Afton Thysse shares how she managed her Type 1 diabetes during an unplanned pregnancy and how her feelings impact her blood glucose levels.
Afton Thysse (35) and her son, Jaydon (4) recently moved to Boksburg, Gauteng from Port Elizabeth.
Type 1 diabetes diagnosis
In July 2013, I was in an armed robbery. Thereafter I started losing weight rapidly and consulted my GP. I was sent for a glucose test after which it was determined my pancreas had shut down due to shock. I would need to be on two types of insulin immediately and for the rest of my life.
My current treatment is a long-acting insulin every morning. Then I need to inject fast-acting insulin before every meal, for which I need to calculate my glucose reading as well as the sugar content of the meal I’m about to eat to get to the correct amount of units to inject.
When I was first diagnosed, the insulin started as a standard 10 units per meal and 12 units long-acting every morning and every evening. My doses steadily increased over the years until I was taught how to calculate and measure so I could adjust my own doses based on my glucose level and sugar intake at the time of injecting.
When I fell pregnant in 2019, it wasn’t a planned pregnancy. When we found out, I had to go on a special diet to keep my blood glucose regulated throughout my pregnancy; it included less sugar and more healthy food. All the other rules were the same as it would be for any woman. Though, I was give guidance on where and how to inject and cautioned on eating according to my cravings. Strangely enough, I ate less during my pregnancy and didn’t have any specific cravings.
Regular check-ups were a must during the pregnancy; more information was shared on where we were in the pregnancy, what my blood glucose levels were, and how the next month or two were likely to go.
I was cautioned that miscarriage was common in pregnant women with Type 1 diabetes, and was a possibility as the pregnancy wasn’t planned and my body wasn’t prepared for this in regards to my blood glucose. This was hard to hear and caused negative emotions but it also gave me the drive to persist and do everything I needed to keep my baby healthy.
Birth of Jaydon
Jaydon, my son, was born one month premature and spent two weeks in neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) for monitoring of his blood glucose levels to ensure complete health before leaving the hospital.
He was a tiny little thing and is still small for his age, but he is happy and healthy, and that includes the naughtiness of a pre-schooler and all the fun that comes with that for me.
He understands that I have diabetes and knows how to help when my blood glucose drops: he gets me something sweet to help boost my glucose and knows where I keep my tester and how to help me test if I’m feeling weak.
Jaydon has recently come up with his own little attitude when I’m moaning to him about his messy room and toys all over the house. These days I get, “Maybe you should test your sugar, Mom!”
Food, fitness and feelings
It’s important to understand that any and all food will have an effect on your blood glucose readings. The best way to handle this for me was testing every time I ate food. For example, I would test my glucose, have a banana and test two hours afterwards to see how it affected my glucose and whether I calculated correctly on the units so I could better adjust next time. Always remembering to only go up or down on the units by 1 or 2 units at a time. I did this with many different foods over time which has helped me with understanding what each food does in relation to my glucose levels.
I’ve learned each person with diabetes is different as our bodies aren’t all 100% the same. Therefore, we can’t apply the same basic rules for foods and medication to everyone. Each person with diabetes should get to know their own body, their own reactions to foods and their medications for a better understanding of how to look after themselves.
Diets aren’t for me. This is a sure way for me to become despondent; it becomes a why me feeling more than anything else. I feel deprived and can’t sustain this long term in my daily life. With a 4-year-old healthy son, there will be sweets and certain foods I’m not allowed to have. Realistically it becomes a decision between a healthy body but a depressed mother, or finding a balance between. I choose the balance between.
I cook healthy food for the family and inject correctly for what I know the meal will do to my glucose levels, and still have something nice but in moderation and carefully adjust my insulin to accommodate for this.
Because I work from home, this means I don’t usually get out and about a lot. I get up from my desk every hour and walk for a bit, keeping my circulation going.
At the end of my work day, I do ball sports with Jaydon which keeps me active and on weekends we usually go to the park and I get in most of my walking. I don’t attend a gym or have a regular exercise routine. I found that I don’t stick to this and then get negative about not doing what I should. So, I built movement into my daily life and what works for me so I don’t set myself up for disappointment and despondency.
I never realised how emotions played a role in impacting my glucose levels until one day Jaydon’s dad asked me to test my glucose while calming me down as I was having a mini meltdown. Naturally I had an emotional response to this in itself. However, I did a quick check and found my glucose was high. So, with me my emotional responses do go hand in hand with my blood glucose levels. Though, this doesn’t mean when I’m upset, I don’t have a valid reason. It’s just that my level of emotional response is slightly elevated.
When my blood glucose levels are running higher and I’m happy, I will be slightly more impulsive or agreeable. But when my blood glucose levels are going lower, I’ll be more inclined to do more relaxed activities (watch a movie, reading, nothing too busy) and the emotion will be more dampened. I shrug a lot more, the whatever-you-want-response is more prominent.
The flip side is when I’m in a negative space. High blood glucose means I might be more argumentative and complain about the house being left in a mess with toys all over the place. When my levels are running lower, I’ll have a more depressive response to the same things. It becomes more of a why do I have to struggle? Why does no one consider me and pick up their things around the house?
Understanding your body is important but understanding your emotional responses are just as important. This helps to acknowledge that you’re having a sugar response, find out what you are really feeling and adjust your mindset to balance out your reactions. This has helped me to not sink into unnecessary depression and also to give my family the best parts of myself.
MEET THE EDITOR
Laurelle Williams is the Editor at Word for Word Media. She graduated from AFDA with a Bachelor of Arts Honours degree in Live Performance. She has a love for storytelling and sharing emotions through the power of words. Her aim is to educate, encourage and most of all show there is always hope. Feel free to email Laurelle on [email protected]
Header image supplied