If you were surprised by my recent Facebook post about the baby boy that my family welcomed, you are probably not alone. My husband and I have made the choice with both of our children not to share our pregnancy on social media. This pregnancy, however was drastically different than my first, partially due to the fact that I no longer eat dairy and soy. So now that our little man has made his arrival, I am excited to share with you some of the things that I experienced and what I learned!
My first pregnancy was riddled with (thankfully minor) complications, including preeclampsia which caused me to deliver my daughter at 37 weeks. This time around, I was totally convinced that things were going to be different. I was sure that I would make it to 40 weeks, and have a completely typical pregnancy. While I did get a very different pregnancy, it wasn’t exactly the way that my foolish optimism predicted.
On the positive side, I had WAY less morning sickness this time. It never seemed to end with my daughter, but this time I got to experience the honeymoon second trimester with no morning sickness! Hurray! I have heard lots of theories about this… cutting out dairy and soy, eating healthier, girl vs. boy, first vs. second pregnancy, etc. Whatever the reason, I am so grateful! One thing I do believe was better do to being dairy and soy free was my reflux. I had reflux for a few years prior to pregnancy and it was awful while I was expecting Sweet Girl. Once I cut out dairy and soy, my reflux all but went away completely. This time around, I had very minor reflux, and it didn’t begin until the third trimester.
On the negative side, I had knee pain throughout my second and third trimester which was helped tremendously by physical therapy. This one annoyed me because one of the unexpected benefits of cutting out dairy and soy was weight loss. Surely starting this pregnancy 30 pounds lighter than last time would alleviate the aches and pains that come with carrying a baby? Apparently not. According to my doctor, subsequent pregnancies are harder on the body. Also, as much as I don’t like to admit it, I am getting older….
Again, for the positive- my blood pressure remained normal all of the way through third trimester. And back to the negative… Gestational Diabetes. Ugh.
So, maybe I should have seen it coming. Here’s my history with it. I have struggled with my weight my entire adult life. Because of this, I had to take a glucose tolerance test to check for diabetes a few years back. If you have never had the joy of experiencing this test, it requires fasting overnight, drinking a ridiculously sugary drink, and then getting blood drawn to measure glucose levels. I started with a one hour test… which I failed. Failing the one hour test means that you get to do it again! For two hours. This is much less fun than the one hour. But, thankfully, I passed.
A few months later, I became pregnant with my Sweet Girl, and was presented with a huge list of first trimester bloodwork to be completed. To my dismay, I learned that this included yet another glucose test. Due to my history of a failed test, I was in a higher risk category and required to do the test again in the first trimester. So I repeated the drill… I did the one hour test… failed… and then got to take a three hour test. Just to be clear, this means all the same fasting and nasty sugary drink, but then getting blood taken every hour for three hours. All while battling morning sickness. Not fun. But thankfully I passed. Now fast forward to 28 weeks pregnant. This is when most people take the glucose test for the first time to check for gestational diabetes, but I was a pro. I got to repeat the same game… 1 hour, fail… three hour… pass. Just barely. My doctor warned me at this point that I could become diabetic at any point since my numbers were so high.
Now let’s fast forward one more time… at 36 weeks, I knew I was going to have Sweet Girl at 37 weeks and was sent for one last ultrasound to check size and lung development. My fears of having a tiny preemie were quickly wiped away as the technician informed us that our baby was well over 7 pounds and had a very large belly…. Indicative of gestational diabetes. Uh oh. I spent the next week watching my diet very closely and reducing carbs substantially. I hoped that this would mitigate any problems that Sweet Girl would have, but sadly that was not the case. She was born very large, and with low blood sugar which bounced up and down for the first 48 hours of her life. We were constantly on the brink of having to send her to the NICU, but thankfully she stayed with us the whole time. She was also jaundiced, which I later learned is a common in babies born to diabetic mothers. So, diagnosis or not, we can be pretty sure that I did have gestational diabetes. While we are so blessed to have a healthy happy little girl, those first few days were scary and stressful and I hoped to never put a baby through that again.
Then almost exactly two years after my first pregnancy, we found that we were again expecting. This is where the optimism came in – As I said, I began this pregnancy 30 pounds lighter than with Sweet Girl, and had a completely revamped and healthy diet. No more fast food, processed food, or junk was eaten this time around, so I was confident that this would be a healthier pregnancy. My optimism was bolstered even further with my first trimester bloodwork. Even though I had to repeat the all too familiar 1 hour glucose test, I PASSED! For the first time in my life, I passed the one hour test. Surely this means that I am even less likely to get gestational diabetes, right? Nope.
At a second trimester ultrasound, it was discovered that our baby was measuring well over the 90th percentile in overall size… a red flag for diabetes. The good news is that I got to skip the one hour, and go straight to the three hour. The bad news is that I failed. No more re-tests after that. And so I began the gestational diabetes routine, and I admit, a lot of whining. The first thing I had to do was meet with a nurse practitioner who explained the risks of diabetes and how to minimize them. I would be given a diet to follow, and would have to prick my finger four times a day to make sure my blood sugar was under control. I sympathize with anyone who attempts this diet change, because it is not easy. But for someone who is also avoiding other food groups, like dairy and soy, sometimes it was downright difficult.
I quickly learned from my nurse practitioner and from other moms who had been through gestational diabetes that cheese was somewhat of a staple. Well crap. The general rules that were given to me were:
- 3 meals per day, each with 20 – 30 carbs
- 3 snacks per day, each with 10-15 carbs
- When eating carbs, try to balance them with fiber, protein, and fat
Pretty much any dairy product fits those rules well – they are very low carb, and have fat and protein. A friend of mine who had been through gestational diabetes told me that she would eat these tiny little meals to meet the carb limit. When I questioned how that kept her full she said “Oh, I would eat cheese with it.” Hmmm.
With this information, I already knew that I was starting out with a more difficult situation without dairy as an option. I figured I would start out with the basics – meat, fruit, and veggies. Day one I hit a pretty big snag. Fruit did not cooperate. Even the ones that my nurse practitioner told me were the “good” fruits, like apples. I could not eat any of it without my blood sugar spiking. For someone trying to eat a whole foods diet, this was so frustrating. Through trial and error, and lots of finger pricks, I found that my body had a really hard time with several types of carbs, even if I stayed within the rules – fruit, oatmeal, any white bread product, and rice to name a few. Thankfully, I also found a few that I could handle – quinoa, really hearty whole wheat bread, and nut products. I learned a lot about ways to keep my blood sugar in check without going too crazy!
This led to a challenging third trimester, but ultimately helped me do what was best for me and my baby. The silver lining of it all is that I learned more than I ever expected to about how my body responds to foods. Stay tuned for lots more to come on that, and read on to find out how my third trimester and delivery went!