"I have something special for you. Do not worry."
After three days of tears, those are the words the Lord whispered to my heart.
I was crying because I had just been diagnosed with Gestational Diabetes (GDM). The news came after a visit to Hadassa Ein Karem's Natural Birthing Center in Jerusalem. Complete with a giant bath tub, double bed, birthing balls, and fabric to swing on - not to mention the added perks of first priority "rooming in" after the delivery, and a midwife on call and present through the entire birth, this place was a a laboring woman's dream come true!
When the midwife giving the tour explained who was eligible for the use of their facilities, I knew I might not qualify. Earlier that day I had undergone the four hour long glucose challenge. My routine third trimester test comes back with high results, so I needed a more detailed sugar test to check and see if I had developed GDM. If this test came back high, my pregnancy would be considered "High Risk," so I would no longer a candidate for the Natural Birthing Center. And it did.
That simple phrase set the tears in motion. Fear took over as I worried about what this might mean for the health my baby, and for my desire to have a natural birth. I was plagued by mom guilt as I wondered if I had done something wrong.
Was it my diet? Had I not been exercising enough? Have a gained too much weight?
The questions swirled around in my head.
And since I didn't qualify for the Natural Birthing Center, I felt an odd sense of rejection and shame, as if something was wrong with me and the baby.
To make matters worse, I made the mistake of reading all the possible complications that could occur as a result of GDM, and the tears kept coming. I had not experienced the easiest pregnancy, dealing with an abnormal amounts of nausea and vommiting during my first trimester, while working through the hormones and emotions in a new place, with very new friendships. This news did not make it any better.
The word of the Lord was welcomed and brought rest and hope to my weary soul.
I wondered what it might be...
A few days later, Devin and I met with my doctor to discuss my sugar test results. Unbeknownst to us at the time of coming under her care, my doctor was a "High Risk Pregnancy Specialist." I found her to be incredibly comforting and helpful as she filled us in on the details of GDM. She explained that pregnancy hormones cause all women to process sugar differently, but in about 5-8% of pregnancies it actually develops into a form a diabetes that disappears after the baby is born. This wasn't something I caused. In fact, the lifestyle I was living (eating lots of Israeli salads and walking about five miles a day) was actually prevention-airy. It was simply something genetic. I was just "a sweet girl!" she said.
But we needed to take action.
Unmonitored, the baby was at risk for high and disproportional weight gain, which could cause complications at birth. Also, we both risked developing other forms of diabetes in the future.
My doctor remained hopeful about our ability to minimize long and short term effects through diet alone. She also believed I would be fine to birth naturally as along as the baby's weight was low. "Worst case scenario," she said, "we will induce before he gets too big."
Even that idea wasn't the ideal, nonetheless, her confidence increased my confidence.
Along with Devin's support and accountability, we began the three month journey of checking my sugar six times a day, learning to fill up on raw vegetables, and precisely measuring rice, noodles, cereal and other carbs at meals.
After the first week, with raw fingertips, and increased medical expenses (we were doing this without insurance) I wondered what sort of special blessings the Lord had in mind. At that moment I could only see "giants in the land."
The budget was tight. We became pregnant before I was eligible for insurance in Israel. When we finally did find a policy that I could purchase with my visa status, I didn't qualify because my pregnancy was a "pre-existing condition."
The diabetes added to the constraints. Rather than one appointment a month, I would need to visit the doctor several times each month, and at more frequent intervals, to monitor the baby's heart rate and weight, as my due date approached. We also had appointments with a Pregnancy Dietitian and added expenses from the sugar kit.
And what about my options for birthing?
I did not go into the pregnancy opposed to a more traditional hospital birth, but after hearing all the horror stories from friends, I wasn't so confident anymore. The Natural Birthing Center seemed like a great option and I was still mourning the closing of that door.
The idea of a hiring a doula crossed my mind. We met a great one at a Succot feast, but she lived outside of the city. I didn't know if we were close enough to be her clients, and I didn't know if we could afford the extra expense. Besides the medical bills, we still had quite a bit of preparation to do for the nursery, as well.
I knew Devin was feeling some stress, but I didn't I realized how much the financial pressures were weighing on me until they were miraculously lifted one morning at breakfast with a friend who handed us a card with a check inside. I looked at the numbers, quickly did a shekels to dollars translation in my head and was awed by what I saw! We were blessed to receive a financial gift large enough to cover three months rent! Devin and I both had tears in our eyes and gratitude in our hearts as we hugged our dear friend, and thanked the Lord for His provision.
Later that week, a sweet friend - a new friend - offered to throw a baby shower for us! We had one with our friends and family in North Carolina, which was a huge blessing. This one ministered to my heart in a different way. It spoke to my need for relationships.
We found out we were expecting a baby just two months after moving to Jerusalem as a married couple. Between working a full-time job, a part-time job, being enrolled in Ulpan (Hebrew classes), and working through first trimester nausea and vommiting, I had little energy to put the effort into new friendships. I was overwhelmed. Carly's offer ministered to my heart in a deep way. Her own due date was just a week before mine. The sacrifice of time and energy at the end of her pregnancy blessed me. When the shower finally rolled around, we collected tons of goodies for the little one! We were set!
Several days after Carly's offer, another friend approached me with blessed gift.
"Callie, I have an anonymous friend who is willing to pay for the services of a Doula for you, if you are interested."
We contacted Sarah several days later, making one of the best decisions possible to help create a positive and informed birthing experience.
The Lord seemed to be proving His word to be true!