Living with Type 1 Diabetes and Growing a Tiny Human
[This is also an episode of Friday Free Talk on The Tranquility Tribe Podcast on iTunes. Listen here.]
Welcome back, Tranquility Tribe! Today’s episode of the Tranquility Tribe podcast is extra special because it is the first episode in the Influencer Moms series! Through this series, Hehe highlights the everyday moms who are doing AMAZING things. Today Hehe talked with Audra, an expecting mom who has an abundant amount of insight into the world of dealing with a chronic illness before and during pregnancy (as well as some uplifting words of advice!).
So who is Audra?
Audra lives in Alabama with her husband Brian and her black lab Hamilton, and all three of them are currently preparing for the arrival of new baby Nora Jo! Audra has lived with Type 1 diabetes since she was diagnosed at 19, right after starting college. When speaking about her diagnosis, Audra notes that most individuals with Type 1 are diagnosed during their childhood but that there is also another common diagnosis window between ages 19 and 21. Because Audra’s family has a history of Type 1 diabetes, finding out that she had the disease was not a complete shock; however, her family was not aware that she had the potential to develop it at the age that she did. Needless to say, getting used to the new lifestyle and treatments required by Type 1 diabetes was an adjustment.
What is Type 1 diabetes and how is it different from gestational diabetes?
Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease that causes the body to lose the beta cells in the pancreas that are responsible for producing insulin. The insulin that the pancreas produces allows the rest of the body’s cells to absorb glucose. This glucose is the major energy source for all cells; without the ability for cells to take up glucose, the body is unable to function properly. On the other hand, in the case of gestational diabetes (as well as Type 2 diabetes), insulin production is stunted but is not lost completely. This means that both gestational and Type 2 diabetes can be treated by stimulating insulin production, whereas individuals with Type 1 diabetes must either wear an insulin pump or give themselves insulin injections regularly in order to make sure that they have enough insulin in their bodies.
The Amazing Audra!
And this is where you begin to see how truly amazing Audra is - despite having to constantly monitor and regulate her blood sugar levels, she doesn’t let diabetes get in her way. A (pre-pregnancy) half-marathon runner and a collector of motivational quotes, she loves to share her experiences and positivity through her social media.
Audra’s resilience has been especially apparent over the past couple years, as she has gone through multiple hospitalizations on top of struggling to get pregnant. In early February of 2016, she was under a lot of pressure due to the demands of work, financial worries, and relationship stress, and she was experiencing a large amount of anxiety because of it. On the morning of February 3rd, she woke up to find that her blood glucose readings were in the 200s (for non-diabetic individuals, these readings should be between 80 and 120; for Audra, they typically do not go over 180). She quickly realized that the cannula that was supposed to be delivering insulin to her body was bent and therefore she was not getting any insulin. In an effort to get her readings back to normal, Audra gave herself insulin, fixed the pump, and went to work. However, by the end of the day her readings were in the 400s, she was having trouble breathing, and her vision was blurry, so she decided to go to the hospital. There, she learned that she was experiencing diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) and that it had caused her blood to reach the acidity level equivalent to that of a 9 volt battery. After 24 hours of being hooked up to oxygen and receiving insulin, she stabilized and was able to return home.
The following weekend, Audra had to go back to the hospital because her body was experiencing DKA once again. She levelled out and was relatively healthy until March, when she unexpectedly went into anaphylactic shock. Needless to say, Audra’s ups and downs at the beginning of 2016 kept her social media followers on the edge of their seats. Her health finally stabilized around the same time that Brian was preparing to leave for the military. Although Audra was feeling healthier, Brian’s departure created an extra amount of stress because it meant that Audra would be living alone for a while, which is always dangerous for someone with Type 1 due to the possibility that they may not wake up if their blood sugar gets too low when they are asleep.
Despite all of these problems, Audra made it through the year with her strong, positive spirit. However, she was still having trouble getting pregnant. Infertility is not uncommon among women with Type 1 diabetes because the issues that the body has with processing insulin can lead to the development of cysts on the ovaries, a disease called polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). Because PCOS affects the occurrence and timing of ovulation, it can make it difficult to identify the best times to try to become pregnant as well as the likelihood of getting pregnant at all. Audra was using ovulation tests and fertility drugs in order to track her ovulation and increase her chances. She decided to have a hysterosalpingogram (HSG) in order to identify potential blockages in her fallopian tubes that could be affecting her fertility, and then the magic happened! Later that month, after the HSG and a family vacation, Audra took a pregnancy test and learned that she was pregnant!
When asked what she did to get through her health issues and her struggles with infertility, Audra claims that her mindset was the key. Staying positive through difficult situations is essential for maintaining both mental and physical health; it’s okay to feel sad, angry, or stressed at times, but have faith that everything will work out and prioritize your wellbeing. Audra talks about the especially disheartening situation that she experienced when her sister-in-law was expecting and Audra was still having trouble getting pregnant; although she was happy for her, Audra notes that it can be isolating and frustrating to feel like you’ll never enter the “moms club.” At times like these, utilizing your friends and family for comfort and support can help you stay positive. And, as Audra likes to remind herself, it’s important to keep in mind how other people may be feeling in a specific situation and to offer support if you feel they might need it.
In addition to staying optimistic, Audra emphasizes the importance of finding a balance between all aspects of your life. She mentions the difficulties that she has trying to juggle her personal health, her baby’s health, her mental health, and her diabetes. She recommends allowing time to key in to the natural highs and lows of pregnancy and taking advantage of the high-energy days but also giving the body time to recover when necessary.
Audra’s parting piece of advice? Take everyone else’s advice with a grain of salt. Despite people’s good intentions, everyone has their own stories and it’s important to remember that your story is your own and no own else’s. Be kind and gentle to yourself and to others – pregnancy is a stressful, crazy, busy time. And it’s okay to complain about being uncomfortable – be honest with the people around you, and don’t be afraid to lean on your team when you need to.
If you want to learn more about Audra and follow along with her journey, you can find her on Instagram at @audrashoupesmith.
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Written by our Guest Blogger, Kyra Shreeve. She is a Biochemistry, Health Policy, and Music student at Brandeis University.