Tonight at dinner my husband referred to an incident from ~ 10 years ago that he described as "the most fascinating psychological window into your soul", meaning my soul. I hadn't really thought about it that way, but I can kind of see what he meant. So here it is:
When I was pregnant with my daughter, I had a very severe case of gestational diabetes. This was a big surprise because I had no apparent risk factors. I wasn't overweight and had no family history of diabetes. Doctors were also surprised by the severity of the diabetes. I had to take rather massive doses of two types of insulin by injection twice a day. I followed an extraordinarily strict (boring, depressing) diet exactly, but it took weeks of monitoring and ever-increasing doses to get things under control.
At various times of the day, I had to prick my finger and do a blood sugar test with a small monitoring device at home. Between these jabs and the twice daily injections for 10 weeks, I was a total pin cushion, and I was not always very cheerful about it.
I had a little booklet in which I recorded my blood sugar level, but I also started keeping track of the results in a spreadsheet and I graphed the results every day. I got interested in the shape and magnitude of some of the blood sugar highs and lows, but my initial sample spacing (in time) was too rough to get a satisfactory graph of these spikes, and there were other aspects of the data that I didn't understand when I did the minimum number of recommended tests.
So, despite my loathing for jabbing myself in the finger with a sharp object, I started collecting more data. I tracked the blood sugar spikes so that they were defined by more than one point and I could really see their shape and I was certain of their maximum values. I collected data day and night. I dreamed of a device that could provide a continuous readout of my blood sugar and make perfect graphs. Even with my primitive data collection techniques, however, I made beautiful graphs and I did things with the graphs in terms of how I analyzed them over different time periods and how I displayed the data. I was obsessed with these graphs.
Part of what fascinated me about all this was the fact that I had so much control over the data. In my research, acquiring data can be a very time-consuming and expensive process, and it is not always immediately clear what the results mean. With my blood sugar data collection project, I could get as much data as I needed and the only cost - other than a bit of pain and some scarred fingers - was the price of the test strips.
The first time I brought my graphs and spreadsheet to a doctor's appointment, the doctor was stunned. He called all the other doctors and nurses over to look at it. He asked my permission to make copies and fax them to other doctors. He asked me to start sending him my graphs between appointments. He stopped talking to me like I was a slow child and started discussing with me what the data might mean. He gave me suggestions for ways to get more useful data. All of this helped get me through a difficult time.
Although the anxious and painful aspects of having severe gestational diabetes are not something I want to remember, I very clearly remember the excitement of acquiring and graphing the data. I think that is what my husband meant about the "window into my soul", which I suppose must be a scientific soul.
My daughter was born completely healthy at 7 pounds 10 ounces, although there were some difficult moments at the end. I've heard that most women forget the pain of childbirth (and hence are willing to have more children, ensuring the survival of the human race), but it is difficult for me to forget because my daughter was born at exactly 5 pm and the doctors were listening to NPR news in the delivery room. My daughter arrived as the NPR top-of-the-hour theme song snippet played, so every time I hear this song (i.e., almost every day), I am reminded of that moment.
6 years ago