How do you have babies when your pancreas is missing in action?

Imagine a 12 year old girl, on the edge of adolesence, growing up, waiting for boyfriends, dreams, plans and ideals. Imagine a 12 year old girl who loves babies, who really wants babies and a family, as part of those dreams.  Enter type 1 diabetes. Idyllic childhood shattered.

Imagine a 12 year old girl told that she is probably going to have her legs amputated, lose her vision, have her kidneys conk out and the ultimate tragedy for her – will probably NEVER have a healthy baby….that women with diabetes if they do manage to get pregnant and carry to term will have either dangerously large, or dangerously small babies; that they can be deformed and in particular develop without their ears (not sure why that one was highlightd!); and the cruncher – that still birth is very common……Oh and add to that the stress to her own body (think the movie “Steel Magnolias” and you get the picture).

All of these stories and worries pile upon pile, until the teenage years become a whirlpool of grief, sadness, confusion and anxt. Not that life is all horrid in any way, but this background of grief looms large as this girl grows up.

Flick to 1993 and this now 26 year old, having succeeded in her life despite diabetes and all of these worries and all of this grief (a high achiever as all young people with diabetes seem to be!) – falls pregnant, unplanned and without “perfect” control. She is delighted!

Yes this pregnancy WAS tough, it was hard and yes, the baby did have hypoglycemia when born and he sure was big! But he had all of his parts (even the ears) and he is now a thriving 6 foot young man!

A lot of the reason her diabetes was not so great during this pregnancy was due to just terrible management options – Protophane and Actrapid Insulin were not a good combination for tight control and it was not really within the realms of possibility no matter what….

Carrying on with the story, things with this bub’s dad took a wrong turn and when he is 9 months old,  this young woman becomes a single mum, with diabetes, and she gets on with it and does a good job of managing a child, a job and her diabetes (there is that high achiever again)…

5 years later in 1999, now with her new husband,  (and after suriving depression and panic attacks) she again falls pregnant, again unplanned (well sooner than expected!) and she has her second son, also a tough (actually with the depression and anxiety, a tougher) pregnancy; and guess what, yes he was REALLY big and had some problems for a few days after birth – but again he is now a perfectly normal, healthy boy.

Now, the real cherry on this wonderful, sweet story – is this young (well not so young now!) woman’s third pregnancy – this time planned but taking 7 years to come along! – this time with advancing years came maturity and an Insulin Pump!! This miracle of invention provided the possibilty to manage diabetes so well that a HbA1C of 5% was maintained and the baby was stunningly healthy. This pregnancy while not easy, was wonderful, a delight, a joy and unlike the other two, not ONE hospital admission until the time for birth. Technology had opened the door.

So now, imagine a woman waiting to have her baby, her last baby. Imagine this woman going into hospital a week before the planned C-section to reduce her insulin doses and manage things so that at birth, diabetes will stay well controlled. Imagine her waking on the morning of the birth to a wild storm, grey skies, rain and a blustery wind so strong it blows all the leaves from outside into the halls of the hospital so that as she is wheeled to theatre she can see some of the outside world, the trees, on the floors as she floats across them. She is shaking she is so excited and nervous. She tells the doctor this baby will be fine (he reminds her that even with an HbA1C so tight, babies in the “diabetic environment” can have issues) – she knows better.

the miracle of birth - with type 1 diabetes

Helen Edwards just given birth to Maxwell, note the insulin pump!

The baby is born and to the delight of all, is the smallest of all her 3 babies, a healthy 9 pounds which is just right for her family history; he is perfect; he is brought to the breast for a try at a breastfeed (which to her after many breastfeeding problems in the past and not having this with the other 2, is the ultimate joy). The doctor can not hide his surprise and, his own joy.

A couple of hours later the nurse says ” I will be bringing Maxwell in a minute”. “For a feed she asks?”. “No, to stay!” beams the nurse.  She can not believe this is real. This time, bub has NO problems, is totally unaffected by her diabetes. And she knows the many reasons why, including the pump and her increased knowledge about her diabetes – and she is just, glad. There is just joy and a complete lack of ability to be separated from this little miracle.

The story is just starting really and Maxwell, the light in our lives, completes our family and puts to rest a lot of grief from the past. So can women with diabetes have healthy babies? A resounding YES!



  1. Mum on March 28, 2010 at 2:39 pm

    you made me cry. Thank you for the Light in all our lives, you bring a good half of it. On some days you bring all of it, like today when I finally got up the courage to read this right through.

    You should offer it for wider publication, eg Yada Yada, diabetic Living, and anything published by JDRF, as well as your pump company(ies)

  2. diabetescounsellingonline on March 28, 2010 at 5:15 pm

    light comes from a spark…it has to start somewhere and it started when I was born to you. And so more light is made. Thanks for the beautiful comment and great idea!