

So, first the good news: I am allowed to drive! What a difference it has made... There is still some testing ahead, but it looks like what I have may be nocturnal seizures, a mild form of epilepsy, basically, and because there is a year-and-a-half worth of track record of these "waves" (I still struggle calling them seizures) starting at night - and never suddenly in the middle of a day - then I am again allowed to drive with a condition that I restrain from driving for 2 days after a restless night, to let it clear my system and to get a good night's sleep again, so I am not tired.

And... wow. I am so, so, so grateful! It has meant that a whole bunch of logistical bullsh*t has lifted from my family and I am yet again able to get myself to hospital independently.

Which is good news, because from now onwards there are A LOT of appointments to get to.

Turns out, I have what's called "gestational diabetes", meaning, my pregnancy hormones are supressing insulin receptors and my body isnt't that flash at keeping sugar levels stable. It will probably clear within 24 hours of popping out the baby and the placenta, but for now it means that I need to prick my fingers for blood six times a day (I've done it for three days now and have already learned to hate the process, and my fingers hurt), that I am in the hospital for appointments on average once a week at least, and that my pregnancy is officially moved up to that high risk category, meaning, we're getting quite a bit of attention!

But on the other hand, even for that I am grateful, because... It's a bit of a long story again, but you know how I wrote a while ago how some things about my first pregnancy, delivery and my son's NICU journey I have started to understand only now, in retrospect?

Sitting in the room with that diabetes nurse was, and I am not kidding here, an eye-opening experience for me. I asked her, right at the beginning, to explain to me what is the mechanism of getting babies that are too small for gestational age, as opposed to big ones.

Because that's what gestational diabetes apparently does: it either makes for babies that are too large, or too small. Large ones are pretty straightforward: they get fed more than they need through the placenta and as a result, grow - sort of like people who live on fish'n'chips and end up having to wear clothes that are XXL in size. They just get more calories than they need!

But what about small ones? How does that work?

And the nurse, simply, pointed out to me that sugar can constrict blood vessels of the placenta, and as a result, make for a malnourished baby.

And at that point... a little lightbulb went BING! in my head.

Carefully, I asked her, "So, would that make for a gritty placenta then?"

(It probably won't sound like a big deal to you, but it has been a big deal for me for almost three years now.

When The Kid was delivered via cesarean section, the doctors saw that my placenta - the placenta that had been feeding him - was "gritty" which is a medical term for it, basically, looking like it pretty darn worn out and isn't doing its job well any more. Women who are way overdue, for example, can get gritty placentas because they're just getting way old, or smokers. In early deliveries - like mine was - gritty placentas can happen, but are uncommon, and will usually have some sort of a medical reason behind the grittiness. However in my case we never got to learn, why, and simply witnessed The Kid being slim and being whisked off to NICU straight from the operating theatre.

And now, I was suddenly sitting in that room and looking at this nurse, and feeling like... I was about to hear an actual, feasible explanation to why my son was born under the circumstances that he was born.

Because, not surprisingly...)

... the nurse answered, "Yes, yes it can."

And I just sat there, eyes wide open, feeling...

It's hard to explain what I was feeling. For so long I have learned to live and let go, to simply accept some things that have happened, even if I don't understand them, and to trust that I have the capacity to do my best next time, if I ever need to.

But it's not a natural thing for me to be doing. I LIKE understanding! I LOVE understanding! It's how I learn, mostly, by figuring out why something happened, deciding whether I need to change my actions or attitudes, and then plowing on again.

I haven't been able to do that with The Kid's birth - there's never been an explanation as to why things happened the way they happened, and so I have worked very hard to simply accept and let go.

But now, suddenly, with this one little piece of information which I am still unsure why no-one ever thought of mentioning to me, I had a feasible scenario which actually explained The Kid's birth to me.

And it doesn't matter whether it's true or not, whether things actually happened like that or whether there was some other, more mysterious reason - I had an explanation, a story, that made sense to me.

I had never had one before.

In the last stages of my previous pregnancy I started passing sugar in my urine, and was sent to do glucose tolerance testing. The test came back within limits, but I kept on passing sugar, so they asked that I do it again. I did, and the test came back at 8.9, just short of being over the limit, so they asked that I come and do a third one.

At that point I pulled up my big girl's pants and said that, look, sorry, but no - I was already something like 34 weeks pregnant by that point and I really didn't see how doing another glucose tolerance was gonna make a difference. Fasting overnight made me sick, then downing that massive load of sugar water at once (which I'd NEVER get in my usual diet!) made me even sicker, and even if it did come back high, it would've taken them another week to sort out how high exactly numbers are and what to do about them, by which point I would've been a week or two short of delivery.

And weighing all that up, I said no. I was going to eat a low sugar diet and just keep it at that, and that's what we did.

And it's only looking back now - because I don't remember anyone explaining the possible outcomes to me back then, and neither does The Man - that I wonder if this is what had happened. Had I, unknowingly, carried high sugar levels for the last few weeks of The Kid's pregnancy?

He came out at 38 weeks "looking like a 35-weeker" (medic's words).
Placenta was gritty, so hadn't fed him well for the last stretch.
As soon as they took him out, his blood sugars were low (because his body would've learned to balance against my sugars, and once placenta was gone his insulin levels smack-banged his sugar levels).
He developed strong jaundice, which wasn't helped by my lack of breast milk. (Which, by the way, I don't remember anyone mentioning either at the time, but apparently broad-spectrum antibiotics I was put on to fight an infection I got during delivery would've supressed breast milk - that, and the Cesarean section itself.) (Not that I would've said no to antibiotics, but it would've helped to at least know that this is what's possibly to happen - rather than keep pumping there, day in and day out, and thinking why is it that my body seems to be so crap at taking care of my baby when all these women around me were putting big bottles of milk in the fridge, and I was looking at mine being... 10 ml. 20 ml. Ie, not enough to feed a baby, anyway.)

And I know I've been rambling here worth a university thesis - lengthwise - but it's just so ground-breaking to me to suddenly look back and... understand. As much as I hate that little blood machine and the way I have to stick needles in my fingers to draw blood, and to constantly keep track of what time I've eaten versus what time I need to test - against all that it still, in some weird way, feels a blessing, because it's allowed me to suddenly understand something that I've carried around for such. A . Long. Time.

Yes, I am at Christchurch Women's on a weekly basis, and I am only 29 weeks at the moment, but this time around I can understand so much more what is happening and because they are monitoring the girlie so close, I am able to constantly get reassurance on us doing well - really, at this stage there is nothing worrying-looking! We're high risk, sure, but it's not because of what's happening at the moment, but rather, because of the potential for problems down the road - which they monitor for, and if that does become the case, there's things that can be done.

And I can get myself to these appointments independently, and I can get out of the house and go swimming with The Kid, or whatever, really, and...

It just feels good. You know?



  1. Awesome! xx I am SO stoked for you. We were only talking about the 'gritty' placenta of The Kid not so long ago. WOW! And all this testing, although annoying, has given you an understanding that might not have happened otherwise.

    It's lame about the GD, awesome about the driving (I bet it's so good to get your independance back), lame about the epilepsy, awesome about them figuring it out - or at least on the road to figuring it out.


  2. So cool! I'm happy for you as well :)

  3. That is fantastic news Maria! My offer still stands if you need me at any point though, look on it as a safety net :).

  4. Thank you ladies :)