It's almost 7:30. My husband is at his friend's house for the Vikings game in HD, Leo has been asleep for almost half an hour, and Lily is in her bed, winding down and drifting off to sleep as well. So, I really can't find another reason to procrastinate writing a wrap-up to my diabetes journey. I'd like to find a reason, but I can't. So, here we go....
Adult life with diabetes. I'm not really sure where to start with this one. College life with diabetes is hell. Stress and anxiety play some major games with your blood sugars. So does sleep-deprivation. And not eating well. Which just about sums up college life. Except for the big A, of course. What would college life be without some partying? One of the benefits of growing up on the American-Canadian border in the pre-passport-requirement days is that I got my drinking days out of my system early. And to be honest, I never was much of a drinker. I'd go across the border with my friends as soon as I turned 19. More often than not, I ended up the DD. But, on those rare occasions when I have indulged in too much alcohol, the result was never pretty. There's this thing that happens with your blood sugars when you drink. The sugar in the alcohol makes your blood sugar spike, so you take insulin for it. And then the alcohol evaporates from your system, taking the sugar with it, and you plummet. On a rare night, I'll have a drink or two, but I limit myself to no more than two and very rarely drink anything other than a wine cooler or hard lemonade. I'm just not much of a drinker.
Pregnancy and diabetes....I'm sure there are plenty of you who've had to deal with gestational diabetes and might be able to relate to this a little bit. I took excellent care of myself during pregnancy. My A1Cs were always in the 5-6.7 range. Never higher than that. Between my two diabetic sisters and me, there are 9 perfectly healthy children. Pregnancy isn't easy, even without diabetes. It was hell for me. There just wasn't much about it that I enjoyed. It may have been a little different if my husband had been the doting sort. But he's not. The last Christmas before children, I had convinced myself that it would be special because I was pregnant with our daughter. We decided to limit ourselves to one gift for each other and save the rest of our money for preparing for the baby. My husband gave me one really shiny gift....stainless steel canisters for our kitchen. Not quite what I had been imagining! Honestly, pregnancy probably wouldn't have been that awful if it hadn't been for my doctor. The first time, I went with an OB resident. I figured the less knowledge she had, the less she'd freak out on me. Which was true for the most part. But at the end of pregnancy, I had weekly ultrasounds to keep track of Lily's development and weight. The u/s tech kept telling me that my baby was going to be at least 9 lbs at birth. Lily weighed in at a whopping 7 lbs 9 oz. Not even close! The second pregnancy, my doctor was nearing the end of her residency. I'm honestly not sure where her concerns and comments at the end of my second pregnancy came from, but at one point, I was having problems with my fasting glucoses in the morning (they were running around 140-150). She told me she was afraid I was going to have a stillborn baby if I didn't get them back under control. And then the weekly ultrasounds started and she started talking about scheduling a c-section because she was afraid the baby would be too big. Two weeks before I had Leo, the u/s tech gave his weight as 8 lbs 4 oz. I chose to have an amniocentesis done at 38 weeks to check on Leo's lung maturity so that they could induce me early and avoid the c-section. Leo weighed 8 lbs 6 oz at birth. I've learned not to trust the doctors when it comes to weight estimates for the babies of diabetic moms. They freak out and over-estimate, just to be on the safe side. My labor was induced for both pregnancies, as it was for all of my two diabetic sisters' pregnancies. That's just the way it is when you're diabetic. I do not believe diabetes or the risk of a child developing diabetes should ever prevent anyone from having a child though. Children are precious in every way.
Now we come to the part I'm not really eager to talk about. Keep in mind as you're reading this that my story is not your child's story and what has been true for me and for many diabetics may not be true for your child. It's a medically proven fact that diabetics have a higher incidence of chronic depression. I have my own theories on this. I mean, considering the daily life that a diabetic person leads, is it any wonder that they have a higher risk of depression? I've dealt with chronic depression since I was a teenager. Before having children, I tried a few anti-depressants and I never stayed on them. For whatever reasons, the medication would work for a while and then not work any longer. So I'd stop. And I stopped completely when we decided to start a family. After Lily, I suffered horribly from postpartum depression, but never sought treatment for it. I used breastfeeding as an excuse to not medicate. By the time I was done with my pregnancy with Leo (he's exactly 20 months younger than Lily), I knew I couldn't get through without medication. After a lot of tweaking, I've finally found a medication that works. During the tweaking, I had to go off a medication that was causing an allergic reaction. It was during that cold-turkey time that the doctors came up with a new diagnosis for me. I'd lay in bed at night, unable to sleep, worrying that an ax-murderer was going to come in and hurt my entire family. It was awful! And it makes me sound like I'm a complete nut-case, although I think this may be more common than we realize. The doctors actually came up with a name for it. Phobia-inducing anxiety. After all that, I've come to the conclusion that I will never allow myself to stop medication again. It's just too hard to deal with that and with my own diabetes and my child's diabetes.
Like I said, this may not be the case for your child. Keep in mind that my story isn't just shaped by diabetes. It's also due heavily to growing up feeling completely alone and isolated within my own family. It's from being a child of an alcoholic and abusive environment. Being diabetic has only been a part of the puzzle. The lack of a support system is a bigger part. And chances are, if you're reading my blog in the hopes of understanding how a diabetic grows up and thinks and develops, then you're providing your child with an excellent support system. Your children will grow up, knowing that they are loved and cherished and that their mom or dad sacrificed sleep, health, and so many other things in order to take the best care of them. You have no idea how much of a difference that will make in your child's life and their care of their own condition. I'm sure they'll have their moments of rebellion, of anger and frustration, but when it comes down to it, the most powerful tool you have for convincing them to care for themselves is your love and the self-worth your love will give them.
And that's about where the journey ends. I have all the reason in the world to take care of myself now. I try really hard. I never thought I'd pass diabetes on to one of my children. My seven nieces and nephews from my two diabetic sisters are all normal. I have 18 nieces and nephews in all and not a one has shown any signs of diabetes. Until my daughter. Lily's diagnosis broke my heart in a way that nothing else could. But it's not the end of the world. I do worry that she'll be reluctant to have children of her own for fear of passing diabetes on to a new generation, but I really hope to be there to convince her that it's worth the risk. And my greatest fear....is that I won't be here long enough to watch my children grow, that I'll leave them too soon. That is the best motivator of all!
I'll post sometime in the next couple of days about the mail exchange. And it'll definitely be for d- and non-d-kids!