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Health & Wellness
Where the Crossroads Meet: Mothering a Child With Type 1 Diabetes

“NO!! NO!! NO!!”

My cheeks flushed.

My heart rate sped up.

I bit my lip.

My mind flashed to the parenting book I had perused a few days prior, trying to remember the trendy advice for managing a toddler’s temper tantrum. I was doing the best I could to stay calm, but clearly had not paid very close attention to that chapter.

“NO!! NO!! NO!!”

It continued, and I felt clueless. After several minutes of trying to calm her down, the tantrum escalated. She began kicking and screaming, and I wondered what had happened to the sweet little girl who had greeted me that morning. I decided it was time for an early nap, so I put her in her bedroom, closed the door, and went back downstairs.

Something seemed different about this tantrum, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it.

{Insert frantic images of heart monitors, IV pumps, and needles. Cue climatic music…}

I rushed back to the kitchen in search of her glucometer, test strips, and lancing device. In a panic, I grabbed a juice box, and flung myself up the stairs. I threw the door open and found my daughter seemingly asleep on her bed.

I froze in her doorway, staring at her little body. As I crossed the room, I began searching for signs of life…a deep breath, movement, reaction to sound…anything…

No parenting book could have ever prepared me for this.

My baby had been diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes less than a month prior. She was too young to verbalize her symptoms of a troublesome blood sugar, and I had barely made a dent in the learning curve necessary to keep her alive. This epic tantrum could very well have been an indication that something was wrong.

She woke up when I poked her finger, and her blood sugar was fine. Consumed by relief, I cradled her against my chest, leaned against a wall and slid to the ground. This was our new reality.

The reality of living with a child with Type 1 Diabetes.

As her mother, I’ve learned that I must factor her glucose level into every life-scenario. If she looks flushed and feels warm, I check her blood sugar before reaching for the thermometer. If she’s fallen on the playground, I rule out a blood sugar problem before assuming it was just a simple stumble. If she seems unusually thirsty, I need to know her blood sugar before deciding what she can have to drink. If she seems more tired than usual, I check her blood sugar before she drifts off for a power nap. And…if she’s acting out of character…you guessed it – I check her blood sugar before assuming the role of disciplinarian.

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We’ve come a long way in the past eight years.

By their fourth birthdays, both my younger daughters were proficient in helping their older sister manage low blood sugars. At ten years old, my daughter with diabetes is capable of taking care of herself for an extended period of time while at birthday parties and play dates with friends. Together my husband and I tag team the constant juggling act that Type 1 Diabetes entails around the clock, every day.

Somehow we’ve stumbled through time, learning as we go. Words like “basal insulin”, “bolus”, and “ketones” have taken their place as being normal in our family jargon. We’ve become masters of carbohydrate counting, reading labels, and strategically packing heaps of medical supplies in the smallest bag possible. Navigating health benefits, educating ourselves about diabetes technology, and achieving success in the school environment have become common practice.

I often ponder the fleeting moments when I experienced motherhood without diabetes hovering over our journey. She was my only child at the time, and life felt simple. There was a dreamy optimism and idealistic view of what her future would hold. I was content, and never fathomed the possibility that an autoimmune disease could sneak in, turning everything up-side-down.

Today, so much has changed…yet so much has not. There is still a dreamy optimism and idealistic view of what the future holds. Technology has taught me there is hope for improved management tools to help reduce her risk of long-term complications. Time has taught me that there is very real potential for a cure one day. Most of all, however, my daughter has taught me that she is capable of conquering the challenge of living a full life with Type 1 Diabetes.

Wendy Rose has been a Registered Nurse since 1995. After spending most of her career at the bedside in the Emergency Room, the Post Anesthesia Care Unit, and Labor & Delivery, she currently works from home as a Pediatric Telephone Triage Nurse. Wendy’s oldest daughter was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes in 2005, at the age of 24 months and Celiac Disease in 2008, at the age of 5 years. Wendy herself was diagnosed with Celiac Disease in 2009. Balancing the demands of her daughter’s blood sugar management while maintaining a gluten free lifestyle; on top of her role as wife and mother; in addition to maintaining her nursing career can be a challenge at times. She documents her family’s journey at www.CandyHeartsBlog.org.

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