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Canada Tried To Give Me Gestational Diabetes

I Bet The Bear Does Not Have Diabetes… Ottawa, September 2012

Mark was born on October 12, 2012. These articles written shortly before his birth (it was a great catharsis!) document the nine months of pregnancy where I was definitely not glowing.

Pregnant women’s body fluids are highly sought-after in Canada. For someone banned from giving blood because I grew up in Europe, this year, I feel I’ve spent my time peeing in tiny urine sample bottles (why are they so small??) and filling blood collection tubes.

Just another “side effect” of pregnancy, I guess. And of course, I should complain because “it’s only NINE months in my LIFE and it’s for my BABY and his WELL-BEING!” (say crazy women perfect mothers-to-be on forums, who apparently are much less selfish than I am).

Well, hear me complaining one more time. There is one medical test I particularly did not enjoy—the glucose tolerance test, aka “if you didn’t have diabetes, now you do”.

The gestational diabetes screening test is quite common in North America but virtually unknown in France. Some practitioners only encourage testing for women at higher risk for the disorder, including those who are obese or have a family history of diabetes.

I do not have a history of diabetes and I’m not obese, so I was hoping my French genes and I would be exempted from the screening test.

No such luck.

Around the 26 weeks mark, my ob-gyn told me it was time to get tested and she gave me a referral.


On a very hot morning in July, Feng drove me to the lab where I had all my blood work done. Unfortunately, the screening test wasn’t done there, and we were sent to the hospital next door. Mentioning the address of the lab on the referral papers would have helped (okay, I should have asked where the test was done as well!): we ended up wandering from one lab to the other until we found the right spot.

The lab was in the hospital’s basement. Patients were spilling out of the tiny waiting room into the narrow hallway and it was about 40°C. Two stressed-out employees were sitting behind a glass window at the reception, and a flipchart in front of the booth read “TAKE A NUMBER + HAVE YOUR HEALTH CARD READY”.

I felt welcome already.

I took a number at the distributor on the wall. Just as I was noticing I was number 84, number 35 was called.

Oh boy.

At the hospital, being pregnant doesn’t have its perks. I could hardly ask anyone for a seat as they were all taken by women much bigger than me and patients who looked sick and tired.

I leaned on the wall and pulled my Kindle out of my bag.

An hour later, I was called by a nurse. She took me to a small room packed with other patients, asked me to sit down, and brought a paper cup and a one-litre plastic bottle that she had retrieved from a fridge nearby.

“There you go.”

That’s how the glucose tolerance test works: you are given a very sugary drink and exactly one hour later, your blood is drawn and tested to see how your body regulates your sugar levels.

Well, that’s what most websites said anyway.

Diligently, as the nurse was busy drawing someone else’s blood, I opened the bottle she had brought and filled the paper cup with the mixture.

And I drank. It tasted like shit—think flat oversweetened orange-flavoured soda.

Once the cup empty, I called the nurse who glanced at me: “So? Finish the bottle!”

Oh crap. I didn’t know I had to drink the entire bottle of pure sugar—are you kidding me?

I sighed, put the tiny paper cup aside and chugged the drink down directly from the bottle.

“You have to keep it down,” warned the Debbie Downer nurse. “If you get sick, you must drink another bottle.”

The thought of it helped me suppress nausea.

“Alright, you can go sit down now,” said the nurse once she was satisfied I wasn’t going to puke on her. “Stay in the waiting room, though. You cannot go anywhere. And it is your responsibility to come back here in exactly one hour to have your blood test, otherwise…”

“—yeah, I have to repeat the test,” I completed, slightly annoyed and completely high on sugar.

I found a seat in the waiting room and read for an hour. I felt like I was on drugs—but not in a pleasant way. Seriously, don’t get a bitchy pregnant woman high on sugar, this is just wrong.

An hour minus two minutes later, I had blood drawn (yay, more fun!) and I gave Feng a call.

“So, do you have diabetes?” he asked when he picked me up.

I shrugged. “If I didn’t, now I do!”

(I did not have gestational diabetes. Phew.)

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French woman in English Canada.

Exploring the world with my camera since 1999, translating sentences for a living, writing stories that may or may not get attention.

Firm believer that nobody is normal... and it’s better this way.

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