Saturday, July 16, 2005

The Eleven-Pound Baby: Pregnancy with Diabetes

If I'd had another child, I would have named her Isabella. I knew a little girl in Africa named Isabella, the daughter of a Kenyan doctor. She was called Bella for short. I think it is a beautiful name.

I had wanted four children. As it turned out, I had three. Diabetes made my third pregnancy difficult. Neither Daniel nor I were ready to go through it again.

Camille was born when I was 39. She weighed 11 pounds 3 ounces. There was extra amniotic fluid in my uterus, and I had braxton-hicks contractions for most of the pregnancy. My doctor didn't want me climbing stairs, but my office -- in an old building on the Lawrence University campus -- was on the third floor and the elevator only went to the second. I had to stop every so often as I climbed the stairs, because the contractions grew stronger.

My doctors were a high-risk neonatologist and an endocrinologist. I went to the hospital twice a week for a checkup, blood glucose monitoring, sonograms and whatever else they threw at me. This I had to do early in the morning so I could make it to my anthropology lectures on time. I drove back and forth between Appleton and Neenah at 7:00 am. It was very cold that winter.

The neonatologist was a sexist creep who told blonde jokes. He later lost his license. I think he was an alcoholic, because one of the nurses told me he had liver disease. He was often not there.

Labor was induced the day after Christmas in 1991. Nobody knew the baby was so big -- nor that she had such a large head that she would never drop down into my pelvis. I didn't even dilate. Daniel told the doctor that if he put me through labor and then did a c-section, he would have to buy us dinner. Camille was born they evening of the 27th, by c-section.

What I resent the most are the cracks the doctor made while delivering Camille, implying (while I was laying on the table in the operating room with my arms tied down) that I was dominating Daniel. That memory pollutes the experience of her birth. But he was the only game in town, as high-risk doctors went. Maybe I should be grateful he was there for me, but I have nothing but bad memories of him.

The worst was what he said after Camille was born. He said that because she weighed so much, the pregnancy had been "considered a failure." He said I must have cheated somehow. I tried to protest, but he walked away. My A1c's had been quite low, and my records were accurate. I met often with the endocrinologist, and (despite the fact that I claimed my morning blood sugars were too high) she felt I was doing great. The worst thing I did was eat muffins every once in a while. I was so good. I don't know why she weighed 11 pounds 3 ounces.

I held up my baby and said to him, "She is perfect. How can she be considered a failure?"

Sometimes I wonder what happened, why she was so big. I wonder why, because I had excellent control during my pregnancy. I wonder if there aren't factors we don't yet understand.

The best moments of my pregnancy were when I was in Kenya that summer. I was in my second trimester and just starting to show. I would walk all over Nairobi, and I felt so good and so healthy. The people out in the village told me that this one was going to be my daughter. One woman said, "We cursed you to have a girl." Some curse!

But it was a difficult pregnancy. And so there was going to be no Isabella.

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