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Friday, October 30, 2020

Giving Yourself GRACE During a Pandemic: Type 1 Diabetes…and a Surprise Pregnancy

As a writer for Fort Thomas Matters, it has been an honor to help inform the community with our platform. Now, as I prepare to go on Maternity Leave, I wanted to share my story with you too.

Writer’s Note:
Since January 2020, I have had the pleasure of writing full time for Fort Thomas Matters and Living Magazines. It has been a wonderful experience. You may recognize my name from some of the stories or posts on local group pages. I am so honored to write for the Fort Thomas community and Campbell County. It has been so fulfilling to get the word out about news that is hyper local and important to YOU.

As I prepare to go on Maternity Leave (and in honor of November as American Diabetes Month) I wanted to share my story with you, our readers, and I look forward to writing again soon when I return in 2021!


By Jessie Eden

I remember very clearly where I spent New Year’s Eve 2020.

My poor husband Chris was very sick and I, an ambitious (although green) TV News Producer, was working overnight at Local 12 News attempting to prep for my 4:30 a.m. show.

I always take a picture on New Year’s Eve and I call my Mom whose birthday is January 1. Below is the very best I could do for 2020. Little did I know that ‘doing my very best’ would be a theme for the entire year.

Happy New Year! 
We certainly didn't know what 2020 would bring...but we've done our best to adapt!

By mid-January, two months of working overnights from 10 p.m. to 5:30 a.m. had caught up with me. 

As a Type 1 Diabetic of nearly 19 years, I was trying so hard to keep my numbers in line…but the schedule itself wouldn’t let me. I was diagnosed at the awkward age of 14 and at 32, my doctors expressed immense concern over my health and the schedule I was on. It quickly became apparent that I would have to start considering a different career path.

The problem -- I don’t like quitting things. 

It’s not something that comes easily to me…but if you don’t have your health, what do you have? I had to make alternative arrangements, so I made the hard choice to begin exploring some of my freelance opportunities in hopes that one of those would possibly lead to a full time position and a schedule that would allow me to focus on my health. 

One of those opportunities was Fort Thomas Matters. 

I had written for the owner, Mark Collier, since 2018. So, I took a leap in the dark and asked if there would be any potential for a full-time position with FTM and Living Magazines. Thankfully, they figured out some things on their end and decided they had a need for me so at the end of January, I started full-time with Living Media. I was thrilled…especially since my husband and I have lived in Fort Thomas since 2016 and this also meant a lovely commute under 5 minutes to work.

Within just a few weeks of a regular schedule, my blood sugar levels and insulin use FINALLY stabilized. I felt better health-wise and so happy to be dedicating my time to some good ole’ fashioned ‘hometown’ news in my community. What a great fit!

The Rumblings of….a Pandemic?

In the first weeks of March, there were the rumblings and rumors. You remember, right?

News stories out of China, illness outbreaks on the west coast in California and Seattle. What was happening? I heard the whisper of these stories in the background as I worked every day in the FTM office…surely it wouldn’t reach Fort Thomas, right?

But – then, things got real. Local leaders began talking about shutting down schools and businesses to be safe. What is quarantine? What does that mean? How long will it last? Do we have enough of my medicine and food and what about TOILET PAPER?!

Having a lot of questions and worrying about my own personal health, it occurred to me. If something crazy is going on, I better make sure I’m not pregnant. That would be…well, it would just be a LOT to handle.

We had been trying for a while. It had been nearly a 2-year process of managing my Type 1 Diabetes, getting my Hemoglobin A1C (the 90-day average of your blood sugars) down below 6-7% to safely conceive. Between that and the struggle of conceiving, we weren’t even sure if it was going to happen for us. So, we played things by ear. We didn’t put a lot of concern into it and we had even started exploring adoption and fostering through adoption options. There are so many ways to be a parent.

So, on the morning of March 13, when everything shut down for the quarantine period of Covid-19, a worried Jessie took a test. As the lines appeared, I laughed out of an abundance of fear and shock and awkwardness. 

Positive. Probably the boldest positive I’ve ever seen somebody get.

I took a test on March 13 so I wouldn't have to worry too much...well, God had different plans clearly! 
A VERY Positive. Now what??

Pregnant during a pandemic…and with a chronic illness no less. This cannot be happening, right? I showed my husband who was still sleepy-eyed in bed. “Oh my god…” he murmured, half-awake with half a smile.

“Um…yeah. I guess I should have told you in a cuter way but I’m kind of shocked,” I said after an awkward laugh.

We looked at each other incredulously and then decided to buy 3 more tests to be sure. All positive. We were excited, worried and scared all in one day…but now what?

Seriously, NOW WHAT??

What to Expect When You’re Expecting…During a Pandemic?

If we would have known what we know now, we probably would have put our family plans on hold. So much was (and has been) up the air with Covid-19. How does it transmit? What helps to treat or cure it? How do I prevent it? Am I at risk because of my chronic illness? Does my blood type have anything to do with how severely I may get it?

Then, sprinkle on top the added concerns of early pregnancy…and being a pregnant Type 1 Diabetic!

So. Many. Questions.

Thankfully, I had a great medical team at my side at UC Health. I had been seeing high risk Maternal Fetal Medicine doctors since considering a family so I knew they would take good care of me. The first few weeks included lots of phone calls, dietary changes and adjustments to my insulin regimen.

Twenty weeks pregnant at the top of Chimney Rock in Asheville. That small white device on my arm is an insulin pump called an Omnipod.

As an "Omnipod" insulin pump user, my pregnancy has been fairly smooth and with a continuous glucose monitor called a Dexcom, I have the ability to monitor my blood sugar every 5 minutes through an app on my phone. This technology has been invaluable and so vital to my success over the past few months. The data can be linked and sent to my doctor’s office so they can help me make the necessary changes. There were challenges…pesky highs and pesky lows…but for the most part, through weekly phone calls, I was able to stay stable.

“Baby, I’m strong…and so are you!”

Due to Covid-19, my doctors suggested that I do not come in for the normal viability ultrasound at 7-8 weeks pregnant…so I waited until 12-weeks and it was extremely difficult. I’m not a conventionally religious person but I just kept saying “Baby, I’m strong…and so are you!” and that seemed to help me stay focused (and less worried) that something was wrong because being a Type 1 Diabetic in the middle of quarantine and not knowing if your pregnancy is healthy is a constant worry. I would stay up at night worrying about it…but then I finally made myself focus on what I could control.

How can I do my very best for my health and my baby? I answered these questions by focusing on controlling my numbers as tightly as I could, getting exercise, eating the right foods to avoid spikes in my blood sugar and practicing positive thinking. I started to give myself GRACE when I felt like I messed up (for example, a pregnancy craving like pizza can lead to a really bad high blood sugar...I learned that out the hard way).

It was hard not to beat myself up…but I just reminded myself that I had to do my very best. That’s all I could do. And, well, avoid pizza cravings.

The First Ultrasound – without Dad

My husband Chris and I at our mini baby shower in September at 30 weeks.

In the middle of May, at 12 weeks, my husband Chris was not allowed to go into our first ultrasound as restrictions were still tight. We just had to do our best.

I put on the one N95 mask we had and gloves and walked into the doctor’s office. I remember going to great lengths to not touch anything. I didn’t even sit down while waiting. I just nervously stood in the waiting room, fiddling with my gloves and trying to calm my fears about an ultrasound that could realistically give us great (or terrible) news…on top of trying to breath in a mask.

One of my first 'belly' pictures at 12 weeks after our first ultrasound with the beautiful Highland Hills Park in the background.

When they called me back, I asked if I could face-time my husband during the ultrasound. I had heard rumors of places not allowing that due to patient confidentiality.

Thankfully, the tech agreed. With Dad sitting in the car in the parking lot and Mom feeling miles away from him… we heard our baby’s heartbeat together. Then they checked out all her measurements and everything came back normal.

What. A. Relief.

Dad couldn't come in for our first ultrasound at 12 weeks on May 15...but we got plenty of pictures and even face-timed him! 

Although it made me sad that he couldn’t be in the room with me, we were both so relieved that the baby was ok. That made up for every “inconvenience” of having to wear a mask and gloves and be alone during the experience.

Getting Creative During Quarantine

Being so high risk just by having Type 1 Diabetes (and now being pregnant), I was immensely grateful that FTM allowed me to start working from home.

My husband Chris was also able to work from home so we were very fortunate that we did not lose our jobs…but the constant news of people struggling and losing their jobs and people getting sick and dying from Covid-19 wore on us. It was a tragic time for many people (and still is) and it’s hard to feel like you have a front seat to their grief and can’t do anything to help them.

One of my main duties for FTM has been covering the press conferences presented by Governor Andy Beshear so hearing about cases and deaths became a regular, daily thing for me. Absorbing this information and getting it out to our readers has been a difficult but necessary duty that I have taken every seriously, especially when it comes to, at least, providing this information for my own community.

Ethan Clark | Financial Advisor | website | 513-412-5238

Politics aside, I remember, in particular, when Lieutenant Governor Jacqueline Coleman, who had herself just had a baby in March, was talking about ‘giving yourself grace’ during this difficult time. I think she was talking about parents juggling teaching their kids from home…but I also felt like it was applicable to everyone struggling with adjusting during a pandemic.

Frankly, beating yourself up during a pandemic is counterproductive.

Like most people, it was hard for us to keep our spirits up and self-soothe during quarantine. We had to get creative and actively create ways to look ahead…or even just create ways to ‘be ok right now’ and connect with our families and friends despite being separated from them.

So, we played Scrabble, we re-watched TV shows, we played games via Zoom with friends…and when it came time to announce to our families around Easter that we were expecting, we ordered special little eggs that were designed to be cracked with a little rolled up paper message inside that read “Baby Eden – Coming November 2020” and shipped them to my side of the family in Ohio to open since we couldn’t tell them in person. My niece was nice enough to record their reactions since we couldn’t be there. It was priceless.

(Img: Little Elephant Crafts on Etsy)

Although I would have much rather told my family, especially my mom, in person, we had to get creative and do our best, the next best thing. There wasn’t any other choice with me being so high risk.

Gender!? We don’t care as long as the baby is healthy!

People always ask what you’re having and that hasn’t been a problem…the problem for me was hearing from other moms in a Type 1 Diabetes support group on Facebook that they were *disappointed* with the gender of their child and even had to take a few weeks to get over it.

This astounded me.

After all we had been through this year, here I was 18-weeks pregnant in July, about to find out what the gender of our baby was…how could I be disappointed in the gender if the baby was healthy? It seemed like such a trivial, selfish thing to be worried about. We were counting our blessings every day and just doing our best to stay healthy. We didn’t care what the gender was!

We had a feeling that it was a girl but that was it. My mother, who has somehow accurately predicted the gender of all 5 grandkids in the family, said she kept getting a feeling of ‘big blue, little pink’ so her theory was maybe a boy and then a girl.

We tossed around names and settled on Violet for a girl and possibly Henry or Jack for a boy. Once my mother heard “Violet” she said “OH! It’s a girl! Blue and pink make Violet! It’s definitely a girl”

Lo and behold – she was right. Girl.

Lots of Doctors Appointments…and Now, We Wait

We did our very best to be active over the summer with a socially-distant vacation to the mountains of Asheville...a great opportunity to snap some pictures at 20 weeks pregnant and announce on social media. 

Twenty weeks pregnant in the beautiful mountains of Asheville.

There were also plenty of hikes at Tower Park during my second trimester. But - once I hit 28 to 30 weeks, I started to slow down. 

Insulin resistance, and growing a human, was making me tired…and so were the twice monthly appointments at the doctor, constant tweaking of my insulin doses and strict carb counting. It was always good to see our girl though and that certainly kept me motivated. All the blood tests, blood sugar frustration and anxiety was worth it for her.

Since 32-weeks, I’ve had nearly 20 appointments over the span of 6 weeks for ultrasounds, OBGYN visits and meetings with my Diabetes team. Yes. Literally 20 appointments. The schedule has been exhausting as I juggle full time work while making up work during crazy hours but this has all been necessary to monitor my health, especially as we near the finish line.

And the finish line is CLOSE. As a Type 1 Diabetic, the best practice to avoid potential health risks is to induce during the 38th week of pregnancy.

At 35 weeks, we got our induction date -- November 4. I told them I’d rather avoid November 3, Election Day, for an induction since that just seems stressful in itself (although, kind of fitting for two political science grads!)

So, now we wait. 

I will go on Maternity Leave on October 30 from FTM / Living Magazines and then, somehow, by the GRACE of god, have a baby the week after?! How insane is that?

Years from now, we will tell her stories about this time and about how we did our best…and I know afterwards, we will think “Yeah…but how did we do all that??”

Oh…and remember when I said we’re having a girl? She’s also appropriately named after our ‘give yourself grace’ theme for our year – Violet GRACE…and we just cannot wait to meet her. 

Here I am at 37 weeks and Baby Violet is already posing for the camera!

To learn more about Type 1 Diabetes, please visit one of the following websites; Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation - Southern and Central Ohio Chapter and American Diabetes Association.

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