Back when I was pregnant with Teddy, I wrote about my pregnancy-induced gallbladder inflammation. It was annoying but not so severe that it required surgery during pregnancy – they never found gallstones and instead diagnosed me with the oh-so-lovely “gallbladder sludge – and I was able to control it with a low-fat diet.
In your head, you may have just said to yourself: “A low-fat diet? While pregnant? That is UNFAIR.” And you would be right. Oh, so right. You could even go ahead and say it out loud to yourself. UNFAIR. After all, pregnant women are already told the long list of dietary no-nos: no raw sushi, no booze, no deliciously poached eggs served with Hollandaise, no gross cold cuts from Subway. So to also be told no burgers, no ice cream, no buttery chocolate chip cookies really sucked. (I might mention that I also couldn’t tolerate dairy, so add cheese, good pizza, and even fat-free fro yo to that list while you’re at it.) My life became a version of “Eat This, Not That” — mostly “not that.”
I wasn’t the happiest camper on the diet but I knew then — and now — that after all we’d been through, if eating tofu for dinner and angel food cake for dessert meant we got a baby, then OK. So, I studiously kept my eyes on the prize: healthy mama, healthy baby. And the diet kept the pain — stretching from under my right ribs, around my side, and nestling into my back, that no stretches or re-positioning could make disappear — away, and that pain wasn’t worth a chocolate chip cookie of middling quality.
Even better: the sludge disappeared after Teddy arrived. People had predicted that I’d need to have the sludgey gallbladder removed post-pregnancy, but my symptoms went away – a welcome development, because no one wants to chase one abdominal surgery/childbirth with another major abdominal surgery weeks later.
So, I didn’t. And I returned happily – albeit slowly – to the land of eating cookies and brie and fatty football food. I even got to add pizza and ice cream back in.
I got pregnant again.
I had a feeling the gallbladder sludge might return, so I cautiously tiptoed around fatty stuff for the first couple of months.
Then came Easter. And a delicious Easter brunch picnic, complete with quiche, and coffee cake, and deviled eggs, and candy, and whatever other cheesy, fatty goodness was placed on the table in front of me. (I may have contributed to the feast — and devoured, in large part — a puff pastry tart topped with Gruyère cheese and sautéed asparagus.)
You can probably see where this is headed. Not long after we left the picnic, there was the familiar feeling: the pain, tucked inside my ribs.
The sludge was back. And this time, it showed up more than a month earlier than it had the last time.
If you’re keeping score at home, I was staring down the barrel of a low-fat diet for the better part of six months.
I was decidedly unhappy, even though I’d been expecting it.
You see, I’m not what you would call a “good dieter.” Wait – let me correct that. There was a time about 20 years ago, when I was a very good dieter. Too good. So good that I dieted myself right into anorexia and heart palpitations and a therapist.
And ever since then, I have not been a good dieter. Dieting makes me anxious and cranky and feel limited and different from everyone else. (Is there anyone for whom dieting doesn’t do the same?) So I’ve tried to avoid it as much as possible, though I didn’t have much of a choice when it came to prepping for radioactive iodine treatment with the low-iodine diet (see also, no cheese) or the gallbladder diet the last time around.
Each of those times, I had some not-so-proud-ok-some-would-call-them-breakdown moments. This go-round with the stupid gallbladder diet has featured more of the same – especially when I finally had to give up dairy a few weeks ago. (I’d held out hope that I’d get to keep fat-free dairy this time as a little consolation prize, but no deal.)
I got particularly cranky at a doctor’s appointment after the symptoms reappeared. As I dutifully told the midwife that the gallbladder symptoms I’d had in my first pregnancy were back, I asked, “But it must be pretty common that people who had this in their first pregnancies get it again, right?”
To which she snarkily answered: “No, what’s common is that people who have this in their first pregnancies have the surgery so they don’t have to deal with it again.”
I wanted to smack her upside the head with her hand-held Doppler gadget. I wanted to say, “Listen, lady, I’ve had more surgeries than I’d like already, and I had a hard time getting pregnant the first time, so I wasn’t sure if there was going to be another baby, and so I didn’t have the surgery.” Instead, I just nodded when she reminded me about the low-fat diet.
I nodded, and then I went and bought high-protein pasta and veggie burgers and protein powder for smoothies. Which I followed with doing my best not to eat them. Protein in the forms I ate daily while pregnant with Teddy have been positively off-putting this time. So I’ve given in to the cravings for low-protein, higher-in-fat snacks more often than I should, and I’ve paid for it.
So, I’m trying to get back on the low-fat diet wagon — though I’m hoping that the wagon’s wheel well might have a secret reservoir of willpower that I can tap into. Or at least a plate of fat-free black bean brownies.
Meanwhile, I’m reminding myself of my motto from two years ago, with a twist: Eyes on the prize. Healthy mama, healthy pumpkin baby, coming just before Halloween.
Just in time for her mama to feast on some of Teddy’s leftover Halloween candy.