Diabetes: finding the right motivation

Dec 10,2012
When Rebecca Douglas found out she was pregnant it was a reason for celebration. After being married for 11 years, she and her husband, Ryan, were ready for this new addition to their family. Rebecca knew she had borderline high blood sugar levels at the beginning of her pregnancy.

An early glucose test showed that her sugars had become high enough during pregnancy that her doctor sent her to diabetes education. Rebecca didn’t want to go on insulin and was committed to controlling her gestational diabetes through diet and exercise.

“The diabetes educators were so caring,” she recalls of her visits. “They helped me see the consequences of choices. It wasn’t just ‘don’t eat this,’ it was ‘if you eat this, this will
happen — so choose wisely!’”

Four months into her pregnancy Rebecca went to receive an ultrasound to check the baby’s
growth. The ultrasound revealed that the baby had no kidneys and there wasn’t enough
amniotic fluid for the lungs to develop properly. The condition, she learned, had a 100 percent fatality rate for the baby once it was born.

Rebecca got a second opinion the next day that confirmed the original heartbreaking diagnosis. Faced with a choice no mother should have to make, Rebecca’s options were to have an abortion, an early induction of labor, or to carry the baby to term and give birth. However, once the baby was born it would only live three hours at the most.

Rebecca could already feel the tiny fluttering movements of her baby and couldn’t bear the thought of an abortion, so she elected to carry it to term. What followed were months of anxiety and sadness. Managing her blood sugar levels became the least of her worries, but it gave her something to focus on. “I need to take care of myself so I need to keep doing what we’re doing,” she told the diabetes educators.

Rebecca maintained her diabetes education visits, her diet and exercise regimen, and started glyburide to help control her sugars. Around her seventh month of pregnancy, Rebecca felt compelled to get a third opinion. And during that ultrasound they saw that the baby had one kidney and plenty of amniotic fluid. Rebecca and her husband also learned they were having a little girl.

“We went from zero to 60 like that,” Rebecca said. Subsequent tests bumped the baby’s
chances for survival to 30 percent, then 70 percent and then 99 percent.

“When we found out there was a chance she was going to make it, the doctors were floored. We felt guarded optimism, but we were going to have a baby. And she was probably going to be healthy,” said Rebecca.

With renewed purpose, Rebecca faithfully checked her blood sugar four times a day. As her pregnancy progressed she also needed to start giving herself insulin shots four times a day.

On Jan. 9, Phoebe was born. She has a condition where several of her organs are on the wrong side of her body, and had surgery to remove her appendix and secure her bowels when she was a week old. But she is a happy, healthy baby.

Rebecca has maintained the good habits she learned in diabetes education and is already down 10 pounds below her pre-pregnancy weight. By cutting out soda, reducing her sugar intake, watching carbs and exercising, Rebecca feels great.

“I’m living in a way that is good for both of us.”