This week's post comes from Eimear Downey who lives in Cork. She has recently come onboard as a Thriveabetes volunteer and has helped me to figure out our venue for our next event. While on one of our planning phone calls Eimear told me about a recent trip to the post office with her daughters and how her eldest reacted to her hypo while there. It made her realise all the more, that her diabetes isn't just hers - it is her family's.
Here are Eimear's words describing the event;
I am a type 1 diabetic for 20 years and a mother to 2 beautiful girls- Katie (7) and Orlaith (3). Diabetes has always been “my” condition- I was the one to control it and it was my life that it affected- or so I thought. The first reality check I had about being a mother with type 1 diabetes was the planning of a pregnancy and subsequently carrying my children. The appointments, blood sugar control, hypos and worrying were relentless. At times, I felt like merely an incubator and the pregnancies took a massive toll on my own health.
Through it all, “my” diabetes also became my husband Kasper’s diabetes. Although he could never fully appreciate what I was going through, he stood by me and supported me through it all. Believe me, when I say that he earned his sainthood! It was probably the first time that I saw how diabetes affects someone else and it was a jarring moment – “my” diabetes was no longer mine- it was “ours” – mine and Kasper’s.
I lost all hypo awareness and my hypos began affecting my behavior. I would get so confused, frustrated and convoluted in my thoughts that one evening, at 8 months pregnant, I even punched Kasper in the stomach. He made sure I did a blood sugar (it was around 2.0 mmol) and that I drank Lucozade before he sat outside the room until I was okay. He came back in to find me in floods of tears and to this day I still hold shame and guilt over that incident even though we both know that it was the hypo. All the hardship paid off and we are so grateful to have had 2 healthy little girls that have thrived and are the lights of our lives.
As the girls started growing, I began to realise that my diabetes was affecting them too. They are among a relatively small group of children in this country that have a type 1 diabetic parent. Kids being kids, they accept things so easily - Mommie checking her bloods, doing injections and subsequently having a pump. Katie even accepted when my pump almost knocked her out- she ran at me for a hug when my pump was clipped to the centre of my bra – the exact spot where the side of her head rammed into! Katie being the oldest has witnessed plenty of hypos- moments where I would tell her that I needed a few minutes for my bloods to be okay and then I would help her- her simple and accepting response has always been “okay Mommie”.
Recently, I was out with my 2 girls in the post-office when I felt a hypo coming on. My girls are like any children of their ages- curious and likely to cause havoc if not controlled- especially 3 year old Orlaith! It was as if Katie, only 7, knew that I was hypoing instinctively. She came to my side and helped me to find my glucometer and glucose sweets in the cavern of my handbag. She looked me in the eye and said “Mommie you look after your bloods and I will mind Orlaith- I will make sure that she’s okay”. Katie held her sister’s hand and kept her calm and entertained for the 10 minutes it took me to come around. She sang songs with her, played eye-spy with her all while checking on me to ensure that I was okay.
Afterwards, I sat in my car and cried. I was so proud of my daughter for the kindness, care and responsibility that she had shown. I cried tears of anger because this disease shouldn’t have to be her responsibility but that she takes the weight of it on her 7-year old shoulders without question. My love for my children is unconditional but in that moment my love and pride for Katie overflowed.
The diabetes journey through life can at times feel lonely and isolating. Katie and Orlaith never had a choice about having diabetes in their lives yet they accept the condition and all that comes with it as normal. I have realised that diabetes is teaching my children compassion, acceptance and understanding – hard lessons for children to learn and ones that will serve them well in life and help form them into better people.
Through becoming a diabetic mother I have learned that the family that I have built, Kasper and my children, accept my diabetes unconditionally and will support me no matter what – “my” diabetes is also “their” diabetes and “our” diabetes as a family. I feel loved, cared for and protected and to Kasper, Katie and Orlaith I say thank you and I love you.
Register soon for Thriveabetes Sugar Surfing Workshop
The Thriveabetes Sugar Surfing Workshop takes place on Saturday, May 13th from 10am until 2pm in The Carlton Dublin Airport Hotel, Cloghran, Co. Dublin.
Find out more about Sugar Surfing here.
Advance registration is required to attend Thriveabetes and costs €20 per person.