Something wasn’t right. My morning runs had been sluggish for weeks; my feet dragged as if I were running through quicksand. Concerned, I went through a range of questions: was I getting sick? was my blood sugar high or low? could I be I getting my period? I pushed myself along the three mile loop; I couldn’t wait to get home. What was the matter with me? One night I woke up to use the bathroom and had to lean against the wall, suddenly so dizzy I thought I might fall. This is not normal, I told myself, but what, what was wrong? Having diabetes demands a certain intimacy with my body; I’d learned at a young age to read my body signals like a foreign language. If I yawned in the middle of the morning, maybe my blood sugar was dropping; or if my jaw felt tight, my blood sugar was probably spiking. But dizziness, I hadn’t felt this dizzy in a long time — five years, in fact.
The last time I had dizzy spells like these I was pregnant with Miles. But I couldn’t be pregnant now. I’d taken fertility drugs to get pregnant with both boys, and it defied all odds that I would accidentally become pregnant. When it took over a year to get pregnant the first time, I began to think that having children might be asking more of my body than it could give. My inability to get pregnant seemed to be another sign of my body’s failure, another sign of my cells gone haywire and it made me angry. Why was I stuck in this broken body?
Finally, a month shy of my thirtieth birthday, I saw two blue lines on the pregnancy test and all my fears about my broken body were erased. When I went back on clomid to get pregnant with Miles two years later, I wasn’t as fearful. I understood that my body required additional medical assistance, like insulin and clomid, to survive, to function, and to perform these normal biological tasks. I know the risks to a child born to a diabetic mother. Before the discovery of insulin in the 1920s, pregnancy in women with diabetes was a life-threatening experience. Even afterward, for years, women struggled to maintain a healthy pregnancy.
With the help of medical advances in managing daily care, the risks have decreased but not disappeared. Still, after two boys, my husband and I figured we were done. Pregnancy was hard to manage with diabetes, and our OB/GYN said “four is a family.” So we sold the crib, the changing table, the car seat, and the baby clothes. We turned the nursery into an office and happily moved from potty training to homework.
This summer, I realized it had been too long between OB/GYN appointments, and toyed with the idea of going on birth control. My periods always caused my blood sugar to escalate, but I never knew when my period was coming. So if my blood sugar was running high (which makes me feel tired, thirsty, and grouchy), I wasn’t sure if it was because of my period or because I was sick, or because I’d eaten too much, or I hadn’t given enough insulin: it was a constant guessing game. If I was on the pill, at least I would know when my period was coming. Plus, sometimes I did worry about getting pregnant. It seemed so unrealistic — our sex life was never that active — but because I didn’t know my schedule, I worried. After trying unsuccessfully all summer, I finally got in to see my OB in November and she gave me a prescription for pills.
“Start them the first Sunday after you get your period,” she said, but my period never came.
It was Christmas and we were busy wrapping presents and entertaining family, and I ignored my dizzy spells and crappy morning runs. I was having bad cramps and felt sure that my period would arrive any day and my blood sugar was running high. Two days after Christmas, I shopped for groceries with the boys and grabbed a pregnancy test, telling myself that it was just to ease my worries. The next morning I peed on the strip as soon as I woke up and two lines appeared immediately. My blood sugar was high that morning so I thought maybe the sugar in my urine caused a false positive result. I got my blood sugar down, and took another test. It too, was positive. How could this be? I was almost thirty-eight, I was just getting my life back, and too old to start over.
I walked into the bedroom where my husband was still sleeping and told him the news. He was stunned but smiled. We talked nervously for a few minutes and then called the boys in the living room for a “Family Talk.” We’d never had a family talk before. Later, Will told us he thought we were going to say we were moving. Miles thought being pregnant meant we’d bring the baby home tomorrow. As the days went on and we told family members, the boys asked more and more questions. Where would the baby sleep? (I had no idea.) Would it be a girl or boy? (I hoped for a girl.) How old would they be when the baby was born? (Will would be eight, Miles would be five, I would be thirty-eight and Dale would be forty-one.) We were all thinking the same thing: how were our lives going to change?
As a thirty-eight-year-old type 1 diabetic, I am a double high risk pregnancy. As the weeks wear on, I worry that by becoming pregnant again, I might be asking for too much. What will another pregnancy do to my health? Am I up to the physical challenge? But then I remind myself of how this baby arrived against all odds, and how determined this child seems to be to join our family. I know it sounds hokey, but I also know in my gut that this baby is meant to be. This pregnancy feels like a miracle, like an affirmation that this body, this damaged body, is in fact fertile and able in its own way.