Portraits of Possible: Meet Melesa

Portraits of Possible: Meet Melesa - One Drop
Melesa recently gave birth to her first child! She’s also been living with type 1 diabetes for the last 25 years. She so generously shared her valuable new-mom time with us to detail her own experience of being pregnant with diabetes.

I was diagnosed with diabetes at the age of 5. I’m 30 now. I don’t remember life without diabetes so I don’t quite understand the adjustment it takes to come to terms with having the disease. That’s not to say that living with it hasn’t had its ups and downs, though.

I lived a very normal childhood. I did everything any other child could do; my doctor was very adamant about my family not limiting me because of my diabetes (when it came to food).

It was very well controlled up until college when I became more independent. For the first time in my life with diabetes, I didn’t have my parents on my case asking about numbers or what I had for a snack. There was definitely a small learning curve when it came to being more independent with diabetes, but I eventually got the hang of it!

Pregnancy with Diabetes

Before I actually became pregnant, I didn’t think having children was feasible. I had no idea what diabetes would look like while pregnant. And I was definitely not trying! My husband and I (then-boyfriend) were enjoying life together, planning our many adventures for 2020.

It was the New Year, so I was working out more and really focusing a lot more on my health. My most recent A1C was 7.4% and I was determined to get it lower. I had been eating much better and was mainly trying to get my blood sugars down.

My menstrual cycles weren’t regular on top of all of this, so a part of me wondered if I could even get pregnant. But one day, I just felt different. So I took a test and it was positive! I found out right at 4 weeks so I wasn’t experiencing any changes at that point. As time progressed, though, I noticed my blood sugars were much higher than usual.

I immediately contacted my endocrinologist; because I’m on an insulin pump, it seemed as though he was making insulin dosing and basal changes every other week. But those micro-managed tweaks definitely helped me stay in control of my diabetes.

I saw my endocrinologist twice a month, my OBGYN every 4 weeks, a diabetes educator and nutritionist every 2 weeks, and a maternal-fetal medicine specialist every 4 weeks up until my third trimester. Then, I saw him twice a week up until birth. There were lots of appointments, but I felt like I had a lot of support and accountability from all my doctors.

They never made me feel like I couldn’t manage my diabetes and they were always just a phone call, text, or email away if I had any concerns. Their consistent support helped me be the best that I could be for myself, as well as my child.

My doctor also allowed me to make changes as I saw fit because blood sugars and hormones and so many other variables changed so drastically and so fast.

My first month pregnant my A1C was down to 6.5%; the next month, I was down to 5.8% and for the rest of my pregnancy I maintained a 4.8% A1C! My blood sugars were no longer just about me, they were about my child. I knew the complications that diabetes could cause during pregnancy, so I did everything I could to protect myself and my child.

I had the best control of my diabetes that I have ever had in my life while pregnant. Never in a million years did I think I could achieve a non-diabetic A1C, but I did it.

Life with Diabetes

Pregnancy with diabetes was certainly intense and stressful. But life with diabetes can be like that, too, in other ways. Diabetes has taught me to be patient with myself and to love myself. If I don’t love myself, I can’t fully take care of myself. I am living with a disease that I can control. Diabetes can either make you or break you. And I choose—daily—to make it work for me and my life.

Some days are absolutely more difficult than others. I’m just so thankful for the tools and technology that I have that enable me to manage my diabetes. I often wonder what it was like when we didn’t have the technology that we have today and how difficult it must have been for people to manage.

Diabetes has also given me my health. I am so much more mindful of what I put into my body; I count carbs and make sure I’m eating a balanced diet. In fact, I had a friend tell me once that I’m much healthier than most because I am so mindful of my diabetes. I’m grateful that diabetes keeps me disciplined with my eating habits.

I’ve also recently found this incredible community of people with diabetes on Facebook. I am part of several type 1 diabetes private Facebook groups, where I constantly look for and share my own knowledge.

Prior to getting pregnant, I had no idea there was such a huge breadth of knowledge—real, lived, experiential knowledge—from others out there with diabetes. I found out about this world of diabetes support groups (specifically, pregnancy ones) on Facebook after my son was born; even though I am no longer pregnant, I know what it’s like to want to know about others’ experiences. I don’t hesitate to give my own story if someone asks for it.

I’m constantly wondering what more I can do to manage my diabetes better while staying sane. There’s balance in everything, so it helps to hear words of encouragement from others who are living a similar story, as well as advice on how to cope with certain situations. It’s especially encouraging to hear the success stories of others. It helps me to remember that if they can do it, so can I.

More than anything, I think simply supporting each other will help all of us—type 1 and type 2—do better by ourselves. Never be afraid to advocate for yourself; ask as many questions as possible and look for as many answers as you can find. If you need help, ask! Reach out; join as many Facebook groups as you can.

There are so many resources available for us these days if you look for them. There are certainly plenty of things about diabetes that you can’t control; what’s important is that we identify our specific controllables, then learn how to control them.

You got this, mama!

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Melesa Witherspoon
Nov 02, 2020

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