Not just surviving, but thriving whilst living with
Type 1 Diabetes
The woman behind Global Diabetic, Michelle Hale, shares her story about living with Type 1 Diabetes, getting pregnant and delivering her baby in Hong Kong. As a passionate advocate for educating others about what Type 1 Diabetes – it’s clear that she doesn’t let her condition inhibit her in any way. Read more as she shares her inspiring story…
I was nervous. Lying in the delivery room at the Matilda Hospital and anxiously waiting to see my baby. 10 fingers, 10 toes, I hoped? As a type 1 diabetic (T1D), my angst was more severe as my pregnancy was considered high risk. But with my husband holding my hand and chill out music playing in the background, I embraced my inner calm and was ready to meet our little miracle.
In the moments before my caesarean, I reflected upon the pregnancy. We found out we were pregnant in Dubai and thought we would have our baby there. However, my husband’s job offer was a great opportunity, so we moved to Hong Kong heavily pregnant, ready for our new adventure.
Finding a new health care team was my top priority in relocating. I needed to find a trusted obstetrician, endocrinologist, dietitian, hospital and place to live! Fortunately hubby and I found all of the above in a few days, as I waddled around Hong Kong. It was such a relief knowing I had my healthcare team set up. Moving countries didn’t allow me to forget about my diabetes. Being diabetic never stops. It is mentally, emotionally and physically demanding. Just like having a baby! There’s a constant tension between do I splurge and eat this fried rice and dumplings, or do I engage self-control.
I’ve had diabetes for 20 years. I was 14 years old and for months, I had been so thirsty I’d drink anything. I was drinking so much I needed to use the bathroom every half an hour. I’d lay awake until 3am, waiting to go to the bathroom. My vision was going in and out of focus, and I’d lost about 9kg. My godmother suggested it could be diabetes. I looked on Encarta (an ancient encyclopaedia on CDROM!) and my symptoms matched. I went to the doctor and she immediately rushed me to the emergency room. My sugar level was 28.0mmol/l, a normal reading is 5.5. There are two main types of diabetes, type one and type two. Type one is where the pancreas ceases to produce insulin and decides to nap forever. Type two is where the pancreas produces insulin in reduced quantities.
Pregnancy was the longest nine months of my life. Keeping my blood sugar level (BSL) within a tight range was crucial to minimise potential problems during the pregnancy. This meant eating healthy and not over doing the dim sum. It took serious willpower, and I found strength I never knew I had.
The challenges actually began one year before conceiving. I needed to lower my average sugar level and keep it within a tight range, so I went on an insulin pump which I wear 24 hours a day. It delivers tiny doses of insulin through a small tube and needle which stay inside me. The pump looks like a beeper from 1999. And I wear a continuous glucose monitor (CGM) which tracks my sugar levels every five minutes. Just call me a sassy bionic woman!
The first trimester my sugar level went low all the time. I constantly drank juice boxes to keep my BSL up. This meant I always needed to keep sugar on me just in case. I tested my blood sugar 20 times a day (in addition to the CGM I still need to prick my finger and test from my blood). In the last trimester, insulin resistance kicked in and my insulin requirements went up 300%. Keeping my BSL in range was like trying to hit a moving target. I kept telling myself that my baby will be healthy and strong. This made me feel powerful. I was in charge of sending him positive energy.
Hearing my baby’s heart beat for the first time and as he grew in my belly, I realised how important it was that I get this right. And to get pregnant again I realise what I have to do. There’s no getting around it. I have to take care of myself. The challenge is the how. I know now that I (and you too) can do anything for nine months. It doesn’t mean you have to stay home. You can still go out and travel. But the greatest motivation was thinking about my baby and doing the best that I can for him.
Now, I’m the proud mama of six month old TJ, aka Trevor Junior, named after his daddy. I love him more and more everyday. I didn’t know this kind of love existed. I am so proud of myself and what it took to make a healthy baby. He’s happy and sleeping through the night (for now!).
I overcame the challenges of pregnancy and type one with a positive mindset. I chose to live a social and active lifestyle. I am the captain of my ship. This year on my diaversary (a celebration of life I have annually on the anniversary of my diagnosis), we went to Ozone at The Ritz Carlton for the Dom Perignon free flow brunch! You better believe I know exactly how much insulin I need to pump in order to consume copious amounts of Dom!
Pregnancy is one of the biggest challenges a woman will ever face. Take stock of how hard you’re working to conceive or be pregnant. Enjoy the journey, take a deep breath and congratulate yourself every step of the way.