Part One: Early Weeks and Banana Splits
I’ve never had a sweet tooth. Give me garlic bread and salty chips any day. But when I fell pregnant with my first child, something happened to me overnight.
A woman possessed, I couldn’t get enough of sugar. Chocolate, ice cream, sweet tea, jelly beans — you name it, I craved it. And my personal favourite? Banana splits!
Drizzled in warm chocolate, laden heavily with ice cream, topped with peaks of cream and sprinkled with toasted nuts, the banana was in heaven and eating it so was I.
My partner was all too obliging. You know, it can be a blessing and a curse to have a guy who’s a whizz in the kitchen. He was the king of banana splits. And I’d get a foot massage to finish off.
By the time I was 24 weeks pregnant, I’d put on 15 glorious kilos. My waddle started early and I was beginning to resemble a beach ball. A very happy, bouncing one.
The Institute of Medicine (IOM) states that if you’re a healthy weight pre-pregnancy, your total recommended weight gain should be between 11.3 and 15.9kg.
Although I didn’t know it, I was reaching my quota and fast. It wasn’t a conscious decision to eat so much, but subconsciously I felt invincible with a baby growing inside me. I’d been waiting for this moment forever, and I wasn’t about to deprive myself.
Besides, a banana split had fruit in it. That was healthy, right?
Becoming pregnant with my first child at 34 years old was a welcome surprise. The gestational diabetes, not so much.
I remember when the call the came in. I was shopping in my lunch break for some tummy butter and quite possibly a chocolate bar for the afternoon lull at work. It was the antenatal clinic. They’d received the results from my blood test.
Between 24 and 28 weeks, a pregnant woman must have a Glucose Tolerance Test (GTT). Here in Western Australia, after fasting overnight, you drink a glucose solution. A blood test is taken before and after (one and two hours post drink).
It’s a very long morning, and even for a sugar addict, the drink is just too sweet. It made me feel nauseous and lethargic. I was told I’d be informed if there were any problems. I didn’t expect there to be; we were doing everything right after all.
“So, you have gestational diabetes.”
My world imploded. Gestational diabetes? That was bad news for the baby, right? If she’d gone on to explain further, I wasn’t listening. All I could think about was how my perfect pregnancy was ruined and how our precious baby was at risk.
Appointment made, she hung up and I was alone in the crowded chemist. Tears stung my eyes as I put back my shopping, my appetite destroyed.
Jumping on Google, I learned that Gestational Diabetes Mellitus (GDM) is a form of diabetes that occurs during pregnancy and in most cases goes away once the baby is born.
It didn’t make me feel any better. Even though it was caused by my hormones, I was convinced I was to blame. Why hadn’t I been more careful with the sugar? Why hadn’t I thought of this outcome? Why me?
The guilt was palpable and it didn’t lift until I saw the experts.
At the clinic, a big red dot was stuck upon my file. Then I was sent around the corner to a separate waiting area, especially for those diagnosed with GDM. I wasn’t the only one, and we looked at each other in sympathy.
I couldn’t help comparing my belly with the others, to see who was the biggest, the most to blame. To my surprise, nobody stood out. In fact, we all looked in quite good shape, considering our lumpy cargo.
In a group session with the dieticians, we learnt the facts and our blood glucose levels were tested. We were also given information on new eating plans and plopped on the scales to be weighed.
I felt like a cow in a herd going to market, but it was something I’d get used to and even come to appreciate. It reassured me that this session actually happened all the time, and the condition was fairly common.
That same day I discovered there are numerous risk factors for developing GDM, not just weight. These include age, family history, ethnic background, previously diagnosed GDM, and Polycystic Ovary Syndrome.
My banana split desserts were now banned, of course, but at least I knew they’d not necessarily been to blame. And if I followed a new healthy eating plan, took regular exercise, and monitored my glucose levels, the risk of our baby growing larger than average would be greatly reduced.
It sounded easy, but there were old habits to change and new skills to learn.