People are freaked out by needles so the reaction when I mention the concept of taking insulin to control my blood sugar is, “Ick!” Or, “Wow, that sucks.”
Now, if I weren’t pregnant, I would be totally resistant to the idea of taking insulin because for more than seven years I’ve managed my Type 2 diabetes through diet and the use of oral medications. As long as my pancreas functions and makes insulin then I’m going to avoid using insulin injections as long as possible.
It has nothing to do with having a problem with needles. When I was first diagnosed with diabetes in March 2002 I was sent to a diagnostic lab where seven vials of blood were drawn to gather as much data about my health as humanly possible.
There are two things that I think helped me overcome any potential needle squeamishness. First, my dad was a Type 1 diabetic, born in 1939 and diagnosed at the age of 12. When I was 6, my dad the engineer, showed me how his insulin shots worked. That memory has always stuck with me. The needles were much larger than they are now and he had to draw the insulin from a bottle into a syringe then stick it into his leg. I recall being simultaneously horrified and fascinated. That early exposure, though, I think helped me get over any fear I might have.
Toss into the equation the fact my mom spent 25 years as a nurse’s aide and was always very frank with me about all the medical situations she had learned about over the years and I was set up to handle things better. Side note, when I had my appendix out in January 2003, my mom visited me and her timing was such that the surgeon came to check on me shortly after mom arrived. Mom’s question to the surgeon, “Did you keep the appendix? I’d like to see it.”
Another thing that I think helped with this needle comfort is that I started giving blood at 16. I have a relatively high tolerance for pain coupled with a curiosity about how things work – remember, dad was an engineer, mom spent 25 years in the medical field, this is genetic – so I’d watch as the needle was inserted in my arm and then as the blood flowed into the pouch.
This past Thursday my endocrinologist put me on Humulin N, which is an intermediate acting insulin injection that works for eight to 10 hours, with the idea that the spikes I’ve been having after lunch and dinner will be managed better than the oral medications I had been taking.
The insulin is loaded into an injection pen. Up until early March I had been using an identical pen delivery system for a medication called Byetta, which is a newer pancreatic stimulant on the market that has been shown to help diabetic patients eat less and lose weight, as well as have better blood sugar control. I had been using it off and on for three years.
So doing this twice a day with insulin instead is a snap. The needle is tiny. A 31-gauge subcutaneous needle that’s just a few millimeters long. I don’t even feel it. In fact, it’s a breeze compared to jabbing myself with a lancet six or seven times a day to test my blood sugar, that freakin’ hurts.
My endocrinologist said that I should be enjoying pregnancy and eating a more balanced diet. The insulin should allow me to do this. I had been severely restricting myself in an effort to control it with food and exercise along with the pills I had been taking. But from July 16 to July 20 I lost nearly three pounds because as the obstetrician’s assistant put it, I had been starving myself, not a good thing to be doing when nearly six months pregnant.
It was a tough spot to be in, wanting to control my blood sugar so my baby girl could continue to develop normally and not put on too much weight yet not being able to eat any carbohydrates.
With the insulin I should be able to put some carbs back in my diet. But, still, I will probably be getting those yummy chocolate Lean Out Lite protein smoothies for breakfast a couple days a week at Emerald City Smoothies because they’re good, they’re easy and good for me.
And hopefully I can get back to eating at Trapper’s Sushi. I just checked the place out for the first time a few weeks ago but unfortunately the rice was giving more trouble than it should. But in two weeks I ate there three times. I promise I wasn’t eating a single piece of raw fish since that’s not good for a pregnant woman, but they have other stuff on the menu that’s fantastic that is not raw. And I think I can say I’m qualified to judge good sushi since I’ve been eating it regularly since I was 13 — my older sister has worked at a sushi bar in Bellevue since I was in eighth grade — but you don’t have to believe me. The second time I went there a guy sitting next to me at the sushi bar said he drives from Seattle, nearly 70 miles round trip, to eat at Trapper’s.
Now how can I deny myself such wonderful food? I’m pregnant. I’m supposed to be able to eat whatever I want. Now, at this point I can’t go buck wild eating carbs, but the idea of eating pasta or something other than whole grain bread is awesome.
This is a turning point for me in the pregnancy. I’ve got four weeks left (give or take a few days) in the second trimester and then I’m into the home stretch. And the bigger the baby gets and the more I feel her kick the easier it gets. I’ve never had such strong motivation in my life.
As I was walking out of the exam room at my endocrinologist’s office this past Thursday, her assistant, Melissa said to me, “Have fun growing that baby!”
I just chuckled quietly and said, “Oh, I will!”