My Diabetes Inklings

Finding A Career + Life Balance with Motherhood

As a student, I was told that there is never a good or bad time to have a baby. You will just manage your career around motherhood. As an early career researcher, I was nervous about being on maternity leave. I have worked so hard to get to where I am now and I am scared of the impact this career break would have on my trajectory. I’ve heard and read from plenty of women who have managed to balance an amazing career with parenthood. But have also read my fair share of stories from mothers who have quit academia to find a better balance in life.

As soon as I found out I was pregnant, my brain went into overdrive trying to protect my already slow progressing research career from disappearing even more into the abyss. With COVID putting a big dent on research grants, I focused on setting up smaller research projects as well as wrapping up current studies so I’d be able to focus on analysis and write up during maternity leave.

But isn’t maternity leave about healing, adjusting to motherhood aka having your body controlled by your cute offspring? And isn’t that what you write about when you’re addressing your academic career gap “relative to opportunity”?

Sure, that’s what the industry would like you to think and if you’re strong enough to stick to your guns and/or if your research career is established enough, you could get away with it. But being in academia has my imposter syndrome at crazy levels at it is. The expectation, pressure and guilt to continue pushing out research outputs while I’m on maternity leave has made me feel like I can’t and shouldn’t take my foot off the pedal.

Shortly after giving birth, panic started to set in that I was already missing out at work; and that I needed to be available and working (even on maternity leave). Thankfully, some of my colleagues and friends have been in my position and their continued encouragement and reassurance that work and research will always be there if I skipped a few meetings for a while has helped to ease the guilt.

Your child is only a newborn once. Cherish this time.

I acknowledge that I am greedy in a way. I want to be one of those women who have a successful career while being an awesome mum/wife/daughter/friend/everything. I have mentors who seemed to have achieved this balance. So in mind, it’s doable. But if there’s anything I’ve already learned from motherhood and life with diabetes is that what you see on the outside is often just the tip of a large iceberg.

You can never tell of all the insecurities, doubt, guilt and sacrifices that a person may be going through, which I guess, will always be there not matter what you do. It’s a matter of finding a balance that works for me and that includes accepting a comfortable level of all those feelings. Needless to say, I have had a bit of time to think and reevaluate what balance I want to strike from here. In particular, what do I want from my career and what or how will it fit in with my family? I have no idea but I know that finding the right balance will take lots of time, patience and trial and error.

Chasing perfection only leads to disappointment.

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 ❤️