Four weeks ago, at my last OB appointment, I asked the nurse whether the office offered an alternative option to drinking the glucose solution for my upcoming glucose screening. I always dread moments like this in a medical appointment, because nine times out of ten, my “out of the box” questions are met with resistance or an eye roll. In this case, I was talking with a nurse I’ve not met before, who doesn’t know me or my intentions at all. This never helps. Always better to have a rapport with the person sitting across from you when you’re going to put a “crunchy granola mama” label on your own forehead, but anyway.
So I get the predicted eye roll, which is such a disappointment because I’m hoping it will be one of those times where the nurse is refreshed by my independent thinking (Tiny bit of sarcasm. Just tiny). Still, now we’re going to have the conversation, so I take a small deep breath and continue on. She wants to know why I don’t want to drink the glucose drink, and what I really want to say is, “Because I’m not super excited about feeding my baby a mixture of purified water, 50g Dextrose (D-glucose derived from corn), Citric Acid, Natural and Artificial Flavors, Sodium Benzoate, 0.1%, FD&C Yellow #6.” But I don’t say that, of course, because I will sound arrogant and obnoxious, which is not at all my goal. Instead, I share about how I always feel sick after drinking the solution, and that my diet doesn’t consist of much in the way of artificial or processed foods, so I’d prefer to go a more natural route if possible.
Thankfully, she does offer me an alternative option. Jelly beans. 28 regular-sized jelly beans, consumed in five minutes or less, and then the test an hour after. I can do that, I tell her, and I thank her for the option. Meanwhile, I’m contemplating the nutritional value of jelly beans and scheming to find a “healthy” option that will suit both her criteria and my comfort level. The kids think this sounds awesome, and they’re both getting excited about eating the jelly beans with me, which must seem like a great idea. Let’s all eat jelly beans together, get hopped up on sugar as a team, and then go get mommy a blood test. Perfect.
Enter Amazon, purveyor of fine and organic jelly beans. I ordered myself an $8.50 bag of Organic Jelly Belly Jelly Beans, doing the math on how many of the sweet little things I’d need to eat to equal 28 of the regular-sized variety. 50 grams of sugar, basically, which in this case turned out to be 62.5 beans. Excellent.
The bag arrived on Friday, and it sat on the counter where the kids wanted to touch it and look at it and study the colors of the beans all weekend long. I promised them each two beans on the day I took the test, presuming that they would come with me and behave spectacularly while I had my test done. So when this morning rolled around and with it, “Jelly Bean Tuesday!” the kids were all in. To their credit, two jelly beans apiece was a very small price to pay for their exemplary patience at the lab today. I mean, truly. I am tucking this trick in my back pocket for visits to come.
So this morning I woke up, had breakfast, packed us for the pool and timed and measured out my jelly bean consumption as instructed. 62.5 little jelly beans to eat in 5 minutes. No sweat.
Turns out I was pounding them like crazy trying to eat them all in five minutes, and I was totally near a sweat by the time I was done. Within ten minutes, I felt like I had gulped two cups of coffee, with crazy energy and jitters to match. I put the kiddos in the car in my sugared up state, and off we went.
I told the girl at registration that I’d had my “glucose” at 10:45a, so I’d need to be drawn at 11:45. She was surprised they’d given me the glucose drink to take home, so I had to explain myself and the jelly beans again. Oy. But she quietly made a note about it and gave me my folder to take to the waiting area, where we sat obligingly with books for a while until the phlebotomist called my name. Could have been worse.
She told me to sit in the chair and I did, and then she cracked open a bottle of glucose awesomeness to hand to me and said, “Here. You need to drink this in the next five minutes.” Ummm…if only I could get around this without any awkwardness, but no. “Actually, I’ve already had my glucose, at 10:45,” I said to her, almost as more of a question than a statement. “What?” she said. “Well, I ate 28 jelly beans at 10:45, which the doctor said I could do in place of the glucose drink,” I explained. (I was not about to get into the math of 62.5 smaller jelly beans and 50 grams of sugar and all that.) “The doctor ordered that?” she questioned. “The nurse did,” I told her. “She said I could eat the jelly beans and then come in for the test within the hour.” This was going well.
“Well then, I can’t draw you for ten more minutes,” she answered, totally annoyed. I looked up at the clock. It was 11:35am. So the kiddos and I went back to the waiting room to finish our book and wait a tad longer.
When my name was called again, it was a different phlebotomist this time. I don’t know whether the other woman was busy, or if she just didn’t want to deal with the crazy pregnant lady, but I figured this might be a good thing. I sat down and explained that I’m a tricky draw (always have been), and asked if she minded using a butterfly needle.
Seriously, this is the part where I’d love to know if it’s ok for us to know our own bodies and speak up for ourselves. Because, really, I go in trying to broach all of these things so delicately every. single. time.
But no. She did not like my question. And she was not going to use a butterfly needle. She asked me if I was asking her to use one, and I said, “Yes, please. That always works the best. I have tricky veins,” with a smile. Then she used a different needly anyway (and proceeded to tell me so). When my natural response to the poke was a quiet, “Oooh, that stings,” she questioned me rudely. “That stings?!” “It burns quite a bit,” I told her. “It shouldn’t burn,” she said. The kids are watching as she wraps things up, and I’m just sitting there, wondering how a glucose screening went from a nasty drink to jelly beans and a red C on my chest for “Crazy Pregnant Lady,” and wanting to get out of the room as fast as possible.
I am telling you, I just don’t know how to feel about it all.
In these experiences, while I’m ultimately grateful that we have access to quality medical care and insurance and prenatal visits, I’m still befuddled at the process a good portion of the time. In that moment in the chair today, it’s not as if I can say to the woman, “I gave birth to these two kiddos without medicine and my pain tolerance is just fine, but I’m being honest and it stings.” I can’t ask whether I actually seem nuts from an outsider’s view, despite the fact that my five and two year old are sitting there quietly and patiently, and none of us is unkempt.
I want to pursue a pregnancy and birthing experience a certain way, without feeling like I’m losing my mind for doing it, or like everyone at the office is making mental notes about my possibly insanity while I’m there. I want to birth my babies in the healthiest way possible, and to usher them into the world with grace if I can.
And I really like my doctor, and Jason and I have agreed on a hospital birth, so there’s the rub. I’ve had two really great hospital births thus far, and I have every hope of doing so again, but getting there is painful every time.
I’m telling this story because I think it’s kind of funny, because it’s where I’m at on day 87 before baby’s “due date,” and because my intention is always to represent my pregnancy experiences with a balance of candor and humility. But I’m telling it for a bigger reason, too–one that I can’t likely address to the full here in this post (maybe tomorrow…).
The fact of the matter is, while we are patients of doctors and nurses and hospitals, we also have a right to be able-minded mamas who want the best for our babies. And if I personally don’t feel like the glucose solution is best for me or my baby, then I think it’s ok that I question that in a respectful way. And I think it’s ok that I anticipate a respectful response. I am just all too tired of feeling like if I don’t walk through pregnancy in a uninformed stupor, then I can’t go the traditional route of doctors and hospitals and still expect it’s possible to deliver a baby naturally, without a million interventions (and a million judgements) getting in the way.
Maybe that’s it. Maybe I can’t expect that. But if that’s true, I’m terribly sad about it. And I’m disappointed that the systematic approach to birth has become just that–as if anyone can put a prescription on birth and how it will go for any given mama or any given baby on any given day.
I’m 28 weeks pregnant and totally at a crossroads again. I know this will rub some the wrong way, and that’s not my intention at all. It’s just that I wish for something different, and I’m too passionate about birth as God designed it to let it go without a bit of an internal fight.
As a doula, this is territory I walk ever-so-carefully. I want each mama (and family) I assist to have the labor and delivery that she desires. It does not need to look anything like my ideal birth, because it isn’t mine. I have loved every birth I’ve attended, and they’ve all been different and beautiful for a thousand reasons.
But this time it’s our birth experience, and I just want to be real about it without feeling the way I feel every time I speak up. I will eat the organic jelly beans if that’s the option (and I’m grateful for the option at all). But the judgement and the shaming I feel each time I ask a question that goes against the grain of what’s expected when we’re expecting? That’s a pill I’m just not able to swallow very well.
My glucose screen results arrived to my inbox tonight as I typed this diatribe. “Your level is within the normal range” is all I needed to see for now. At least I won’t be getting back up to bat for a second test (and thank you, Lord, for a clear screen for baby and me tonight). Organic sugar for the win, I guess?
all hopped up on tiny beans, clearly.