Lead by Korey Hood and Stefan Rubin, the Parenting with Type 1 Diabetes session at Friends for Life was aiming to touch upon the different challenges of being a parent with type 1 diabetes, instead of the concentration on parenting a child with type 1 diabetes that Children With Diabetes was once known for. This was my first year attending this session, and I sat between two of my best friends in the diabetes community – Scott and George.
“So thanks for coming, you guys. We’re here to talk about parenting with type 1 diabetes,” said Korey.
At this point, people started doing introductions. “Hi, I’m So-and-So and I was diagnosed with diabetes in 1998.” or “I’ve been diabetic for 16 years and I have three children.” Only introductions. That’s it.
So why was I already crying?
I didn’t expect to feel the way I did during this session. Instantly, I was completely overcome with emotion. And not in a quiet, just-a-few-tears-escaping sort of way. Instead, I was a blubbering mess, sniffling and snarfing and wiping my nose on my sleeve. It was this intense rush of emotions that I didn’t even know I had ever thought about, never mind felt overcome by.
The group talked about their diagnosis, and their decision to have children. They talked about what it’s like to have a low blood sugar affect plans to go camping. They talked about how their children react to diabetes, and what inspires them to keep plugging ahead on their daily management.
One woman caused me to have to leave my seat and grab a box of tissue to keep for my very own from the back of the room. “I was the only person with type 1 diabetes that I knew … until my son was diagnosed.”
I couldn’t contribute. I could barely catch my breath. And it was embarrassing. My daughter is only 15 months old. She doesn’t know much about my diabetes, save for the fact that I have my own personal remote controls that she wants to press all the buttons on. She doesn’t understand why I sometimes don’t share my snacks. Or why I can’t pick her up every time she wants me to. She doesn’t understand now, but eventually she will.
And I think that’s what grabbed me and held me. Before BSparl was born, I planned for her. I planned and worked to become the healthiest I could be, and I loved her long before I carried her inside of me. And then she was born, and the focus became adjusting to life as her mommy and as part of a family of three instead of two. It wasn’t until recently that I felt comfortable as a mom – used to it – and my heart finally allowed me to feel something other than the newness of motherhood.
I wanted to introduce myself to the group. I wanted to tell them that I, too, was a veteran of type 1 but not so much of an experienced mom. I wanted to ask them how they made sure their kids weren’t overwhelmed by their diabetes. And the question I wanted answered more than anything kept catching in my throat: How do I explain this to my daughter? But I couldn’t ask. I just sat there and listened. And cried like a baby. And thought about the fat little Birdy who was waiting for me at home in Rhode Island, flapping her little wings and getting ready to fly.
After the session was over, we spilled out into the hallway. George caught me up in a hug and I just let let it all go. The fear and that heavy feeling of “forever,” coupled with a love for my daughter that I didn’t truly understand until I thought about diabetes taking me from her. I knew he understood. I knew that Scott understood, too. And so did everyone else who has raised a family while taking care of their own diabetes. These friends of mine were parents with type 1, with children who were much more grown up than my little bird. I knew that if they could do this, I could, too. And having met both George’s and Scott’s beautiful and loving families, it gave me hope that my own little girl would grow up to love me just as much as I love her.
This session was the most emotional I have ever been in public, but it felt okay. Safe. The only casualty was George’s shirt, which ended up with a smudge of mascara. And perhaps some tears. Or snot. (Sorry, G.)
I saw Korey in the hotel later on, and apologized to him for being an emotional wreck in his session.
“It’s okay. I totally understand.” But as soon as he started to talk, I started crying again.
“I’m sorry, Korey! I think you’re like a trigger for me. I’ll just email you.”
This session was intimate. And it hit a nerve on me that I didn’t even know was there. But I felt better afterwards, like I had experienced a therapeutic breakthrough, somehow bringing me even closer to both my family by blood and my family by blood sugar.
Thank you, George and Scott, for being the kinds of parents I hope to become.