I’ve always had a love affair with sugar. When I was a kid, our pantry had so many cans of Hi-C juice, it looked like we were stocking up for the winter with motor oil. Our “candy drawer” in the dining room buffet was renowned among our friends. I had such an intimate relationship with Crumb Cakes, Yodels, Yankee Doodles and Pop Tarts, I had a favorite way of eating each one: Crumb Cakes were toasted, Yankee Doodles were eaten frozen, Pop Tarts were put in the toaster oven with chocolate chips on top, and a Yodel was consumed by first eating off the chocolate coating and then unrolling it. I felt a longing and a deep frustration watching “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” like young boys must have felt looking at that poster of Farrah Fawcett in the orange swimsuit. So I can’t say I was shocked to be told I’d failed the one-hour glucose test, which is given to pregnant women to determine their risk of getting gestational diabetes. I now had to take the three-hour version.
I’m not sure there’s even a connection between one’s sugar consumption and diabetes. In fact when I was young, my mother never said anything about diabetes. She said if I ate too much sugar, I’d get worms. Still, I always wondered whether my love of sugar would lead to diabetes, and it now seemed my fears were founded.
But while I wasn’t shocked at the prospect of diabetes, I was surprised by the attitude of my OB-GYN’s partner, who called with my test results. I like my OB-GYN, but her partner is prickly. I’d already had one bad experience with her, in which she showed poor bedside manner, was abrupt when my husband asked her a few questions, and she told me I should stop my morning walks on account of my placenta previa, advice that was later contradicted by the doctor who diagnosed the placenta previa in the first place. I wouldn’t mind these minor issues if I never had to see her again, but as my OB-GYN’s partner, there was a chance that if my own doctor was off duty or unavailable when I was ready to give birth, she would deliver my baby. When she called with my test results, she told me I’d have to come in to their office to pick up a prescription for a three-hour glucose test. I asked her if she could just fax that prescription over to Quest, the diagnostic center at which I had the first test and all of my blood work. No, she insisted I come in to pick up the prescription in person.
“I want to make sure I understand what you’re saying,” I said. I was standing out on the street outside the 125th Street subway station in the bitter cold, yelling into my cell phone so she could hear me. “You want me to drive 25 minutes to your office, and 25 minutes home, just to pick up a piece of paper that in the past has been faxed directly to Quest?”
“Well, I don’t know anything about what’s been done in the past. Who’s been faxing it?”
“Your partner? The receptionist? I’m not sure. But someone has been calling or faxing my prescriptions over to Quest. I have never had to come in and pick it up,” I said.
“Well, I’ll do it, but if it gets lost, that’s not my fault,” she said, almost spitefully.
Did she think someone at Quest was going to steal it off the fax machine? It’s not like it was a prescription for Oxycontin. If someone wanted to undergo a three-hour glucose test, I say they can have my prescription.
The three hour test, as the name implies, takes three hours to complete – and all three hours are usually spent in the testing center’s waiting room. An initial blood sample is drawn, the patient then drinks 100 grams of thick, syrupy sugar juice – similar to the simple syrup used in, say, a mint julep — and blood is then taken every hour after that for three consecutive hours to see how the body absorbs the glucose.
In that time, I watched several hours of morning television and learned that Rachel Ray refers to her cast iron pot as a ‘he,’ and that it’s not uncommon for men to bleed when they have sex – though they should see a doctor if that happens. I also learned that the white nurse at Quest hates to cook because she hates to clean up, and she dislikes going to grocery store with her husband because he wants to walk down all of the aisles and read the labels on every package of food. The black nurse, on the other hand, loves food shopping but hates clothes shopping. And like me, she used in vitro fertilization to conceive her daughter, though it took her five tries and she went through about 25 eggs – and all of her insurance coverage — before she was successful. She loves multi-colored cookware and wants a full set of Rachel Ray pots for Christmas.
“What do you like to cook?” I asked her as she drew my blood.
“Well, I made a roast last night,” she said.
“How?” I like to hear about food when I’ve been fasting, as I was required to do for this test.
“I seared it, and then I cooked it in a big pot with onion soup, baby carrots, and cabbage,” she said.
“What else?” I asked, as she put a band-aid on my arm.
“I cooked up some mashed potatoes, and I put some cheese and bread crumbs on top and put it back into the oven to crisp up,” she said proudly.
I was getting hungry.
On the second blood test, I started to tell the nurse about my placenta previa, and after explaining to her what it was, I said, “I can’t imagine why I was telling you all that.” The glucose was starting to whirl around my system.
On the third blood test, I started to tell the nurse that I felt mildly nauseated but that I refused to throw up because I’d read on the internet that if you do, you have to drink another bottle of the glucose juice.
“I can handle the nausea. What’s worse for me is the…”
The nurse looked at me.
“I forgot what I was going to say again,” I said. “This glucose makes me a very interesting conversationalist.”
By the fourth blood test, I wanted to eat everything Rachel Ray was cooking on television. The last thing she made before I had my blood drawn was whole grain waffles, maple plums, and a ham steak. When I left Quest, I got into my car and drove to a diner and ordered waffles, eggs, over easy, and a piece of Taylor ham. As I sat at the table, I could feel the baby kicking up a storm, though I couldn’t be sure if it was from all the glucose or the maple syrup and orange juice I was now consuming.
After I left the diner, I stopped at a grocery store and bought a cut of rump beef and some onion soup and baby carrots, and I went home and made my first roast. But instead of cooking the meat in a bath of onion soup, which I thought might make it tough, I simply patted the soup mix on the sides of the beef. It was the juiciest, most flavorful roast I’ve ever had – good enough to make me forget, for just a moment, that the doctor who will deliver my baby if my own OB-GYN is unavailable may be so overly-cautious as to have poor judgment.