Ever since I was a girl, I wanted to be a mother. I understood that I wasn’t ready emotionally or physically, but at a young age I simply had the feeling that being a mother was what I was meant to do with my life. I was smart, attractive, motivated, driven, and could be anything that I wanted to be. And I wanted to be a mom.
I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of 14. Looking back, I know that I was exhibiting symptoms of type 1 as early as age 11. But, since type 1 didn’t exist in my family before my diagnosis, we didn’t know what to look for.
It was then, as my disease was discovered, that my one certain goal in life was threatened with destruction. Doctors told me that I would never be able to have children because of the stresses and strains pregnancy puts on a type 1 body. I was just a young teenager when they told me this. I was scared and in shock from that new diagnosis when they told me that my entire future was changed.
For 10 years, until I was 24, I gave up on the idea of children. I still wanted them desperately, but was too drained to even consider pregnancy. Occasionally, I would talk in diabetes online communities to hear other type 1 stories of pregnancy from women who were dealing with the same fears as me. With these anonymous women, I rediscovered the broken vow inside of me and found the courage to believe that maybe I could make my wish come true.
I lowered my A1c from 8.0% to 6.5% in six months. Battling retinopathy, insulin resistance, and carbohydrate absorption issues, it wasn’t easy. I used a combination of metformin and insulin injections to bring my A1c down, plus a lot of monitoring. I talked to my husband about trying for a child four months after holding a 6.5%.
We thought I would have difficulty conceiving because of my tattered body. We didn’t have any concrete evidence that I would have trouble, just assumed so because my body was obviously exhausted. But, five weeks later, I got a positive pregnancy test. Thrilled, but scared to death, I set up doctor appointments with my OBGYN and endocrinologist. I was even more careful with what kinds of foods I put into my body. My glucose readings were ideal, nearly flat-lining for days at a time.
Everything was going perfectly. I was exercising, my baby’s heart was beating and I was finally going to be a mom.
Then, at nine weeks, our baby’s heart stopped beating. Every doctor who dealt with my case (there were about six) reassured me that sometimes miscarriages just… happen. I asked over and over if it was my fault, if my diabetes was to blame, and they all said while type 1 and pregnancy are difficult, my loss was not due to diabetes. It was a chromosomal abnormality and the fetus simply stopped growing.
I was devastated. My husband was strong and carried me through my grief. I thought our getting pregnant was sheer luck. I thought we were surely going to have to wait years before feeling a child in our arms. Either our theory that type 1s have a difficult time conceiving was wrong or we are both extremely fertile. Eight weeks later, we got another positive pregnancy test.
Even though I knew our first pregnancy ended by no fault of my own, I was still even more careful with the second. And partly because the first pregnancy ended so suddenly, that loss gave me the reassurance that even though I might do everything perfectly, things could still go wrong. That meant I shouldn’t stress over things that were simply out of my control.
Fifteen years ago, when I was diagnosed, doctors believed carrying a pregnancy would kill me. Though my second pregnancy was extremely exhausting, ending with pre-eclampsia and an emergency section after 21 hours of labor, my daughter is currently a very happy and healthy two year old. My third pregnancy was also very difficult, with severe pre-eclampsia and an emergency surgery. But, my second daughter is 10 months old, happy, alert, healthy, and very strong.
I almost let those doctors’ words drown my dreams; nearly let a few strangers tell me what I could and could not accomplish. Today, my children are my hopes, morals, determination, and dreams; my future. I am filled with so much pride and pure joy watching them grow. I am everything I ever hoped I would become: I am a mom.
Katherine Marple was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 14 in 1998. The mother of two small children, she has battled insulin resistance, pre-eclampsia, CGM and pump failures, leading to insulin therapy via MDI using Levemir and Apidra, and sometimes Metformin. She is the author of two diabetes related novels: “Wretched (this is my sorry)” and “Deathly Sweet.”