Throughout pregnancy and all the way up until labor, I was adamant that I was not having a cesarean section. I was terrified of being cut open because I know that my healing time is longer due to my lowered immune system. In 2009, I had to go to the emergency room for an infection caused by cutting my leg while shaving, so how could I possibly heal after being opened up to birth a baby?
I had also read some articles on not-so-credible websites about studies showing that C-section babies are more likely to develop type 1 diabetes than vaginally delivered babies. I tried not to give these stories credence because they didn’t come from resources that I trusted, but they were still enough to scare me.
Because I didn’t want my baby to be induced, I took long walks during the last weeks of pregnancy to try to get labor started on its own. I experienced phantom labor, or Braxton Hicks contractions, as early as week 30, and I felt that those contractions were a sure sign that my baby was ready to come on her own.
I wanted a natural birth without pain medications, in part because I was afraid that taking numbing drugs would make it impossible to feel my glucose levels rise and fall. I understood that going through childbirth without pain medications was going to be difficult, especially because my little girl weighed nearly 10 pounds and I was a first-time mom. However, I was willing to do it if it would be better for my baby.
To prepare myself for what was to come, I talked to other women in pregnancy networks who had gone through natural, medication-free births. I took a childbirth class with my husband to learn what labor would be like and to hear about methods that might work for us during labor. It was calming to breathe in and out slowly while sitting between my husband’s legs, my back against his chest as he leaned on a wall. However, I didn’t find comfort in Lamaze breathing or soft music.
I wrote out a birth plan and sent it to the hospital with my admission papers, and I gave a copy to my endocrinology and OB/GYN offices to keep in their files. The birth plan covered that I wanted: an unmedicated birth, as little interference by doctors and nurses as possible, the ability to inject and monitor my own insulin dosages throughout labor, and the freedom to walk around to ease the discomfort of labor. In the end, though, my birthing experience got absolutely nothing out of my birth plan. Once I was diagnosed with pre-eclampsia, there was no choice but to induce labor, for the safety of both our lives.
The hospital where I birthed my daughter had a really good nursing staff who took excellent care of me during my 21 hours of labor. They came in to check my vitals every 45 minutes and my glucose and insulin IV drip every hour. During labor, my glucose levels never rose above 140 and never dropped below 80. Due to fatigue, anxiety, and pain, I might not have been able to manage such great control on my own.
As far as my diabetes went, it was a very easy labor and delivery. It was the other pregnancy complications that made my birthing experience difficult. In my next article, I will share my birth experience as a first-time mother with type 1 diabetes.