A Mothers Experience with Gestational Diabetes

Today I’m sharing the pregnancy journey of a mother and close friend of mine. I’m honored to share photos from Kristyn’s maternity portrait session and the story of her experience with gestational diabetes. Hopefully her words offer a little education and help normalize one of the many scenarios women encounter during their pregnancy. Her portraits are also a wonderful reminder even when you don’t feel amazing, you can still look and really BE amazing when celebrating your pregnancy with portraits. Kristyn told me, “I may have felt really exhausted but when I was with you I was able to be comfortable and free of any insecurities. You captured a beautiful moment that I will remember for the rest of my life. Now looking back at the photos of my pregnancy I have the feelings of strength and empowerment.”

Bringing a child into the world has to be one of the most beautiful things there is. But let’s be clear, Motherhood isn’t a sinch. We aren’t all Kate Middleton an hour after giving birth, and although pregnancy is a joy and an incredible journey, it also isn’t always smooth sailing. In the movies, parenting magazines, and while shopping for maternity clothes we often see pregnant women with the perfect little basketball belly and beautiful glowing skin. Can we get real for a moment? Hormones are no joke, especially not to your skin. Swollen feet are an actual concern. Your back aches so much you’re unable to tie your own shoes. Don’t even get me started on the health and fitness standards that have you battling “mom shame” before your little one is even born. All this to say, things don’t always go as planned and our bodies don’t always fulfill our every expectation. Here is Kristyn’s experience with pregnancy and a few portraits from her in-home maternity session taken during my visit from San Francisco to Austin, Texas.

Pregnant lady with gestational diabetes waiting for baby

Lindsay: Before every portrait session I ask my clients to tell me about their journey into parenthood. Everyone’s story is unique! Tell me about the path that led you to pregnancy.

Kristyn: After 1 year of trying to naturally conceive my husband and myself headed to an appointment with my Gyno. We made the appointment to discuss the results of my positive PCOS tests. The doctor spent about an hour telling my husband and myself we had a long journey ahead of us, as PCOS can impact fertility. The real shock came later that day. When we returned home the nurse called me and said the urine sample I had left that day was positive! I was about 4 weeks pregnant and hadn’t even missed my period yet. I went from the low of the PCOS diagnosis to the high of being told I was pregnant is the span of a few hours!

Lindsay: I feel like I shouldattach for everyone the screen shots from our conversation from that day. I remember you feeling so stressed that year while trying, and then receiving the news of your PCOS, or Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. Full disclosure, you are one of my first close friends to try and conceive, and your experience was also my first time learning about PCOS. So it wasn’t surprising when I discovered that, according to the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, at least 1 and 15 women of childbearing age will struggle with PCOS. This means it’s incredibly common, and yet, it isn’t something many women are aware of. PCOS is commonly misdiagnosed, can take year years to diagnose, and often isn’t discovered until a woman experiences complications trying to conceiving, much like yourself. It’s obviously an emotional rollercoaster of a journey, so finding out you were pregnant was a major celebration! I’ve also learned that women with PCOS are actually at a greater risk for gestational diabetes. At what point during your pregnancy did you end up diagnosed with gestational diabetes?

Kristyn: When I was around 25 weeks my doctor scheduled me for the glucose test. It’s a pretty standard test that is way less scary than people can make it out to be. I showed up and drank what tasted like an orange soda, then sat around for a hour. Then they test your blood to see how it handles the sugary drink. I got a call from the doctor saying I failed the “1 hour” test and would need to do the “3 hour” glucose test. This one was rough! I couldn’t eat ANYTHING prior to the 3 hour test. I showed up and drank the same sugary orange beverage. Then they drew blood after 1, 2 and 3 hours. After failing that second test I was officially diagnosed with gestational diabetes.

happy pregnancy with diabetes

Lindsay: Okay, so we should obviously discuss the dreaded myths around gestational diabetes. I started reading on a few parenting forums and was really upset to find a large number of women believe that gestational diabetes meant that you are overweight. When really in short, Gestational diabetes just means your body struggles with high blood sugar, or glucose, during your pregnancy. Your body produces a hormone called insulin that helps lower the amount of glucose in your blood. During pregnancy your placenta produces hormones that can sometimes interfere with insulin and end up leaving higher levels of glucose in your blood, aka high blood sugar. Can you help me stomp out this myth?

Kristyn: I had people say, “Just by looking at you I can tell you won’t have to worry about gestational diabetes,” and then I got it! Those were medical professionals. I didn’t really know much prior to being diagnosed. I read a lot of blogs and checked out a few books from the library. Most people I met with were surprised I had it. I didn’t gain tons of weight! The day I delivered I had only gained about 30 pounds in total. I was pretty proud of that.

Maternity portraits of woman with gestational diabetes

Lindsay: How annoying that people actually thought you had to “look a specific way” in order to think you could have gestational diabetes. What I love talking to you about all of this is that you have such a positive outlook on the experience now, but I also remember that it wasn’t an easy experience. Flashback to us joking about all the ice cream we would eat being pregnant! What do you think was the hardest part of this experience?

Kristyn: The hardest part was having to be on such a restrictive diet during the one time in my life I was “supposed” to be able to indulge. The day I was diagnosed my husband took me to a really nice healthy restaurant for dinner. I cried the whole time! If you’ve met me, you know how I handle lettuce!

Pregnant woman at 34 weeks with gestational diabetes

Lindsay: First off, I do know how you handle lettuce- and it’s that you DON’T. I honestly don’t know many people who dislike lettuce as much as you! And second, Casey is such a supportive husband! I can totally envision him taking you to this nice meal and you just sitting there sobbing at the desert menu. What helped you stay positive? Was your hubby your biggest support?

Kristyn: Yes, my husband actually did the diet with me. Also I think knowing that I only had 10 weeks of my pregnancy left helped. You can do anything for 10 weeks! Remember it’s not a life-sentence. It does raise the risk of developing diabetes down the road, but I choose not to think about that right now. I’ve got a baby to chase after!

Outdoor maternity portrait of couple
Lindsay: So what would you say to the other momma’s out there crying over a dinner?!

Kristyn: With most health related things the only person you can hurt is yourself. This was different because if I didn’t control my blood sugar then my daughter could face the consequences of that decision. No ice cream is a small price to pay!

Lindsay: Is there anything else you would like others to know regarding gestational diabetes?

Kristyn: In the end I think gestational diabetes was a blessing in disguise. It forced me to be healthy when it mattered the most!

Best friends celebrating pregnancy

I’m so glad I had the opportunity to travel down to Austin, TX for Kristyn’s baby shower and to photograph her pregnancy. I remember sitting in Olivia’s nursery helping Kristyn take apart a “diaper cake” and folding tiny newborn onesies when Kristyn needed to take a blood sugar test. Pricking her finger was something she did routinely an hour after every meal to track blood sugar levels for her doctor. I realized a few things that day. One, my blood sugar levels are normal and finger pricking doesn’t hurt as much as it looks like it will. Two, diaper cakes are a real pain in the butt and I strongly advocate you do NOT make them for your friends baby shower. Three, I realized that my best friend was not just “having a baby”, she was becoming a mother. She was choosing to put her baby first over anything, and to me, that is the true story of motherhood.

Learn More About Maternity Portraits with L. Bishop Photography Here

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