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Posts from the ‘Diabetes and Family’ Category

Just Past Three.

Mr. Guy Smiley,

Hallelujah!!!  You have started SLEEPING and it makes me want to hit the caps lock and sing your praises.  Thank you, sweet boy, for finally deciding that nighttime is the best time to sleep.  I don’t even care if you ever nap predictably during the day because you sleep at night.  (Remind me I said that.)  Your else close around 8.30 pm, you sleep until about 11.30 pm, you wake to eat, and then you’re lights out until 7.30 the next morning.  THANK YOU.  I can tie my shoes again without becoming confused.  I remembered how to use the coffee maker.  I don’t cry while brushing my teeth.  HallelujahHallelujahHallelujah!!!

And not only are you sleeping, but you’re such a happy guy when you wake up.  Instant smiles, instant cooing, kicking your legs and flapping your arms like the happiest chicken there ever was.  You remind me so much of your sister with your morning joyousness, but you bring your own smiley guy flair to things.

We spent a lot of time together, you and I.  Big sister Birdy flies off to school every morning and Dad zips off to work, leaving you and I to try and make sense of the loads of emails, loads of laundry, and loads of diapers.  (That last one?  Ew.  Love you, but ew.)  You and I have done at least a dozen conference calls together, two or three video calls (those are tricky), and you’ve come to your first conference with me.  (Note:  Thanks, Tandem, for not thinking I was weird for bringing my mom and son to a conference with me, and to TCOYD for making my infant feel like part of the party.)  Working alongside you is a little complicated and sometimes distracted, but I’m inspired to keep pushing my boundaries because I want you to know that your mom is fueled by many interests and passions.  Just as I want you to be interested in so many different things.

For now, you’re most interested in talking.  And this little lion blanket thing that you have set your sights on gumming to death.  You also want to go for walks around the neighborhood in your stroller as often as we can, and you love, love being worn in the baby bjorn thing.  Just recently, we flipped you around in that baby carrier so that you face out and are able to see the world (instead of staring at my collarbone).  You love EVERYTHING.  I love that about you.

The Batman.

A photo posted by Kerri Sparling (@sixuntilme) on

You also love eating, and I’m still working to feed you.  You had a little trouble gaining weight at the outset (a combination of reflux plus falling asleep while eating), and even though I preferred to feed you myself, I had to start pumping breastmilk and using a bottle to ensure that you were getting a set number of ounces per feeding.  That’s kind of the system we’re still rocking at the moment – I feed you two or three times a day myself and the rest of your meals are via bottle.  My days are marked by three hour windows where I either check my blood sugar and then feed you or check and then pump. This means I am constantly pumping (insulin pump plus breast pump equals oh so many pumps) and constantly concerned about the stash of milk in our fridge.  I have ambitions of keeping you on breastmilk for several more months and I hope I can keep up the supply.  So far, I meet your needs.  (And even though I’m not one for supplements, etc. I am drinking a cup of this tea every day.  It might be helping.  It’s not hurting, at least.  And I’m developing a taste for black licorice as a weird side effect.)

Postpartum body blargh is in full effect, as you’re a little over three months old and I have not been on the ball in terms of self-care.  I am working to focus more on my diet in a consistently healthy way (eff off, pie … no wait, come back!!) and I’ve just recommitted to my exercise routine.  I have (blond) ambitions of burning any and all shapewear crap by next June.  Or, at the very least, feeling more like myself by then.

(Why am I writing about breastfeeding and postpartum body images in these letters to you?  Well, part of the reason why people read this blog is because I chronicle diabetes stuff, and it all plays in.  You’ll understand more when you’re older and you tune into the fact that I’ve spent a lot of time writing on the Internet.  I know, it’s weird.  Especially since we now have MentalNet, where you simply blink your eyes and your thoughts auto-publish to the cloud.  Man, picturing the future of the Internet is terrifying.)

We have plans to introduce you to some of our dearest-but-most-far-flung friends this month and you’re spending plenty of time with your aunts and your grandmas. Oh, and you’ll spend your first Christmas on the outside, with your sister very much looking forward to sharing the excitement of Christmas morning with you. You’re very, very loved, kiddo.  You’re a little over three months old but you’ve owned real estate in my heart for ages.

(And thank you for falling asleep at night and sleeping for several hours.  Seriously.  All of me thanks you.  🙂 )

Love,
mom

My Third Child.

Diabetes’s needs are incessant.  WAAH I need to have my blood sugar checked WAAH I need a snack WAAH the Dexcom sensor needs swapping WAAH what do you mean, reorder insulin WAAH chronic illness is forever WAAAAAAAAAAH.  This disease whines and cajoles for attention all day long.

Over the weekend, I stood at the bathroom counter changing my infusion set while Birdy brushed her teeth and the little guy sat singing in his bouncy chair.  A loud burst of noise not unlike an industrial-sized coffee carafe percolating came from the bouncy chair, which prompted Birdy to announce (through a mouthful of toothpaste suds), “He needs a diaper change for sure.”

True.  (And ew.  Ew-true.)

Diabetes always needs a diaper change, too.  But diabetes is not cute.  And while it also wakes me up in the middle of the night for feedings, it doesn’t reward me with a toothless smile or a snuggle.  These days, diabetes management feels thankless, frustrating, and very ARGHH would you just go AWAY?!  Getting into the swing of things with two kids is still an adjustment and I’d like very much if diabetes would go quiet for a spell.

Unlike with my daughter, I am not deep into diabetes burnout this postpartum cycle, but I’m not a big fan of all the diabetes crap that’s still on tap.  Small victories keep me going at the moment, like keeping up with inputting the data into my pump (so it can properly calculate my insulin doses instead of me SWAG’ing things) and trying to treat lows conservatively.  But I have blood work orders in my wallet that I still haven’t followed through on (they’ve been in my billfold for three weeks now).  My fasting BG checks are sometimes taking place two hours after I’m woken up by Guy Smiley.  I’m wearing the Dexcom but there are hours worth of highs that ride for too long.  I reorder my supplies on time but mostly because I’ve reached my deductible.

I need to shake this settled snow globe of apathy that my diabetes has become.

Oh hey, awesome turtleneck-wearing cat in a snow globe.

I have an appointment with a new, local endocrinology team at the end of the month and I’m actually looking forward to it.  This appointment will be a paradigm shift in my care, taking a break after 30 years at Joslin. Like hitting the reset button, bringing my care hyperlocal and giving the visits a facelift.

Until then, I’m trying to parent all three “kids” in my house and keep them all safe, sound, and freshly-diapered.

Muted.

Ahh bullet points.  Ye be the only(e) way I can process things at the moment.

  • I don’t have a lot to say over here lately, and there are a dozen different reasons for that.  One is that the new baby kiddo keeps me extremely busy, what with his cluster feeding and chatty ways, and also the fact that he is still not much of a nighttime sleeper, with his sleepless nights becoming my sleepless nights.  Which translates into not a lot of creative brain power during the daylight hours.
  • (But holy fuck am I creative at night.  I make up songs on the fly, can produce ounces of breastmilk without a second thought, and have taken to texting writing ideas to myself with one hand while hugging Guy Smiley with the other.  The problem is executing on these ideas once the sun rises, because it’s then that I fall apart.)
  • The baby is getting much bigger, though, and even though we’ve had some issues getting him to gain weight (not a problem now – more on that tomorrow or Friday), he’s thriving perfectly now.  He has also entered that super smiley/finally giving feedback stage, which I love.  The baby grins and gurgles are my favorite.  He sounds so much like his sister at this stage, and yet he’s so distinctly himself.  His smile lights up the room, even when he’s spitting up into my freshly washed hair.
  • My kids are my focus these days, which keeps my heart full but my blog kind of empty-ish.
  • I’m also reluctant to get political in public, mostly because the diabetes community is united by busted pancreases and political discussions have the potential to cut our crucial community in half, but the election did not go the way I had hoped and I have grave concerns about health insurance, safety, and social issues these days.  This is contributing to the maelstrom of thoughts in my head, and the CGM frowns on my desire for Tylenol.
  • The election circus also sort of sucked the wind out of my sails in terms of diabetes awareness month activities, as well.  I’m having a difficult time focusing on the diabetes community when the country as a whole seems to be imploding to a certain extent.  I wear my blue circle pin when I’m out and I gave a presentation at a local hospital system last night, but for the most part, I’ve felt quieter than normal these days.
  • And another reason for my silence is that diabetes isn’t fun to talk about lately.  Back when I first started blogging, I would share a lot of the minutiae because I’d never had the chance to get that sort of stuff off my chest before.  Talking about a rogue low blood sugar that hit while I was in the shower?  That story came out easily.  But all of those diabetes moments feel redundant lately.  Yes, I was low.  I was high.  I was frustrated.  I was burnt out.  I was empowered.  I made steps forward in some areas, backwards in others.  It isn’t interesting to me at the moment.  When I think about diabetes, it’s this hamster wheel of the same tasks and the same emotions earning similar outcomes.  I’m still living with this disease, still trying to manage it, still having good and bad days.  Documenting those moments isn’t coming as easily to me anymore.
  • Maybe it’s because of my increased desire to keep more things private, even in the health space.  I looked back at some of my past blogs and saw that I’d chronicled a lot more of my pregnancy with Birdy than I did with my son.  I definitely blame infertility and fear of losing another pregnancy for that silence, but even now that my son is out and safe, I’m still reluctant to share a whole bunch about him.  I have a monthly letter than I’ve been writing to him (there’s two done already and a third one is in my mental queue … maybe I’ll feel up to sharing that third one here sometime) but I like keeping those in his email account (password to be given to him when he’s older).
  • Maybe this privacy surge is a result of being older.  Or tired.  (Or maybe being tired is a result of being older.  See also: non-sleepy cute infant person)
  • I love the diabetes community – truly love it – and I remain a big fan of blogging,  but maybe long form blogging is starting to shift a little bit.  Lots of activity on Instagram and Twitter (never got into Snapchat – my luck, the cat would walk by and puke while I was recording a video or something), but the long and winding blog posts are harder to find these days.  Do they require more effort to read?  I keep seeing things on Medium marked as “long reads” that are also marked as “8 minutes” and that sends me into “get off my lawn” mode because is eight minutes really a long read?  Does that means all books are becoming pamphlets and Jodi Picoult will suddenly start writing her tomes in tiny tattoo form?
  • I think I’m a little tired, overall.  Tired of diabetes (post-pregnancy burnout in full swing, thank you very much) and tired from adjusting to the arrival, chaos, and joy of a newborn baby. (I think there’s some guilt half-baked into that, because I wanted my son so much that I feel a little guilty about some of the exhausted frustration I’ve felt.  I could not possibly love him more, and I simultaneously could not need a nap more.)

Things will settle down.  I’ll post here as time allows and as inspiration strikes.  Diabetes will always be here, right?  It’s okay to take a breather from talking incessantly about it.

90% of my day is this snuggly.

A photo posted by Kerri Sparling (@sixuntilme) on

Second-time Motherhood.

This whole mom thing is a little easier, in some respects, the second time around.  And it’s simultaneously harder by a frigging long shot.

It’s easier because my son’s arrival wasn’t as jarring as his sister’s.  Going from no kids to one kid was like WHOA.  Going from one kid to two kids was lowercase whoa.  Chris and I are already six years into parenthood, so we weren’t shocked by the boxes of diapers that stashed themselves in the closet.  (We were slightly shocked to discover what we’ve saved for the last six years, like the stroller.  Blew cobwebs off that sucker.  And the high chair.  Found six year old puffs tucked into the hinges.  Very thankful we saved all of Birdy’s little bird clothes, because so many of them have been repurposed for his tiny butt.)  So all the “stuff” that comes with little babies was expected.  We also knew a lack of sleep was to be expected.  In addition to a marked uptick in discussions about poop.

What people told us about parental reactions to second kids seems true so far, too.  We aren’t as scared to hold him, or to hand him to family members to hold.  The little wobbly head and neck feel familiarly easy to support.  Changing a diaper is business as usual (except for the different set of parts in play, where the fear of being peed on takes a whole new trajectory … quite literally).  We even assembled the crib without too much trouble, despite needing to reorder the hardware kit because that somehow disappeared in the last six years.  Yet we easily found the old bottle warmer.  Whatever, storage wars.

Even recovering from the c-section was familiar, though no less annoying or uncomfortable.  Now, two months later, my scar is light pink and fading and doesn’t feel as if a sneeze would rip it open and send my organs shooting across the room.  (A real, yet unreasonable, fear I had this time around.)  I’m able to walk on the treadmill and go up the stairs without pain.  Feeling more human and better armed to take care of my kids.

But those first few sleepless weeks?  Holy hell, they hurt.  Sleep was not a thing for many, many weeks.  I started to crack up a little, only sleeping an hour at a time.  Add that to the established needs and schedule of the Birdzone and my brain was slowly refusing to think thoughts due to lack of sleep.  I was once again confused about how the hell to snap up his overnight pajamas.  So much so that I ditched snaps entirely and the little guy been sleeping in those lovely sleep sacks for the last two months.  (We have an arsenal of them in rotation, because he has a tendency to tear through them with reckless, spit-uppy abandon.)  I may have cried at random a few times because I was so damn tired.  Thankfully, the little man has given in to sleep for three or four hours at a clip at night, so things are improving.

I also sort of forgot about breastfeeding.  I forgot the sound that the pump makes (that hiss-hiss-hiiiiiiiiss) and how cumbersome it is to use in public.  I forgot about the weird combination of pain and relief it physically provides.  And I forgot about the constant need to either feed or pump.

Last week, I officially started traveling again and for the first time used the pump in public places, like an empty conference room in Boston (thanks, Anna!) and the airplane bathroom.  With Birdy, I was reluctant to do anything breastfeeding-related in public because I was so unsure of myself, but this time necessity dictates my actions, so no time for shy.  On a plane this past Friday, I needed to pump and took zero time getting into the airplane bathroom and pumping for a few minutes.  Same in the airport (thank you, Mamava in the Atlanta airport).  Same at the meeting I attended at the University of Georgia, where I walked onto a college campus with my insulin pump in my pocket and my breast pump in my bag.  So far, we haven’t needed to bring formula into the equation (save for an ounce we needed to administer in the hospital – thanks, diabetes, for the delayed milk arrival and a dehydrated baby), and I’m hoping I can keep up with breast milk production despite returning to work travel.  Traveling with breastmilk through TSA is a hassle, though, so adding that to my already-diabetes influenced TSA troubles makes getting through security its own damn trip. Still working out the kinks there.

However, I do definitively recall the chaos that an infant brought to my diabetes care.  Until just a few days ago, my body was still adjusting to breastfeeding, so weird low blood sugars would come swooping in unpredictably after feeding or pumping.  Jars of glucose tabs were ripped through in record time.  I’m only now starting to even out and predict the hypos, which helps a ton.  But staying on top of things like checking my blood sugar and eating regularly remains tough.  Throw in a broken Dexcom receiver and a suddenly-dead transmitter and I’m in a world of data-free diabetes hurt.  New receiver should arrive tomorrow, along with new transmitter hopefully this week.  Setting an alarm on my phone to check my BG every two hours is helping me stay on top of things, but I’m having an A1C drawn this week and I know it’s going to be a far cry from the numbers I saw before and during pregnancy. I’m actively and aggressively trying to stay on top of diabetes needs despite wanting to shelve all that shit for a while.

But I also remembered that, with a baby comes this strong and steady flow of love.  Like so many other parents, I was a little worried that my heart would have trouble making room for another kid.  I was so, so wrong to worry.  There’s more than enough room for love this time around. This baby boy smiles at me and I become instantly stupid, all washed over with love for him.  He’s been here the whole time, only now I can hug him.

… he’s quite a dancer, too.

#diabetesdancedare party time. We challenge @textingmypancreas @mrmikelawson and Victor Montori.

A video posted by Kerri Sparling (@sixuntilme) on

 

“How do you explain diabetes to her?”

“How do you explain diabetes to her?”

How do you explain diabetes to your kid?  I wish there was a strategy, a predictable path that conversations about health and wellness could take, like when my daughter brings out The Game of Life and I want to replace all the normal life stuff with the diabetes versions I marked as milestones along the way.

  • First time checking my blood sugar on my own.
  • First time giving my own shot.
  • Explained diabetes to a new friend.
  • Went to a sleepover and my mom didn’t come with me.
  • Earned my driver’s license and permission to get a car after proving I would check my blood sugar every time before driving.
  • Going to the endocrinologist by myself.
  • Moving out and living alone.
  • Managing emotional and physical diabetes-related complications.
  • Creating a family (this would earn me more people in my little car, right?  “People” being the little matchstick shaped things you shoved into the plastic car.)
  • Living beyond diabetes.

Trouble is, there’s no set path that diabetes takes, even with the best intentions and optimal care.  And the milestones aren’t always triumphant.  I’d be inclined to roll again if I landed on the “Manage diabetes distress pockets” or “Deal with health-related discrimination” spaces.

How do I talk about the emotional stuff tied to diabetes without shuffling those emotions right onto my daughter?  When she asks questions like, “Does diabetes scare you?” or “Are you afraid I’ll get diabetes, too?” I’m reaching to roll again.

How do I explain diabetes to my most beloved Bird?  I don’t.  Not entirely.  We have conversations about normal things, with diabetes built into the context clues.  When she was very small, we talked about how she should not push the buttons on mommy’s pump.  As she grew up, we talked about why I wore an insulin pump and other mom’s did not.  Sometimes conversations about low blood sugars came up and we dealt with those as part of the moment instead of scheduling a sit-down discussion with flash cards and a quiz at the end.

But she’s tuned in, and she notices things.  And in the last year or so, she’s elected herself captain of my support team.  If my Dexcom low alarm goes off, she drops everything she’s going and comes over and wraps her arms around my waist.  I don’t know what prompts her to do this – sometimes I think it’s the vacant look in my eyes when I’m low that makes her feel the need to double-check on me.

“Does this help, Mom?”

“It does,” I say, through a mouthful of candy corn.  “You help.”

If she were to list five things about her mom, diabetes might be on that list.  But it comes with expectations of conferences at Disney World and friends around the world, and sure, there are doctor’s appointments and moments where I need a few extra minutes and sometimes I am distracted by the need to reapply a sensor or prick my finger and all these things that beep, but that’s life with this disease. Diabetes is a cumbersome to do list that comes with a monster under the bed who I don’t often make eye contact with.

But we manage.

Explaining diabetes to her is its own challenge.  But sometimes, through her eyes, she re-explains diabetes to me.

 

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