My Diabetes Inklings

Breastfeeding, Diabetes and the Lessons Learned

As a dietitian, “breast is best” had been drilled into our repertoire during our studies when it comes to feeding newborns. There are so many benefits to breastfeeding that it was a no brainer for me to enter motherhood with a goal to breastfeed for at least 12 months. That is…until I actually started breastfeeding.

I wasn’t counting on my little worm having a tongue tie or the pain of her latching on or the brutality of the midwives kneading my boobs for colostrum to feed my bub with. There’s nothing worse than fighting off a hypo, being sleep deprived, having a screaming newborn who’s hungry and feeling like an absolutely failure of a mother.

Thankfully we had multiple support services we could reach out to and we ended up borrowing a breast pump while waiting for the tongue tie to get fixed, received some advice around supplementing with formula and given a ton of reassurance that we were doing a great job. I had my first cry as a mum after that phone call.

Even after my little worm got a tongue tie fixed, I continued to exclusively pump and supplement with formula when we felt we needed to. My pumping station was organised with snacks, hypo food, water etc. and my husband could bottle feed her. Our system worked a treat, our little girl was thriving and growing well.

I reluctantly went to see a lactation consultant who only focused on going back to breastfeeding and how it was especially important because of my diabetes. It was never implied but I constantly felt judged for not nursing directly from the breast. And perhaps it was partly the guilt I felt for not doing so. But I had already established my comfort zone with pumping and the pain from that first week of trying to breastfeed still lingered.

I gave up within the day and went back to pumping.

It was all going well and we were settling into a routine. Even though I liked being able to quantify how much milk the little worm was getting, pumping was time consuming and a bit isolating. My goal for breastfeeding drastically shortened to six months. That is, until the mastitis hit, which brought along a whole new level of pain and misery.

I was encouraged, again, to nurse from my breast to help clear the mastitis. Out of desperation, I decided to try again. This time, breastfeeding wasn’t as bad as I had remembered, so I persisted. All my friends I had spoken to reassured me that breastfeeding took several weeks for them to establish. So it seemed like persistence is key here.

We’ve now been getting into breastfeeding for about three weeks now. There have been times where my husband has found me crying with the little worm screaming at my breast. But there’s also a newfound sense of pride and freedom of the ability to be out of the house for longer periods of time as long as we can find a place to nurse while I build my confidence up to whip my boob out in public.

Being able to breastfeed has been such an achievement for me. Even though we still have some rough days, I think we’re slowly getting there. More importantly this experience has taught me to be patient with myself. It’s all well and good to push the boundaries but you can’t do it when your mental health is down in the dumps and your body is physically constantly in so much pain.

Even though breast is best, fed is ultimately better, no matter how you do it. My breastfeeding goal now is to last till three months, cos I have better things to do (like cuddle my newborn) than to have sore boobs all the time!

We’re doing the thing!
My Diabetes Inklings

The Privilege of Pregnancy

I wrote this post from the hospital after being induced. It was late and I was filled with such excitement and nerves that any sleep was impossible. I was a little over watching Netflix and playing games on my phone, so I was glad when my husband brought my laptop in on the condition. I never thought that there would be so much waiting around during birth!

Throughout my pregnancy I’ve been extremely conscious and aware of how lucky we are; lucky to have fallen pregnant and lucky to watch each milestone. I knew that each pregnancy symptom, no matter how terrible it may be, was a privilege that some dream to experience.

Dealing with diabetes during pregnancy certainly added another layer to the whole experience. At times being pregnant and managing diabetes sucked. There’s the added fear of how diabetes can impact the pregnancy and bub’s health (not to mention their entire future). On top of ensuring we eat the right foods and physical activity to support our health, we need to make sure our sugars are well and tightly managed. The physical and mental effort that goes into that is enormous, not to mention the guilt that plagues us when we feel we are off track.

On the flip side, as a high-risk pregnancy, I was monitored extra closely. It meant going into the hospital every three to four weeks for appointments, with more regular check ups closer to my due date. Each hospital visit would take 2-3 hours at best, not including the two hour round trip travel. I ended up taking a lot of days off work to make time for these appointments. But at each appointment I would be rewarded with the sound of my baby’s heartbeat.

Towards the end of my pregnancy, I cherished every movement I felt from bub. Even if it sometimes was a hard kick to the ribs or a punch to the bladder. Each time I reflected on my pregnancy with my husband, we were blown away by the sheer wonder and miracle of life. I would often think about my little girl growing up to be a strong, independent, bright and sassy woman. What would her personality be like? How would she respond to the world we are bringing her into? I imagine her laughing, playing, crying and being angry and my heart swells with love and protectiveness over her.

At the same time, there is a tinge of sadness when I think of our child; especially when I think of all the little ones whose souls weren’t ready for this world and my friends who haven’t been as lucky as we have. I remember feeling the wave of emotions each period brought along with it while we were trying. It takes so much resilience and patience to keep pushing through.

And now while I’m sitting in hospital literally counting down the hours to meet our little girl, I can’t help but feel so overwhelmed. We have received so much love and support from family and friends throughout this journey and our bub has already (and will undoubtedly continue to be) spoiled silly by everyone around us. To say I am grateful and humbled doesn’t seem to be sufficient but it’s certainly a start. I know that whatever happens from here on in, we have one amazing village to support us on our journey onwards.

My heart is full ❤️
My Diabetes Inklings

Pregnancy During COVID Times

To be perfectly honest, it took a few months before really acknowledging and believing that I was growing a little human in me. All of this couldn’t have happened at a better and worse time while the world was falling apart thanks to a global pandemic. There was widespread panic in the early days when we were ordered to work from home, which was then followed closely by lockdown restrictions.

While healthcare embraced and transitioned to telehealth, my antenatal appointments became a lonely journey as my husband wasn’t allowed to attend any clinics or scans with me. My nearest and dearest missed out on seeing the growing watermelon I was smuggling around in person. And zoom meetings made it a little too easy to hide the pregnancy from the world, which wasn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Initially, I had planned on sharing the news once we hit the 12 week mark. Then a friend shared that they had miscarried, among other stories of friends struggling to fall pregnant. I felt guilty. Suddenly it didn’t feel right to share my news. It also always felt like I was holding my breath until we hit the next milestone before I told myself that I would feel comfortable sharing the news. So we never quite got there until the very end.

I thought this conflict was interesting because I had always wanted to share my journey of managing diabetes during pregnancy in real time. Both as a way to keep track of what was happening and reflect in the moment and to be as honest as possible through the good times and the challenging ones. My motto has been that we will deal with whatever happens but I wanted somewhere to write them all down. However, with the chaos around work and the pandemic, I think the larger part of me enjoyed the unique quietness around pregnancy I might never experience again.

It was almost blissful to roll through the pregnancy away from any spotlight and unsolicited advice/belly touching from strangers. Although the occasional stupid comment about having an “iso-baby” surfaced from time to time. Traffic and parking were rarely an issue when it came to hospital appointments. Working from home meant more flexibility for rest and saving money from having to buy a brand new maternity wardrobe for work (not that it really stopped the online shopping!).

The thing I struggled most with was the lack of face to face childbirth education classes, which had all been cancelled and replaced by online videos due to COVID. After spending the majority of my working day in zoom meetings, the last thing I wanted to do was watch educational videos online for myself. When I had finally scored a midwife appointment, I was bitterly disappointed to then be referred back to online resources again without any attempt to do face to face education during our consultation.

One thing for sure though was the fact that I would not have survived through this journey without my support network. Their advice, encouragement and excitement for bubs kept me going and I knew that no question was too silly with them (partly because they’ve been exposed to a million other silly things I’ve done in the past!). Goes to show that peer support is important no matter what area of healthcare you’re in.