OMG yes both in one post. Aren’t you, like, so totally excited?
You want cake is probably what’s happening. Me too.
So, we’ve talked kind of a lot about the glucose tolerance test that you take around mid-pregnancy to see how your body is handling sugar. You take a little one first that is a “screener,” and then if you fail that one you take a longer more involved test that can be used to actually diagnose gestational diabetes.
I’m writing about GD and these tests/screens at the same time I’m writing about depression because the glucose testing process is SUCH perfect metaphor for depression in general. And Lordy knows I love a good metaphor.
To cut right to the chase, I failed the first glucose screener. I kind of expected to, but the fact that it’s “normal” doesn’t really help matters. It is, to be fair. About 2/3 of people fail the first glucose screening for that exact reason – it’s designed to catch a lot of potential cases and then weed out the high sugars from the actual diabetes in the second test. Which is all well and good, but, honestly, why not just give everyone the 3-hour test? It makes zero sense to me given that SO many people fail the first test and pass the 3 hour test.
When the midwives called to tell me that my sugar was high at the first test, I was….I don’t know. Despondent, maybe. I knew my chances of failing were high for a few reasons: the percentage listed above AND the fact that I was taking the test late in the day after I’d been eating (it’s a non-fasting test BUT it basically ends up being a fasting test if you take it first thing in the morning, ya feel me?) AND I do eat plenty of carbs and sugar. That being said, I have no actual medical risk factors for GD, which are weight gain (I’m on the low end so far), obesity (no), and family history of diabetes (also no). AND, GD is mainly determined by exactly none of the above factors, it’s simply how your body is reacting to the placenta. SO, I wasn’t altogether shocked knowing-ish the science of things.
And still I felt like an utter failure. Which is dumb, because failing the screener doesn’t even mean I have diabetes, it just means I have to go for the 3-hour test. But still, I was terribly disappointed and Jay did exactly nothing to make me feel better because his first question was “should you eat less carbs?” and his second question was “will this hurt the baby?”
Go. Fuck. Yourself.
This is the biggest problem with pregnancy, or maybe me, or maybe our marriage, I don’t know. By the time I share any information with Jay I’ve researched and learned as much as I can about anything, so he ends up behind the curve(not his fault) and accidentally says things that seem insensitive. Those were both perfectly logical questions, but they made me fee 5000% worse. Again, not Jay’s fault.
And theeeeeen the circling of feelings begins. It’s my fault, I DO eat too many carbs. It’s not my fault, I have a great diet and I exercise all the effing time! Am I going to die? This happens to tons of people. IT’S JUST A SCREENER CALM DOWN. I’m hungry and nothing sounds good because I now feel ashamed of eating anything at all ever. I drank juice this morning, was that it?
Luckily I have a few very good female friends who have new babies or are still pregnant, and of course because I can’t just sit with anything for five seconds I contacted each of them while I was at work for advice. Some of them had had GD, some of them had failed the first test and not the second (where I was at that point). All confirmed that I wasn’t crazy or a bad person or fat and unhealthy, and that this is a test that IF leads to a diabetes diagnosis can be easily controlled by diet and the baby is fine and please for the LOVE calm down.
So I did, because they are wonderful and it helped. And then I went back to my normal life, occasionally googling stories of other people who’d taken the 3 hour test (2/3 of pregnant people) and actual scientific articles and generally tried to chill out. It worked a little bit, and I stayed a little worried too. My biggest worry wasn’t having to change my diet or lifestyle or the safety of the baby because I’d happily do those things, but that our plan to have the baby in the birth center would be messed up should this turn into hard-to-manage diabetes. The big concern is that the baby will get too big and then require a C-section or something like that. Which is fine until you realize that lots and lots of women are told that they are having huge babies that end up being 7 pounds and its just…not something we’re terribly good at yet, this whole estimating how big babies are before they’re born.
And that’s how it’s been for me this entire pregnancy. Tons of ups and downs compounded by hormones that just make me a little on the low end of normal. I don’t stay suuuuper depressed for long, and I credit a strong support system and lots of yoga with not completely running to slit my wrists. But it totally completely blows, and for people who are more depressed than I am in regular life pregnancy can be downright awful. Because you have alllll this stuff to worry about and it’s all so new and medical professionals err on the side of scaring the daylights out of you all the time and then your brain chemistry just tells you that everything is wrong all the time and UGH WHY.
I’ve noticed that we’re pretty good at talking about postpartum depression and the loneliness of new motherhood, but let’s be real: the hormones that make all that ish a problem don’t just arrive when the baby shoots out of your vagina (pleeeeeeeeease just let her SHOOT out). There’s a buildup happening here, and in some moments the loneliness and sadness can be ridiculously awful, no matter how good you are at talking yourself out of things and down from ledges. Again, I’m pretty good at it, but it doesn’t stop the terrible feelings from existing. Also, I don’t believe that it’s particularly useful to throw the “wait, it gets so much worse!” warnings around. Worse or not, THIS RIGHT NOW still blows, and so I think accepting that is perhaps a little more useful than upping the anxiety and depression further by trying to plan for things to get worse.
To spoil the ending, the 3 hour glucose test was fine but annoying and I almost passed out after it was done because fasting for 17 hours is a really really long time. And I don’t have diabetes, and that didn’t really change anything because the depression we’re talking about is 90% fueled by hormones, not situation like, say, the depression that can follow the loss of a loved one. Situational depression is one thing, but this is organic like…everything could be fine or not, the dull ache is still there regardless. Except for when it’s not, and then you tell yourself that you really. are. crazy. and what is happening right now.
So onward we trudge, right? Towards….more depression if you ask some people, towards a baby that will make you happier and madder and more frustrated and joyous than you’ve ever been ever, towards…who the heck knows. In the meantime, we’ll keep talking ourselves out of the crazy that feels inevitable no matter what we do, right?