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Posts from the ‘Diabetic Mommy’ Category

From NOPE to Yes.

My friend Susan is a huge part of the Postpartum Progress group, and on her Facebook feed I saw an article that she had shared.  I like to see what my friends are working in and sharing in and out of the diabetes space, so I clicked.

Reading through the postpartum depression list had me nodding a little bit.  But the postpartum anxiety list had me leaning forward, nervous that I was finding myself in almost every bullet point.

This one in particular:

You are worried. Really worried. All. The. Time. Am I doing this right? Will my husband come home from his trip? Will the baby wake up? Is the baby eating enough? Is there something wrong with my baby that I’m missing? No matter what anyone says to reassure you, it doesn’t help.

After my daughter was born, I did not worry all the time.  I worried in a way that felt normal, about her eating patterns and my ability to meet them, or whether I buckled her in the carseat the right way … that sort of thing.  The worrying started right after she was born and was background noise by the time she was six months old.

With my son, everything was worry.  I worried the whole time I was pregnant, reluctant to get too excited or attached.  I kept thinking the pregnancy was ending, even though I saw his dancing little self on the ultrasound screen every few weeks.  My friends and family wanted to throw a baby shower and I avoiding committing to the idea for weeks, nervous that celebrating his soon-to-be arrival date would somehow make him not come.

After he was born, I worried incessantly about my health, and his.  My second c-section wasn’t as easy as my first, and I recovered slowly.  My son had swallowed some amniotic fluid during birth and he spent the first three days choking slightly and needing to have the fluid cleared from his mouth and through via suction.  We knew he needed assistance when he would gag and cough and then flap his arms because he couldn’t breathe.  The nurses in the hospital told us to push the call button immediately if he did this, so they could come in and help.

“This is normal.  It’s common for babies to experience this the first few days after birth.  He will clear the fluid out and be fine; don’t worry.”

Except I worried.  Like professional grade worry.  I was afraid to leave his side because I thought he was going to choke to death in his sleep.

No one on my medical team was panicking about anything at all, yet I was panicking about everything.  When my son settled into a pattern of waking up every 20 minutes for the first 11 weeks of his life, exhaustion and anxiety dominated my mind.  I wasn’t myself for the first three months.  Which makes sense, considering the little bits of chaos we were managing, on so little sleep.

But around the 3 1/2 month mark, he started to sleep.  And my incision was healing.  And blood sugars were becoming more predictable, even with exclusive breastfeeding. Things should have been feeling better, but I had some trouble appreciating the things that were going right as I was already halfway down the anxiety slide at all times.  I had horrible thoughts all the time, born out of innocuous moments.

Like I’d be pushing the stroller around the neighborhood and mentally picture the stroller tipping over and my son’s body crushed.  Or a big hawk would fly overhead and I’d immediately picture the bird coming down and jamming its beak into my son’s leg.  (Fucking bird.  I had this particular thought often.  Weird shit, the mind.)  The thoughts would come ramming into my brain and I’d immediately banish them, saying, “Nope.  Nope, nope, nope,” to myself and physically shaking them free from my head, but I was feeling anxious regardless.  I had zero desire/thought to hurt myself or my child, but I kept picturing some scenario where he’d get hurt.

I felt like I was in fight-or-flight mode at all times.

Reading that list of symptoms jolted something inside of me.  I showed the list to Chris to see if that list put words to any concerns that he had.

“Seeing this all written down, I do see a lot of these in you,” he admitted.

I called my OB/GYN that afternoon and made an appointment.  After a screening process and a discussion about my concerns (including telling her that I called mainly because a list of symptoms had me nodding “Yes” to almost every single one) my OB agreed that there was some kind of postpartum thing going on.

“You have experienced a few things that would influence this kind of response, like infertility for several years.  And pregnancy after loss.  And then a complicated pregnancy due to diabetes.  And then deciding on permanent sterilization.  And then the sleep issues after birth.  One of those things might be enough to warrant intervention; all of those things definitely might.”

I felt weird that I was experiencing this stuff five months out instead of immediately after birth.  She reassured me that it happens often enough this way.  She made a recommendation for medication, I told her I wanted to try therapy before medication, and she deferred to my requested treatment.

“While you wait on your therapy appointment, I’d suggest that you get outside.  Often. And don’t stay holed up in your house; see your neighbors, call your friends, be as social as you can in efforts to help keep you from feeling so overwhelmed by the worries.  It might help.  And if you feel worse in any way at all, you need to call us,” she said, handing me a card with the therapist group’s number on it.  “This team will call you today or tomorrow.”

It felt oddly comforting to identify what was going on in my mind as something that could be addressed.  That I wasn’t stuck feeling this way forever.  That others have felt this way, too.  That there’s a light at the end of this sometimes dark tunnel that has made me feel so very much unlike my normal self.

And now?  I’m trying to ask for help instead of feeling like I have to shoulder the anxiety and chaos on my own.  My mother has been instrumental in helping me maintain my mental health, coming by regularly to spend a few hours with the baby and help with laundry.  My son is currently at my aunt’s house while I work from a coffee shop down the street.  My husband is quick to step in and make it possible for me to exercise daily.  And my friends in the neighborhood and beyond are vital to my mental health checklist, serving as people I can see throughout the week so that I don’t feel confined to my house. (Working from home with the baby makes for very long and lonely days without much grown-up interaction.)

There’s a network of people I can lean on, helping whittle some of the anxiety off me and reminding me that I’m still here, underneath all these worries.  That it’ll be okay.

And that?  That gets a big Yes, yes, YES.

 

“How is it going?”

“Oh, I had so much trouble even getting out of the house when my babies were little.  You seem like you have it all together,” said the physical therapist as she massaged the tendons in my arm to alleviate the inflammation (thanks, tennis elbow as a result of playing … baby tennis?)

I would have laughed really hard if she hadn’t been pressing on the ouchiest bits right then.

“Smoke and mirrors.  Also, you haven’t seen my house or my inbox, so hold your praise,” I replied, wincing as her fingertips worked their way between my tendons.

Nothing is “all together” these days.  Everything feels held together by minty floss, so it smells sort of nice but is flimsy and ready to split.  On the surface, there are appear to be people moving around in my house that are reasonably clean and fed, but scratch that surface and you’ll find so much mess.

I’m struggling to find some peace in this mess.  Laundry is a constant battle (one six year old who loves messy craft projects plus a little baby with reflux and spitty-uppiness plus a guy who works out a lot plus a woman who tries to work out and who also is a target of aforementioned spit-up) and there’s at least two laundry baskets with contents that require folding and putting away at any given moment.  Also, if you open the dryer, there’s probably a load of laundry in there, too, waiting to be discovered and cursed at.

And then there’s the medical stuff.  Coordinating care for Birdy and Chris is one thing, but now we have the little Guy and he sees the pediatrician once a month (he’s little, so we check on his weight regularly and also there’s that reflux thing that’s being monitored/treated), so there’s that added mess.  Also, I’m back in physical therapy for de Quervain’s tendonitis (this happened with Birdy, as well – more on that later this week) and also seeing a dermatologist regularly in efforts to beat back the Dexcom rash (more on that ASAP).  I’ve met with a local endo and a new primary care doctor, as well, debating which to keep and where to keep trying. Lots of EOBs and calls to my medical insurer and let’s not forget the ebb and flow of diabetes supplies like insulin, test strips, Dexcom sensors, pump supplies, blood pressure medication, and all the other shit.  The phone feels permanently stuck to my ear and I’m on hold a lot.

Not to mention my lovely email inbox, which is brimming with interesting stuff that I can’t wait to dive into but sometimes comes to a boil in there because it can take me a full hour to answer one email.  (I’ve been doing a little bit of writing, though, and that’s felt good.  Sometimes it’s through the Notes feature on my phone, or in a long text message to myself, but it is happening.  Funny how creative juices flow alongside breastmilk at 4 am.)

Sleep is still at a minimum lately, with my son reverting back to his waking up every three hours for the last few nights, making us both a drooling mess at times during the day.  The lack of sleep is causing brain stalls, and I’ll stand in the middle of the kitchen wondering where the hell my keys are only to find them the hell in my hand.

I’m feeling very mired in motherhood details these days, and while I’m entirely grateful for the chance to parent these two littles, sometimes I’m a little burnt out on the daily tasks.  The list of items I want to tackle every day grows and I find myself only ticking off one or two items at a time instead of charging through the list with a face full of iced coffee and a pitchfork of productivity.  I’m itching to travel again, to get out and be working in full, proving to myself that I’m able to love and raise my children while also loving and raising my career.

“How is it going?” is a question many people ask, and sometimes my response is to show them my silly daughter and my smiling son and beam with pride.  Or my response is an exasperated sigh and a mention of house crap that’s gone undone.

Unfortunately sometimes it feels like the right thing to reply with is the “smoke and mirrors” claim, like I’m not able to say, “Some stuff is a disaster but I am doing really well with lots of other stuff.”  I have to force myself to step back from what I perceive as “the mess” and realize that I am doing a lot, and loving a lot of it, and allowing things like un-emptied driers and missed phone calls to be forgiven.

Sweet boy

A photo posted by Kerri Sparling (@sixuntilme) on

Is it all together here?  Oh hell no.  Have I taken some very long and unintentional breaks from blogging and answering emails and putting on matching socks?  Oh hell yes.  But my focus is different these days.  It’s been more about talking with my daughter about her day at school and working on a craft project with her.  Or holding my son close after he’s done eating and tracing the side of his chubby cheek with my fingertip.  Or taking a morning to go work and leaving all housework and kids in the care of trusted family and friends.

It’s not all together, but it’s not all smoke and mirrors, either.  It’s all hard work.  And love.  And the constant ding of the dryer.

Word Choice.

“Mom, why do you wear that bracelet again?”

She knows why, but every few months, she asks again.  Why do I wear a medical alert bracelet?  Why is that thing as important to leaving the house as having my keys?

“I wear it because it says I have diabetes, just in case someone needs to know.”

“Why would they need to know?”

“In case I wasn’t able to say it myself.  Like if we happened to be in an accident or something, or if I was asleep.”

She thinks about this.

Medical alert bracelet #diabetes

A photo posted by Kerri Sparling (@sixuntilme) on

“Is this why we have a house phone?”

“Yes.”  She knows the reason but asks anyway.  We decided to get a landline telephone in the event that there was a storm that knocked the power out, or if we had a babysitter and needed to call the house.  Or if my husband or children ever needed to call 911 on my behalf.  “We have a house phone on the waaaaay off chance that I’d have trouble waking up because of a low blood sugar.  You know, if I was passed out.”

I forget that the words we use matter.  That they are easily confused and conflated.  That she’s just a little kid.

“Passed out?!!”

“Yes, but that’s a very rare thing.  It hasn’t ever happened to me.  It probably won’t ever happen, but it’s smart to be prepared, just in case.”

“PASSED OUT?!!!”

It was then that I remember hearing her and her friend talking about her friend’s grandmother, who had recently passed away.

“OUT, honey.  Not AWAY.  Passed out means I would be having trouble waking my brain and body up and need extra help.  Not dead.  It’s very different,”  I scooped her up and held her close, aiming to hug the panic away from her as I listed all the reasons why passed out was different from passed away and also how it wouldn’t ever happen to me, right?  Right.

The reality of my own thoughts every night before bed stood in contrast to the confidence in my voice talking to Birdy.  The thought is fleeting, but also sharp and cuts through my mettle, reminding me that diabetes looks easy and seems quiet but exists with an undercurrent of worry.

And I’m learning that I’m not the only one who worries.

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.

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