By Alicia Dubay, World Vision Canada
It was four days after my 30th birthday. Looking down at the two lines on that little stick, I knew that my life had already begun changing in so many ways. What I could not have anticipated were all of the challenges I would face in my pregnancy.
Around the 30-week mark, I found out I had gestational diabetes, a disease that affects two to four per cent of all pregnancies in Canada.
Although gestational diabetes is fairly common, I was devastated.
The doctor explained that, as long as I managed my blood sugars, there would be little risk to my unborn baby's health. But I felt like my happy pregnancy had turned into a chore. No more giving in to pregnancy cravings for poutine and mangoes, or sending my husband out on late-night ice cream runs like I'd seen on TV.
Instead, I would have to follow a strict diet until my baby was delivered. I'd also have to check my glucose levels four times a day by pricking my finger and drawing blood each time. Ouch!
Goodbye, easy pregnancy
My obstetrician referred me to a diabetes education course at my local hospital, where I was equipped with an armful of tools, including a blood glucose meter, test strips, and lancets, along with resources for healthy eating.
A few days later I met with a dietician to ensure I was eating adequately for my baby's development, while also keeping my blood sugars in check. At the time, I didn't fully appreciate all the care I was receiving. I was still mourning that textbook pregnancy.
Trips to the grocery store became more frequent and planning and prepping every single meal including snacks became a normal part of my routine. And actually, I felt healthier and knew I was doing the best thing for my baby.
But just when I started feeling in control, there was another plot twist. I developed an intense itching in my hands and feet. My OB sat down with me and gently explained that I had developed a rare disease called obstetric cholestasis. I listened nervously, as she told me that I would need to deliver my baby that weekend. Waiting any longer could put my child's life in danger.
Lucky to be at the doctor's
So there I was: pregnant with gestational diabetes and now, cholestasis. I felt that my formerly healthy body was struggling to cope.
But, mixed among my feelings of frustration and fear was a sense of gratitude because with each new challenge I faced, I was met with reassurance, resources and support. Yes, my appointments became way more frequent and I had less time to work on the nursery, but I knew I was in the best of hands.
Living in Canada meant I had access to affordable medical care, weekly check-ups and ultrasounds. Without medical help, my complications could have been extremely dangerous.
The global alternative
For millions of expectant mothers in the world's poorest countries, pregnancy and childbirth can be life-threatening. In fact, every single year 303,000 women die from complications during or after pregnancy and birth. Adequate health care could help prevent many of these deaths.
That is why World Vision makes it a priority for moms-to-be to receive quality health care. Antenatal care during pregnancy, the assistance of a skilled birth attendant during childbirth and postnatal care immediately after birth and in the following weeks can greatly reduce the number of maternal and newborn deaths.
After all, a child's birth is supposed to be a joyous time.
The miraculous payoff
On December 13, 2015, my husband Jarryd and I welcomed our sweet daughter Seraphina Rose into this amazing world.
I relished in the feeling of her tiny warm body against mine, and in the knowledge that she was healthy and safe. And I sent up a prayer of thanksgiving for every person who helped ensure that moment would be a joyous one.
If you would like to help expectant mothers around the world receive vital health care, visit World Vision's Gift Catalogue.
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