Breastfeeding my way to c-section recovery

Just a quick note: This blog post contains affiliate links to products from Amazon.com. I may receive a commission for any purchases made through these links.

Even before I had my son, Luca, I always knew that I wanted to breastfeed exclusively for at least the first three months (six would be ideal). However, my obsession with breastfeeding began a few years ago when I came across some data which suggested that babies who are exclusively breastfeed for at least the first six months of life are 19-27% less likely to develop Type I Diabetes later on in life. That, and a host of other great benefits of breastfeeding have made me the advocate I am today, and I willingly join in on any fight against moms who want to whip out a boob and nourish their babies anywhere. Now that I have my own kid, I’m only more certain every day that I’ve made the right choice to breastfeed and I’m going to tell you why…but first, I’ll share my own breastfeeding story with you. 

DISCLAIMER: Breastfeeding your child is a choice, and whether you choose not to breastfeed or you are unable to doesn’t decrease your ability to be a great mom. So if anyone tries to tell you otherwise, tell them to go kick rocks…or go suck dem…you know who…

Having read that babies born to Type 1 Diabetic moms normally have low blood sugar at birth, I wanted to start trying to express some milk before my scheduled C-section. However, I was advised against doing this as it could possibly help to induce labour before time (and I already had issues with placenta previa and bleeding so I was taking no risks). The word ‘stillbirth’ had become a stain on my mind after hearing everyone talk about this – but I prayed and hoped that Luca could be the exception on delivery day – born with none of the issues I’d read or heard about from all the doctors and my other Type 1 Diabetic mom friends on social media.

After being anesthetised from the waist down on D-Day, time seemed to stop. I’d barely felt a few snips and tugs someone said to me, “Good job, mommy. He’s here.” 

Why wasn’t my baby crying?

But there was no cry. 

I distinctly remember wondering why he wasn’t crying, and although I heard myself asking why isn’t he crying, I’m not sure anyone in the Operating Room heard me. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a nurse scrubbing down the baby while prodding him awake. “Remember to do the GMR quickly,” I heard one person say to another.  It was only after a nurse (I think) pricked his little foot with a lancet that the sound of a most annoyed baby’s cry filled the Operating Room. 

Thank you Jesus. He was alive!

After letting me see him and kiss his little face, they whisked Luca away to the NICU, closed me up and sent me to a recovery room.  I had just started to drift off to sleep when a nurse from the NICU popped her head into the room and said, “Mommy, your docket says you’re only giving baby Luca breastmilk. He has really low blood sugar, so we need you to express some milk for him right away.” 

“Your baby has low blood sugar…”

Any Type 1 Diabetic or those who live with/care for them knows that the words ‘low blood sugar’ can send them into a tailspin of fear, confusion and downright desperation. I couldn’t imagine my helpless little new-born going through that and I immediately started wringing out my nipples over a bottle as if life depended on it…. because, well, my son’s life did.

But not a single drop of milk would come out. 

I could hear myself crying out loud. How was I failing at motherhood already?

It could only have been God who sent that nurse to me (I honestly wish I remembered her name!). With no words, she saw my frustration and despair, scrubbed her hands quickly and then grasped my breast knowingly. “Don’t worry mommy, nursie is here to help you get some milk for the baby.” 

The Golden Milk

Within seconds, my golden milk started dripping from my breast into the bottle. Fifteen minutes later, we had ONE OUNCE of colostrum, which ‘nursie’ sent off to the NICU quickly. I fought sleep and struggled to extract more milk with the help of ‘nursie’ over the next couple of hours, but I couldn’t actually nurse my baby as I hadn’t regained feeling in my legs until several hours later. By the time I started to feel my legs again, I was ready to go nurse my baby.

But then I was told that the only way I was going to the nursery was if I could walk myself there. Try as I might, I couldn’t even lift myself off the bed! The pain was excruciating, and my anguish grew. I cried that entire night – I wanted to see my baby for myself and know that he was ok for myself. I wanted to hold him and smell him, and the photos his father sent me from the NICU became woefully insufficient as the night went on. 

By the next morning, I was finally able to wrest myself from the bed, and swallow the pain. Hunched over, I walked to the nurses’ station (screaming in my head with every step I took), only to be told that my blood sugars were too low for me to go to the NICU. In my desperation to go to my baby, I hadn’t even noticed that I my own blood sugars were on a downward spiral. So I rage-ate everything in sight, checked my sugars myself and strode past the nurses, wincing my way to the NICU. Thankfully, an angel of God (and by angel, I do mean a porter with a wheelchair) found me halfway there, and took me the rest of the way. 

Stabilising baby’s blood sugar

I can’t even begin to describe what I felt when I saw Luca (for the second first time). No one had to tell me to take out my breast – I was boobs-out and at the ready before anyone could say a word to me. Getting him latched was a challenge at first (all my YouTube video-watching and researching did not help). It was another kind nursie who took my nipple and pushed it into Luca’s welcoming mouth. A lazy little thing, the nurse had to flick the bottoms of his feet (very painful to watch, as they scream out and the nipple slips in their mouth at that moment) so he could stay awake and suckle long enough to get his blood sugars stabilised.

The paediatricians told me that until his blood sugars stayed at 2.9 m/mol and above, they couldn’t discharge him from the nursery. With that as motivation, I made the painful trek (practically sleepwalking a few of the times) to the NICU every 2 hours to feed him until the doctors were satisfied with his progress. By day three, I was walking almost upright (with the aid of several Voltaren shots and endless prayer) and Luca was happy and stable.

By the time I was discharged, I was awash with breastmilk. I started out expressing by hand (with a little manual pump my sister got for me), until I got the hang of my handy little breast pump, which was gifted to me via my Amazon Baby Registry. A hands-free pumping bra had me in business quite soon, and I was pumping from both breasts while doing the dishes or cleaning the house. What I discovered soon was that being up and about, breast-feeding, pumping, going up and down the stairs and doing normal house chores helped me to heal super-fast, and within a few days of being home, I was practically pain-free and off the painkillers.

Today, I’ve been lucky enough to get my hands on an Elvie hands-free breast pump (only one since the double pump was almost US$500). And while it doesn’t pump as fast as my old faithful, I waste far less milk during the days, and it’s practically undetectable under my clothes. It comes with a pretty cool app too, which makes it fun for a self-proclaimed techie like me (hee hee), and now, Luca and I have a breastfeeding routine down pat. I’ll share all my breast-feeding must-haves in another post (all of which you can get from Amazon) on the cheap…My scar is fully-healed, my tummy is going down surely and my baby boy is happy and healthy. He’s 100% exclusively breast-fed – no water or any other supplements just yet. Gotta run – my nipples are dripping – it’s milk o’clock!

Six breastfeeding must-haves for the working-class type one diabetic mum

In my previous post, I made mention of some of the things that helped to make my breastfeeding journey a pleasant one. Since I’m trying to exclusively breastfeed my son for as long as possible (current target is three months; optimal goal is six months), I’m doing everything I can to milk the situation for all its benefits.

A quick note: This blog post contains affiliate links. This simply means that if you go to Amazon to make a purchase, I can make a commission.

Breastfeeding does what?!

The first benefit that caught my attention was that breastfeeding boosts a baby’s immune system.  This helps their little bodies to fight viral, bacterial and parasitic infections like pneumonia, meningitis, urinary tract infections and the common cold and flu. But that wasn’t all – breastfeeding can also help to reduce the risk of diseases later on in the baby’s life. These include diseases/conditions like Type 1 and 2 Diabetes, Hodgkins Disease, Leukemia, obesity and eczema. Since a number of these diseases/conditions run in my family, nobody had to tell me twice!

Then I came across an article that was published in the Gleaner last July, entitled, ‘Breast Is Best – The Benefits and Joys of Breastfeeding.’ The article stated that not only does breastfeeding reduce the risk of the baby getting certain diseases later on in life, it also reduces the mom’s risk of getting ovarian and breast cancer, heart disease and osteoporosis. So much so, that a woman who breastfeeds for a total of eight years has almost 0% risk of getting breast cancer, and a baby girl who is breastfed reduces her risk of getting breast cancer by about 25%.

Breastfeeding: The Built-in Gym

The benefits that sold me on the practice however were the fact that breastfeeding can help a mum to heal faster, and return to her pre-pregnancy weight, since producing breastmilk burns up to 1,000 calories per day. Talk about having a built-in gym! But the most extraordinary thing I found out about breastfeeding was that the milk is literally magic. The milk produced by the mother’s breast changes according to the baby’s nutritional needs – and you’ll find cool things like the fact that the water content in the milk increases during hot weather or sickness to ensure that the baby stays hydrated. 

In spite of all these benefits that breastfeeding offers, however, research shows that many Jamaican babies are still not being exclusively breastfed. In fact, the 2016 Economic and Social Survey produced by the Planning Institute of Jamaica revealed that only 47.5% of Jamaican babies were being breastfed exclusively. And some of the reasons I’ve read were just absolutely ridiculous – mothers claim that they don’t have the time, their breasts aren’t producing enough milk, it huuuuuurrrrrrrtttttttttssssssss and they don’t want to get saggy breasts. 

That being said, I’ve made a list of must-haves for the mum who could make all the excuses in the world to not breastfeed, but chooses to anyways. Here goes:

1. A Breast Pump…or the next best thing!

I’ve literally tried them all – and really, its just a matter of preference. There’s the old-school hand-pump, the traditional electric pump, the rechargeable pump (my personal favourite) or breast milk collection shells. What definitely gets annoying is pumping by hand – either the cramps will kill you, or the time and effort it takes when you could either be finished in half the time, or multi-tasking. My newest obsession is the Elvie hands-free breast pump – I love everything about it, except the price. But you can’t pay for the convenience of popping a boob shaped pump into your bra, and pumping so quietly that no one knows your business and both hands are free to do whatever you want! It also comes with an app, and you can watch how much milk you’ve pumped without once pulling down your top!

2. Breastmilk Storage Bags

As I prepare to go back to work after my 12-week maternity leave, I want to ensure that my son has an adequate supply of milk while I’m at work. To give myself enough wiggle room in the event that I don’t get to pump every day, I’ve started pumping and storing milk in the freezer so that his nanny/nursery can just defrost and feed him as he needs. Since breastmilk has an optimal freezer shelf life of six months, I think I’m well on my way with almost 120 ounces stored so far! I’ve been using the same bags I got from my Amazon Baby Registry because they’ve been so good – easy to use, pre-sterilised, can stand or lay flat in your freezer without taking up too much space. Best of all, they’re super easy to label with nothing more than a Sharpie.

3. Nipple Balm

Because sore nipples are a real mother-you-know-what, invest in some nipple balm. Especially after my boy feels like getting all gummy and grabby, a little soothing rub like this one gives me relief right away. And if he’s ready to suck again, you don’t even have to worry about wiping it off first!

4. Nursing Pads

The best gift I ever received before giving birth was two boxes of Nuby nursing pads – each containing 100 pieces. In just two months, I had to restock. But I’m wiser now – had I known what I know today about saving that breast milk, I’d have been able to use less pads and save more of that precious milk. Nonetheless, breastmilk stains will never go with your power suit, so be sure to stock up on these to use with or without a breast milk collection cup. If you’re a tree-hugger like I aspire to be, try these washable bamboo pads (they’re comfy) but I only use them at home because they’re not as leak-proof as the disposable ones.

5. Hands-free Pumping Bra

Breastfeeding has given me immense appreciation for anything that begins with the phrase, ‘hands-free’. Get the bra, trust me.

6. Snacks

Type One or not, breastfeeding and pumping should not be done without snacks, or proper hydration. At first, I would find myself hypoglycaemic during and after breastfeeding or pumping. Now, I’m always sure to grab a snack (or a few) and enough water and sometimes juice to keep the lows at bay.

Did I leave anything off? Tell me what you’ve used on your breastfeeding journey.

The Sweetest Gifts – Thank You!

I wasn’t even going to make a baby registry…

In fact, when I discussed it with my two best women, I was adamant that I didn’t know enough people for a registry to work, and no one would buy me anything. As far as I was concerned, I was going to have to foot the bill for whatever my baby needed, and I was prepared to do a lot of footing – based on all the research I did about what babies needed in the first year.

I eventually caved in to the peer pressure from my friends and created a baby registry on Amazon. First I struggled with what to put on it. Then I did more research, read a million reviews, blogs and test reports…compared prices, spoke to other moms and made a list.

To put it simply, it’s one of the things I’ve done in my life that I can absolutely say I do not regret! Here’s why…

A week (literally ONE week) after bashfully sending out the registry to a couple of contacts in my phone book, I started getting calls from my courier. Then the boxes started pouring in – boxes and boxes and boxes of everything baby. People would call me in offended tones, ‘how comes you haven’t sent me your registry?!’ My living room rivaled ‘Babies R Us’ and before I knew it, basically everything was bought from the registry – even things I thought no one would buy!

But it didn’t stop there – my friends threw me the sweetest baby shower (honestly) and I went home with a car-full of gifts – and diapers, diapers, diapers (from a diaper raffle – brilliant idea if you ask me!). Cousins sent baby clothes, old and new clients dropped off gifts (including ca$h!) and old and new friends seemingly just looked for a reason to give me a bag of goodies every time they saw me.

The outpouring of love and gifts for Baby Luca and continues even to this day – and now, on top of all those gifts – I have offers for baby sitters, house cleaners, hair-washers-and-combers…you name it.

I’d blame my crying as I write this post on the pregnancy hormones – but the truth is – I’m grateful for all the blessings my baby boy has brought into my life. I never imagined I could ever receive so many gifts, and have so many people in my corner, ready and willing to help. I thank God for every single one of these persons He’s put in my life, and praise Him for the unique purpose He’s given to each of them.

More than anything, I’m grateful that I get the opportunity to be Luca’s mom – he truly has been the greatest gift of all!

When things settle down…I promise to do a review of the items on my registry (and even the other gifts I got) and talk about how I got everything shipped to Jamaica without being buried under customs and clearing fees.

PS: To the person who bought Luca’s crib – thank you! Really wish we knew who you were so we could put a name on this.

Type 1 Diabetics shouldn’t get pregnant, right?

I remember once asking a ‘Diabetes Specialist’ about the do’s and don’ts of getting pregnant with Type 1 Diabetes. The only thing she told me was an emphatic ‘DON’T’, before proceeding to berate me about my HBA1C, which at the time was about 12.6.

Motherhood was a dream, but never something I ever really believed would happen to me. To make it worse, I struggled with PCOS symptoms – irregular periods, long evil painful periods (when they did show up), hirsutism, weight gain, etc – so while I still had distant dreams of one day having a kid, I started to resign my mind to the fact that I was more likely to become a cat mom or just Rich Auntie Marion.

‘Congratulations, you’re pregnant…’

So when the ultrasound technician blithely declared, ‘Congratulations, you’re pregnant’, I laughed him off, annoyed at his bizarre sense of humor. I had come to do an ultrasound to confirm that there were indeed cysts growing on my ovaries – not a baby. So I was certainly not amused.

Well, neither was he.

It may have been the long line of people I’d left outside waiting in the lobby that made him impatient, or the fact that I asked him to go get someone who could actually read an ultrasound to come and tell me what was really growing in my belly. None of the twenty-odd pregnancy tests I had done in the week leading up to the ultrasound, or even on the day of, had detected any pregnancy, so I was sure that this baby-seeing dunce was just way out of line.

Anyways, turns out I’m actually pregnant. In real life.

Lowering my HBA1C + Joining the Libre Gang

Today, I’m almost seven months along (this post is late AF, I know) and so far, it hasn’t been the shit-show I expected it to be. My beloved new endocrinologist, Suzette Robinson, had me pricking my fingers 14 times a day before we decided to bite the bullet and pay for the Freestyle Libre continuous glucose monitoring system. Since I don’t live in the US, or have international insurance coverage and CGMs aren’t a thing in Jamaica, it costs me ~US$180 or ~JMD$25,000 per month to use the system – but I promise you, I couldn’t put a price on the benefits if I tried.

For the first time in my life, my HBA1C was below 10 – my last one since having a CGM was 7.6, and now, I don’t know how I ever lived without one. Hopefully, the cost doesn’t become too much for my budget when baby comes…

So far, I’m thankful that the universe has spared me the indignities of morning sickness, swollen appendages, etc. However, my insulin needs have basically tripled, and I’m forced to deny my cravings more often than I indulge them because my blood sugars are a bit more stubborn these days. I’m also at risk of having placenta previa, a challenge I’m not sure is diabetes-related, but still.

Will my kid be born diabetic?

My main worry was always if the kid will be born with Type 1 Diabetes. Thankfully, all the studies I’ve been reading have been showing positive indicators for moms who control their blood glucose levels.

One common thread I’ve found among the babies born to Type 1 moms however is low blood sugars right after birth. Because babies become so accustomed to receiving higher levels of glucose from their diabetic moms while in the womb, they’re born with higher insulin levels and may have some trouble maintaining their blood glucose levels.

The thought of this happening to my baby makes me worry – because even as a full grown adult who has had T1D for many years now, low blood sugar still messes me up mentally and physically. I cannot imagine a baby going through something like that – and I’m even more worried that I’m going to have to be pricking the baby’s fingers around the clock to make sure he’s ok.

Big up all the T1D moms on Instagram!

All that aside, I’m very thankful for all the T1D moms on IG who have so helpfully shared their stories and answered my DMs 😊(@type1diabetic_mummy2two, @bumpandthepump, @mytype1.life and a few others). Type 1 Diabetic pregnancies aren’t the most popular thing in Jamaica, and I’ve had obstetricians tell me they won’t treat me because they have no experience with ‘my type of situation’. Luckily, I’ve found an obstetrician who works closely with my endocrinologist (although they don’t always see eye-to-eye), so I’m positive about the outcome.

It’s been exciting so far – and I’ll really try harder to document this journey a little better going forward. Never mind the fact that the documenting has started late – I’ve heard that it’s better than never!

P.S. if you’re a T1D mom with tips or advice, or if you just know about these things – I want to hear from you. Don’t be afraid to leave me a comment or shoot me an email.

Sweet Nothings and other Sugar-coated Myths

A few of the Myths every Diabetic loves to hate

For most of my life, I never spoke about my Type 1 Diabetes. From the time I was diagnosed at age 16, until I was 27 years old, it was a topic I never discussed except with close family members and my doctors. I was afraid that it would be used against me, or that I’d be the subject of pity and unsolicited ‘protection’ so I kept it my own secret silent struggle for many years. 

I always felt like I was alone in this; like I was the only girl in the world with Type 1 Diabetes and that it was something to be ashamed of. As a result, whenever I’d be asked to talk about myself, I’d usually stick to the sweet nothings – I’d say things like…I like to read, write, cook, dance, paint and eat street-side box food.

The fact that I’d been a Type 1 Diabetic for most of my life never usually worked its way into the conversation, because ONE: it’s not one of my favourite attributes, and TWO: I never really thought it was anybody’s business but mine.

I’ll tell you why. 

The very moment someone inadvertently finds out about my condition, they transform into an expert on the topic, certified of course by the University of Hear-Say, or the School of ‘I-Know-Because-That’s-What-Killed-My-Granny.’ And I’m not getting mad because I don’t want to hear what people have to say. Not at all. As someone who is counting down to the day a cure is found for Diabetes, my two ears are always wide open. 

However, when people start to ask me questions like, ‘So how you did you catch Diabetes?’and ‘…so, why are you eating that if you’re diabetic…’, it really just raises my blood sugar! But that’s not even the worst of it – There’s the,‘Oh my gosh, but you don’t even look like a diabetic!’ and ‘…so you start thinking about adoption yet? Cause you know you can’t get pregnant, right?’ 

The worst one I’ve heard so far was when I went to a job interview and the HR manager took one look at my application form and says, ‘This says you’re diabetic…so why are you applying for a job in marketing?’

I wish I had made up these questions! But no, every last one is straight out of a real life nightmare – and I’ve heard a lot more like this. Then I joined Toastmasters – and decided it was time to break my silence, and share a few things from an insider’s perspective. I started by giving a speech on what I thought were five of the worst myths about Diabetes, with the hopes of clearing up some of the misconceptions that existed, starting with my Toastmasters group.

I want to help dispel five of the most popular myths people have about diabetes, while raising awareness of the disease and helping people to be more sensitive to those with the disease. The feedback I got from that presentation was so overwhelming that I found myself opening up more and more, and in doing so, I met others who were like me and learnt so much more about myself. 

Here’s an excerpt from the speech I gave: 

The first myth I would like to address is the one about ‘catching Diabetes’.

Say it with me – you CANNOT catch Diabetes; it is not a fish in the river or the common airborne cold. The internet will tell you that Diabetes is a chronic, incurable disease that occurs when the body doesn’t produce any or enough insulin, which causes an excess of sugar in the blood. For those of us who are not so au fait with all these terms from biology, insulin is a hormone, produced by the pancreas, which helps the body to manage the amount of sugar in the blood. 

So, for people like me whose pancreas doesn’t show up for work on the daily because that’s the way it’s been in my family for years, I get really dark unamused when I see you guzzling down an ice cold bottle of Pepsi and an entire pizza while laughing that you’re not trying to catch Diabetes. 

Myth number 2 is that diabetics have to follow these strict, insane, no-sugar diets or they will die

As a Diabetic with an incurable passion for food, I can assure you that nothing could be further from the truth. The only thing a Diabetic cannot eat is poison. Or cookies with poison, cake with poison, or ice cream with poison.  Everything else is a go! The trick, however, is in moderation – because diabetic or not, everyone should strive to eat a balanced diet. 

The third myth is one of my favourites: skinny people can’t get Diabetes.

While persons who suffer from obesity are more likely to develop Type 2 Diabetes, the disease is not partial to overweight people. People of all shapes, sizes, colours, ugly and pretty can have it. Diabetes doesn’t have any preference.

Let’s move on to the fourth myth quickly. Only a doctor can tell you if you have diabetes.

 I’ll share a quick story with you – when I was about 16, I realised that I was really thirsty all the time. As soon as I drank something, I would go to the bathroom and pass it right back out. I was losing weight rapidly, and felt some severe hunger pangs, even right after I ate. My vision became blurry to the point where I couldn’t see out of one eye, and I was weak, itchy and had a trail of ants literally following me everywhere. People told my mom that it must be obeah, while others were sure I had AIDS. Even my late uncle would joke about the ants and say they only bit me because I was such a sweet girl. 

Please note, that if you experience any or all of these symptoms, knowledge is just a pin-prick away. Get your blood sugar tested at least twice a year and watch out for these symptoms in those around you. 

The fifth and final myth I’ll talk about today is one I take very personally.

Diabetes, in all its forms is a chronic condition – but it doesn’t have to be a limitation. You can get any job, donate blood, have 3, 4, 5 and 6 children, you can get a tattoo, operate heavy machinery, play a sport and drive a car safely.  I’m not trying to make it sound like a walk in the park either – because there are good days and bad days. 

But Diabetes doesn’t have to stop anyone from living the sweet life. 

This blog is an extension of that speech. After Toastmasters, I started getting to know the online T1D community and the support I’ve received so far has been incredibly encouraging. I’d love to be able to meet and exchange notes with other T1Ds in Jamaica, and this is my way of reaching out. I look forward to linking up!

Three of my favourite anytime-omelette recipes

I’m a breakfast person.

Doesn’t really matter what time of day it is, I can assure you – my first choice will always be pancakes and eggs, waffles and eggs, eggs and eggs, whatever and eggs. But my favourite kind of eggs are the eggs that make up an omelette.

Whether its merely a component in a bigger dish, or its the dish itself, an omelette for me is manna – a complete dish that is so versatile you’ll never get tired of it. At least, let me speak for myself.

There are times I stay true to my inner chef aspirant and make a by-the-book recipe like a classic French omelette or a Western omelette. Most times however, its a whatever’s-left-in-my-kitchen omelette (my favourite kind, if I might add).

For a diabetic, an omelette can be the perfect meal (depending on what you put in it or beside it, of course). It can be a very filling, nutritious, low carb meal option – and best of all, you can make it just the way you like, with whatever you like.

If I’m on a diet, an omelette is usually one of my top preferences as well. Here are a few of the ones I’ve tried and tested over time – and I promise you, they’re quite tasty too!

For me, veggies are a standard component in omelettes. Veggies and omelettes just go together, like egg whites and yolk, you know. Here are two of my favourite versions of veggie omelettes:

Very Veggie Omelette (with callaloo) – Serves 1

Here’s what you need:

How to make this yummy omelette:

  • Beat eggs lightly in a bowl (add salt/pepper, if you want – I don’t usually)
  • Chop onion and tomato, and then add to eggs
  • Spray a non-stick pan with cooking spray, and put on medium heat
  • Once pot is warm, gently pour in beaten eggs; slowly pull the edges of the eggs in towards the centre and allow uncooked yolk to spread out into the pan
  • Once egg is almost firm, add callaloo, and cheese
  • Flip over one side of the egg so that it folds into a pocket
  • Remove and enjoy, once your cheese is all melty

Very Veggie Omelette (with Tuna Fish) – Serves 1

I used the entire tin of tuna, so my omelette ended up a bit on the deconstructed side…

How to make this yummy omelette:

  • Beat eggs lightly in a bowl (add salt/pepper, if you want – I don’t usually)
  • Loosely chop broccoli, tomatoes, onion and bell peppers
  • Spray a non-stick pan with cooking spray, and put on medium heat
  • Once pot is warm, gently pour in beaten eggs; slowly pull the edges of the eggs in towards the centre and allow uncooked yolk to spread out into the pan
  • Once egg is almost firm, add tuna to one side of the pan
  • Flip over one side of the egg so that it folds into a pocket

**Tip: For a crispy omelette, turn up the heat a bit. But if you like your omelette all perfectly fluffy and yellow, keep the heat low, and your patience high.

The Hidden Treasures Special – Serves 2 (especially for my Type 1’s who add toast and fried plantains)

I added some whole-wheat toast and some fried plantains to this one…yum!

Don’t judge me, ok. This recipe is based on the stuff I found in my kitchen during a midnight raid.

Here’s what I found in my fridge that night:

…and here’s what I did with my found treasures:

  • Beat eggs lightly in a bowl
  • Chop frankfurters and veggies
  • Add coconut oil to pan, and apply medium heat
  • Once pot is hot, add frankfurters and veggies. Sautée lightly.
  • Gently pour in beaten eggs; slowly pull the edges of the eggs in towards the centre and allow uncooked eggs to spread out into the pan
  • Once egg is almost firm, add cheese to the top
  • Flip over one side of the egg so that it folds into a pocket
  • Remove and enjoy, once your cheese is all melty

Although I’ve just given you three omelette recipes that I like to eat, an omelette can be made with any ingredient you like, as long as you include eggs! So, go for it!

Bon appetit…

Ain’t Nothing Sweet About Stress!

Some people only recognize Diabetes as a disease that affects you physically. The pancreas (physical) doesn’t work, which results in hyperglycaemia (high blood sugar – also physical) or hypoglycemia (low blood sugar – physical again) which makes you ill (physical, physical, physical).

But not many consider the mental implications of this autoimmune disease. It’s rare to find someone (aside from another T1D) who understands the overwhelming sadness that overcomes a diabetic like me when, after giving up all my favorite foods, my blood sugar readings are still not within a safe, healthy range.

Aat8

Einstein would probably scoff at me saying that Diabetes is insane, because no matter how you do the same things every day, you learn to expect different results each time. Like, why is my blood sugar so high today? I haven’t even had a crumb to eat! Or when you meal prep, follow the same exercise routine and take the same amount of insulin as yesterday – but today’s readings are the complete opposite of what you got yesterday – although you did the. same. damn. thing.

I’m not me when I’m hungry…

A lot of people just don’t get it either when, after experiencing low blood sugar and scarfing down the nearest food in diabetic desperation, I just don’t want to talk or be my usual almost- cheerful self. It’s easy for them to decide that I’m just a moody, bad-tempered bitch – when in real life, I’m grappling with the fact that I almost died just now, and that I may have overcompensated for my low blood sugar by eating too much and will have to suffer the perils of high blood sugar later. Life (the diabetic one, at least) can be a vicious dog-chases-tail cycle sometimes.

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As if it’s not bad enough that all the delicious foods I like to eat (including beautiful coffee), there are so many other factors to consider when living with Type 1 Diabetes. Like the fact that stress (yes, that’s what I said) can send a diabetic’s blood sugars through the roof.

Now I’m not just talking about regular stress. I’ve experienced blood sugar spikes due to situations I didn’t even consider to be slightly stressful…and at first, I didn’t even notice what the causal factors were.

Netflix and Stress-me-tf-out

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For instance, when the zombie movie Cargo came out, I agreed to watch it during a Netflix and Chill segment. Halfway into the movie, my mouth was dry, I was breaking out into cold sweat and getting chills (not the kind I’d planned for) and my blood sugar reading was 22 mmol/L or 396mg/DL!

Another time, I was running late for a big job interview and was so nervous throughout the entire thing that when I came out and did a quick prick, my blood sugars had skyrocketed to 30.1 mmol/L or 541.8mg/DL! All because I was nervous and stressed out about being late.

Whether it’s job-related stress, relationship stress, anxiety, money worries, schoolwork stress, death even traffic can trigger blood sugar spikes in a Type 1 Diabetic.

But why?

The Biology of Diabetes and Stress

Let’s think about it from a biological perspective – when the body experiences stress (mental or physical), the adrenal glands trigger the release of glucose stored in various organs – as the body now believes that it needs all the energy it can get to go into ‘fight or flight’ mode.

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This is a common enough response for the average human – but for the unicorn of a Type 1 Diabetic, it could be detrimental. That’s because, even after the stress is experienced, the body still isn’t able to regulate the glucose and send it back from where it came. Instead, the Type 1 Diabetic suffers an episode of hyperglycaemia even they cannot account for.

Sadly enough – I thrive in stressful environments. I love a challenge and get high (literally) on situations that test my limits.

Call me Mrs. Adversity!

But I pay dearly for this bizarre habit of mine. I endure some crazy highs just by doing what I love (and I’m not even talking about eating right now), which often have negative effects on other aspects of my life. So to deal with it, here are a few of my coping mechanisms:

  • I drink a lot of water. For the day, I go through as much as 12L of water, sometimes more. Before you get all pious and start warning me of water poisoning – I promise you, it works for me.
  • I dance. Whether its a private twerk session in front of the mirror at home, or a some practice flairy-ing, this enjoyable form of exercise is actually quite relaxing.
  • I disappear. Sometimes, if a stressful situation is so bad, I know I have to just walk away for my health. So either I take a brief walk (if time allows), or just hole up in my room, put my phone on silent and play my Friday playlist to calm my nerves.

Disclaimer – stress does not affect all Diabetics the same way. This has been my experience and I hope this perspective helps you to understand the fickleness of the disease. If you’d like to talk more about this, send me an email, or leave a comment below.

On another note, don’t stress me out.

It might seem like I don’t love my mom…

Mom, me and my sisters

I’m going to be extremely honest in this blog post – so if you’re the easily offended type – don’t read any further. This includes you, mom, if you’re reading this…

My mother and I don’t see eye-to-eye on many things. Sometimes (read very often), we argue because she does things I disagree with, or she doesn’t do things I think she should (even if it’s for her own good). On a regular basis, she blocks me on WhatsApp and then sends one of my younger siblings to deliver a passive aggressive message to let me know she still loves me even though I’ve been a stubborn wretch and I refused to reach out to her first.

Thanks for the ass-whoopings…

Like many other Jamaican kids, I could write blisteringly about every single time my mom has given me an ass-whooping – I remember distinctly every flying washing brush, leather belt, pimento wood switch, threatening knife blade and promise to ‘murder me and go sit down at the [police] station’.

I don’t have many shining quotes to share from my mom either – instead of Shakespearean eloquence, she opted for brutal truths tactlessly delivered that I’ve only been able to appreciate later on in life. She wasn’t the sugar-coating kind…and I’ve only just recently come to learn to love her for this.

Thanks for the advice…(not)

Like many other moms, she meddles. Offers unsolicited opinions and advice on how I’m living. And while I sometimes (read all the time) ignore her prophesies and lectures, I listen with one ear. Because no matter how much I disagree or don’t plan to listen to her, I know it’s well-intentioned.

So, by now, you probably understand that my mom is a wretch.

Just like me.

Because I am my mother’s daughter.

And even though we don’t have the sweet storybook mom-and-daughter relationship a lot of people post about, I wouldn’t choose a different mom even if I was given the chance. Because though she may not have been the sweet cookie-baking, PTA-going, gentle-hair-brushing kind, she had a big hand in making me into the woman I am today and no-one can take that from her. And she did a pretty amazing job if you ask me!

Thanks for the books…

My love of books and words comes from my mom. We were regulars at the St. Catherine Parish Library, and the bookstores in the mall all knew us by name. A huge chunk of her weekly salary was spent on feeding my insatiable appetite for reading, and she fed me indulgently.

She got me involved in everything, even things she could barely afford, just so I could choose from all the world had to offer. Piano lessons, dance, art, computer…you name it. She learnt Spanish songs just so she could sing them to me and teach me how to love languages. I still do to this day.

Thanks for telling me I’m beautiful…

My mom, aunt and a truck load of cousins!

She told me I was beautiful everyday, and that she loved my long legs – it was only after the corruption that is puberty, and criticisms from all-knowing high schoolers that I realised that my long legs and knock knees were actually a physical flaw, instead of an attribute of beauty, as my mother had tried to convince me.

When I started experiencing the symptoms of Type 1 Diabetes, it was my mom who was there with me every step of the way. She defended me to those who decided that I must have had AIDS to be losing weight that quickly. And when it was suggested that I was being haunted by duppies , she reluctantly agreed to an ‘exorcism’ by my aunt, who was the most spiritually competent in the family. Looking back, I roll my eyes at this, but I completely understand that she was just desperate to help me.

When my eyesight became so bad, she would read my notes aloud to me so that I could study for my CAPE classes (although she couldn’t make head nor tail of my Computer Science notes). I would also dictate my essays to her and she would try to write them in ‘my handwriting’ so the teachers wouldn’t think someone else had done my homework for me.

The day I was diagnosed, it was my mom who took me to the hospital. While we waited in the Emergency Room, I was so thirsty and I’d already gone through the gallon of water she’d packed for both of us. We ran across to the supermarket and she bought me a gallon of orange juice, thinking it would help to slake my thirst – neither of us knew that this would have done more harm than good, but I had drained the bottle before we even got to the cashier.

Thanks for the embarrassment…

We were waiting in the ER for almost two hours when I started feeling like I was going to pass out. My mother got up and started screaming like a mad person at the doctors and nurses who had kept walking blithely by. In the midst of my illness, I was self-righteous enough to be ashamed of her behavior.

Even more so, when she bodily grabbed a nurse and insisted she attend to me immediately or she would ‘burn down Spanish Town Hospital flat flat’ (sic). At her insistence, the nurse, a trainee, started doing my vitals. Four glucometers later, they realised that the error reading they were getting on the machines was not a technical issue, but a sign that I was on the edge of a diabetic coma and was about to fall over that precipice at any minute.

Long story short, my mother’s wretchedness has saved my life. She even cut sugar out of everyone’s diet after I got home from the hospital. She bathed me when I was too weak to move, and made snacks for me at 2am when my blood sugar dropped too low. She also altered all my favorite recipes so that I could enjoy her cooking and my favorite dishes without all the complications.

This in particular pisses me off, because having been diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes herself, she doesn’t even give herself the kind of attention she had given to me when I was just diagnosed. So she eats cake, and drink soda and ‘forgets her meds’ more often than I like – all of which I yell at her about all the time. But that’s a story for another time.

The point I’m trying to make is that I love my mom… it’s a bittersweet kind of love…but it’s unconditional. There’s no mom more annoying, stressful, loving, loyal and giving as her anywhere, and I selfishly hope to die before her since I cannot imagine a world without her in it.

Happy Mother’s Day 💘

Mom, and all her kids

How to Catch Diabetes

Everything you need to know to catch the world’s most elusive autoimmune disease

I will admit that hearing people talk about ‘catching diabetes’ stirs up violent feelings inside me. I mean, I completely understand that people just don’t know enough about this disease that just so happens to be one of the leading global causes of blindness, kidney failure, heart attacks, stroke and lower limb amputation

And I totally get it that people just aren’t aware of what really causes this disease that has catapulted from affecting 108 million people in 1980, to a mind-blowing 422 million people in 2014.  I mean, it’s no big deal that 1.6 million people died specifically because of Diabetes in 2016, right? But here we are scarfing down pies, pastries, pizza and anything packed with sugar, while making pseudo health-conscious ‘jokes’ about ‘not wanting to catch diabetes’.

Arrgh…there goes those violent feelings again, bubbling up inside me like an uncontrolled case of hyperglycaemia, while the muscles in my legs cramp viciously and I run to the bathroom to weep from my bladder for the forty-second time today. All because I ate a small stack of blueberry pancakes this morning, and forgot to take my insulin. 

But yeah, you’re joking about ‘catching diabetes’ while inhaling your fifth soda for the day. No kidding, Mr. Wise Guy. Keep drinking yourself sick… (see what I did there?)

You can’t catch it bruv…

Public Service Announcement – while Diabetes is unfortunately becoming increasingly common worldwide, it sure ain’t a cold, and you sure as shit cannot ‘catch it’. 

So, if you’re here because you’re newly diagnosed, uninformed, misinformed, unaware, previously concerned that you may have caught this dreadful disease, or just ‘bad mind’ at all the people who blithely overindulge in all the things actual diabetics should not, let’s talk about how people get Diabetes in real life. 

Let’s talk about Type 1

For the purpose of this blog, I’d like to focus on Type 1 Diabetes – and yes—that’s the bad type…just like all the other types. I mean, I could talk about all the types, but just like a good diet, everything is better in moderation. Well, except ice cream…but I digress.

Though it gained popularity as ‘Juvenile Diabetes’ or insulin-dependent Diabetes, scientists have found that there’s more to Type 1 Diabetes than just insulin or the age at which its diagnosed. No one is too old to develop Type 1 Diabetes – it’s an autoimmune disease with no age or gender bias. 

What is Type 1 Diabetes, anyway?

In case you’re like me and thought ‘auto-what?’…let me say it plainly. Type 1 Diabetes occurs when your immune system (your body’s built in infection-fighting army) attacks and destroys the beta cells in the pancreas which produce insulin. Insulin is the hormone which enables glucose to enter our body’s cells and give them energy. So, here’s my favourite analogy for this: 

An un-bee-lievable analogy

The beta cells in your body are like bees in a hive (the hive being the pancreas, you know). They are the ones who work hard to produce the honey (read insulin) to keep their little bee economy flourishing and growing. But in a fit of self-destructive rage, the immune system – a emotional Queen Bee in its own right – unleashed its fury on the bees, wiping them out in a near total massacre. Now, the body has to rely on external bees and their honey for support so that it can continue to live.

Now that I think about it, this might not be the greatest analogy, because now I’m thinking about honey-covered donuts. But I hope you get the gist. Now let’s talk about how you get it

At this juncture, I will reiterate one key point – you CANNOT ‘catch’ Diabetes, dammit. This disease, specifically Type 1, chooses you carefully – whether based on your genetics, family health history or just general predisposition to having shitty luck (just kidding, kinda). Studies also suggest that there are some viruses which may contribute to the development of Type 1 Diabetes, and while it usually takes a while to develop Type 2 Diabetes, Type 1 can take you down in the space of a few weeks.

A few hints that you might have diabetes…

Like me, you could be fine one day and then the next thing you know you have the ‘flu’. Then when you realise the ‘flu’ isn’t going anywhere, you start thinking you’re going to die now because your eyesight has turned to eyeshit, you’ve lost 20 pounds in just two weeks, you’re insatiably thirsty, weak, starving, irritable, confused and considering moving your bedroom into the bathroom so that it’s not such a long walk to pee when you now have to go every 5 minutes. 

Rumour had it that I had AIDS, and that ‘duppy did deh pan me’ i.e. I was being haunted by ghosts. But as it turns out, there was just a poltergeist in my pancreas mucking about with the insulin-producing cells. 

Am I contagious? No.

If we’re sitting on a bus beside each other and I cough, will you catch Type 1 Diabetes? Not since the last time I checked.

Can it become an airborne epidemic? Not even if you wrote it on a paper plane and bid it ‘Bon Voyage’. 

So can you catch Diabetes? 

It’s looking like a no…if you ask me.

 
Diet.
What would you choose?

Every time I eat something marketed as ‘healthy’, I want to cry in despair at how disgusting or tasteless it is. Moreover, if I should follow my mother’s yardstick of yum, the level of a dish’s disgusting-ness is directly proportionate to its health benefits, i.e. the worse it tastes; the better it is for you. While forcibly shovelling a spoonful of callaloo (without saltfish) or Ferrol tonic down my throat, my mother would always reassure me, ‘it’s good for you.’

Sigh…the lies mothers tell.

This misconception was driven home for me when Ted from Chopped told Jennifer Iserloh (Secrets of a Skinny Chef) that she should probably opt for delicious over healthy when she tried to make some healthy substitutions in a dish in one of the rounds.

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Mercy!

As a lover of butter and a firm believer in the luxury of the carbohydrate, it suffers me intensely whenever I am relegated to eating ‘healthy food’. And it begs the question; does food really have to be horrible or tasteless in order for it to be healthy?

Even my inner conspiracy theorist wonders…is this just a massive conspiracy against the butter industry and a way for the health-crazed government to control our happiness?

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Conspiracy theory aside, why can’t we have the best of both worlds? Why should I asphyxiate the foodie who lives inside me just because I’m a Type 1 Diabetic? I’m not for it.

Ever since I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes at age 16, every nutritionist I have ever seen has always provided me with an extensive ‘No’ List: no patties, no pastries, no buns, no sodas, no pasta, no cereal (unless its whole grain and tastes like the cardboard box it comes in), no rice, no coffee, no this, no that, no none of anything that tastes remotely delightful.

One crazed nutritionist even wanted to put me on a lacto-ovo-vegetarian diet (which had so many conditions applied I went on a hunger strike out of frustration). Another one wanted me to avoid rice, bread and pasta completely. WTF? I only have one life to live – and that life needs to have donuts and Basmati rice in it.

That said, I have committed my life to finding diabetic-friendly dishes that still have the delicious factor – because after all, what is life without food? I firmly believe that with a little moderation, innovation and a sprinkling of creativity, we should not have to choose between what’s delicious, and what’s good for you.

That said, I’ll be sharing some of my favourite ‘diabetic-friendly’ recipes on this blog soon;  I’d also love if you leave a comment with some yummy ones you think I can try out!

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