Skip to content

Posts from the ‘Real Life Diabetes’ Category

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


Type 1 Origins: Talking Comic Books with Partha Kar.

Dr. Partha Kar

Dr. Kar has been a Consultant in Diabetes & Endocrinology at Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust since 2008 and the Clinical Director of Diabetes from 2009-2015.  One of his main areas or passion is in helping to redesign diabetes care in an attempt to integrate chronic disease management across primary and secondary care.  He’s won many awards and has helped patients with diabetes across the spectrum.  I’ve been following UK endocrinologist Dr. Partha Kar on Twitter for ages now and have been watching the development of his type 1 diabetes-centric comic book with excitement.  Just recently, the comic was released into the wild.

The superhero twist that wraps around the diabetes narrative makes the idea all the more interesting.  According to the comic intro, “As comic and superhero fans, it seemed to us that there were some parallels between the times when a type 1 diabetes diagnosis is made and when a superhero discovers their powers for the first time. There is often shock and surprise among the feelings experienced in both situations, followed by acceptance and adaptation.”

I couldn’t agree more, and was thrilled that Dr. Kar took a few minutes of his time to answer some questions about his work, the comic, and the DOC.

–   –   –

Kerri: Thanks for taking the time to answer a few questions, Dr. Kar! Can you give me a little background on your involvement with the diabetes online community, and how diabetes has touched your life, personally?

Dr. Kar: Social media and interaction with the DOC probably has been the biggest education I have received in my career. Its been fun, enjoyable and educational and I have enjoyed so much of it! Personally, this is my life, my work, my job and everyday in one way or another, diabetes always affects what I do – much needs to improve in my view. I see folks struggle every day with little things – somehow it would be nice if even a little bit of that could be improved.

Kerri: I’ve been watching the development of your T1D-centric comic book with great interest from the US. Can you tell me a bit about why you created this comic?

Dr. Kar: Comics are great source of education-as far as I am concerned – I have always loved how they have explored the issues of social isolation (X men); teenage angst (Spiderman) etc. and has always been one of my loves of life. Somehow it seemed natural to join that and diabetes together – it felt like a medium which hasn’t been used much – and perhaps could help with showcasing type 1 diabetes and raising awareness.

Kerri: What makes the narrative of diabetes so important, in your opinion?

Dr. Kar: Diabetes is and always has been a multifaceted condition – ignorance towards it – or simply labeling it as a condition of “being unhealthy” is wrong on so many levels, let alone the different types which are totally different entities. Its important we make that clear.  Type 1 and type 2 diabetes are fundamentally different with fundamentally different needs – it’s important as HCPs that we help in raising this awareness too.

Kerri: Who helped you bring your creative vision for the diabetes comic to fruition?

Dr. Kar: As regards the comic book, big thank you to many individuals. I don’t have type 1 diabetes – it would be silly as fellas wrong for me to do the narrative – I wouldn’t even know what it is to have a hypo. Thus, my huge thank you to Andy Broomhead, Jen Blackwell, Laura Cleverly, and Joe Griffiths who helped create the story board. Danny Mclaughin from Revolve Comics was the dude who brought it all to life – while my co-conspirator was Dr. Mayank Patel- we have always call each other Bruce & Clark. I will let you figure out who is who!

Kerri: What are you hoping to accomplish with this piece? And what part of the comic are you most proud of?

Dr. Kar: Raising awareness is a key theme, as well as maybe helping to explain type 1 diabetes to someone newly diagnosed slightly differently. My analogy is that its perhaps like a super power – but not one which people want – sort of like the Hulk, who spends his entire life trying to find the cure but along the way, learns to live with it, sometimes control it … a super power he never wanted in the first place. Proudest part? Perhaps the panel where the character meets someone he knows and understands he is not “alone.”

Quality nod to S.H.I.E.L.D.

Kerri: Outside of the comic trade, I know you’re actively involved with the diabetes community as a healthcare professional. What is your background as a healthcare provider, and how does that background intersect with your creative outreach efforts?

Dr. Kar: I like trying different things- for example a one stop shop for those with type 1 diabetes or indeed TED style talks. I like changing things, shaping new things, exploring new horizons … I suppose I like a challenge and for certain, improving type 1 diabetes care is no small one. I have a huge desire to improve type 1 diabetes care – let’s see where it takes me!

Kerri: How can readers of Six Until Me check out your comic book? And also, how can they connect with you on social media?

Dr. Kar: Comic book is free! Go to Revolve Comics and feel free to download- use it, spread the word and hey if you like it and want more, come back with ideas! Who knows – I have ideas swirling in my head about turning this into an animation … early days but who knows!

As regards getting in touch- just follow me on Twitter (@parthaskar) and feel free to poke, ask anything you want. As I say to all and sundry, if asked with respect, no question is tough- if I don’t know it, I will be the first one to put my hand up. I look forward to interacting with as many folks with T1D as I can.  As I said, it’s always such a fab learning opportunity and I genuinely enjoy the chats.

 –   –   –

Thanks for chatting with me, Dr. Kar, and I’m looking forward to more from your team of superheroes!  To download the comic, visit Revolve Comics and you can grab it for free.

Mystery Date.

There was a board game marketed to girls back in the 60’s that resurfaced again in the 90’s, and that’s when I met Mystery Date.  It was a silly game where you tried to assemble an outfit for a date and then you opened the little plastic door to see if your outfit matched that of the Mystery Date guy.  (For example: if you had assembled the “beach” outfit and opened the door to reveal the guy dressed for a “formal dance,” you lost … the game, and also 20 minutes of your life to this stupid, sexist game.)

But Mystery Date popped into my head for a reason.  Since having my son, I’ve been working to wean myself off the Boston-based care team in pursuit of more hyper-local providers (and because I loathe the arrival/departure board at Joslin).  The promise of pregnancy now the past, I don’t feel the same push to make the long ass drive to Boston in order to meet my medical needs.  So in the last few weeks, I’ve been working to assemble a new, short-drive team of healthcare providers.  I currently have new appointments with an OB/Gyn, a primary care doctor, and am gently shopping for a new endocrinologist.  (I plan to keep seeing the team at Boston to track my existing eye complications, as I don’t want that crap going off the rails.)

Finding new providers is kind of like Mystery Date.  I spend a lot of time combing my insurance company’s website to see who is covered by my plan, then calling those HCPs to see if they are taking new patients, and then getting all of my records shipped from previous providers to the new team.  Then I open the little plastic … I mean, the regular-sized medical office door to see if what I’ve assembled matches what’s being provided.

Finding a new healthcare provider is similar to starting a relationship.  There’s this slightly awkward breaking in period where you are both getting to know one another, and then either the confirmation that, yes, personalities and needs are lining up or NO WAY expectations are way maligned.  For me, I crave a personal relationship with my healthcare team, one that the healthcare system barely makes room for.  Being treated as a whole person provides the best health outcomes for me; it’s important for my team to see my health concerns in the context of real life.

Otherwise, it’s like showing up dressed for the BIG SKI TRIP only to see that your healthcare professional is more into a romantic picnic.  Or worse …  the experience goes full DUD.


Day in the Life of a New (Old) Mom … with Diabetes.

Six years ago, I was adjusting to motherhood for the first time during Diabetes Blog Week, and one of the post prompts was to write about a day in the life with diabetes.  My day in the life was flanked on all sides by figuring out what to do with a newborn, so I chronicled that.

And just before my son was born, I thought maybe – maybe? – I’d be less of a mess this time around?  Maybe I’d have things a bit more figured out, and a day in the life post wouldn’t read like a desperate plea for help?

Once again, ha.

A Day in the Life of a New (Old) Mom … with Diabetes.

6.30 am – Hi, little baby!  Let’s do this feeding/changing diaper thing … again, because it’s not like 6.30 is the first time our tiny tomato goes off.  On the overnight, the baby wakes up around 2.30 and then again around 6, so we’re hardly breaking a fast when breakfast time rolls around.  The main diabetes thing I do at this point is check my CGM graph, because the baby is usually fussing for food, so even the 45 seconds it takes to check my BG is not happening.  (What – did you want me to lie and say I am totally on top of my diabetes stuff?  Nope.)

7.30 am – It takes me about 30 minutes to change and feed the baby, and then I go into the bathroom to clean teeth, find face, etc.  It’s at this point that I should be pricking my finger to check my fasting BG, but my alarm usually goes off (set for 7.30 am, just in case, even though it is redundant when pitted against the baby) and then I have to run back into the bedroom and turn the alarm off so that it doesn’t disturb the sleeping babe.  At this point, I forget what I was doing and am only positive I brushed my teeth based on the delightfully minty taste in my mouth.

7.33 am – Check my CGM graph again.  Showing 60 mg/dL.  I’ll check my BG officially when I go downstairs to make breakfast, but for now I need to get ahead of that low and have something to eat before the breastfeeding aftermath hypo moment kicks in.  Hi, banana.  I’ll eat you.

7.35 am – Time to wake up the Birdzone and get her sorted for school.

7.40 am – “What do I need to do again?”  “Brush your teeth, go to the bathroom, and put your clothes on for school.”  We have the same conversation every.  single.  morning.  Hasn’t changed in two years.  Yet she still wonders what the morning routine involves.  (Note:  now the morning routine involves my head popping off and the subsequent reassembly of aforementioned head.)

7.41 am – Dexcom alarm is still going off, but I drank the half-kicked juicebox that has been on my bedside table for the last three days.  Relieved it hadn’t turned to wine after sitting out that long.  Or maybe I wish it had turned to wine.  #jesusjuicebox

7.45 am – 8.20 am – This is a messy pocket of time during which Chris and I orbit around one another in the kitchen, making breakfast, making school lunch, assembling work bags, finding shoes, checking on baby (who is usually asleep in the bouncy chair in the kitchen, blissfully unaware of the circus), etc.  Usually, I check my blood sugar during this time, and most often calibrate my CGM.  At 8.20-ish, Chris and Birdy head to the bus stop and I think about combing my hair.  (I do not actually comb it, though.)

NOTE:  I forced myself to ditch the extra-strength Tylenol prescribed to manage post c-section pain because it rendered my Dexcom useless.  The data from my CGM is beyond instrumental in helping me keep my wits intact in this postpartum period.  Blood sugars are very unpredictable as I adjust from pregnancy insulin rates to postpartum rates, in addition to the chaotic ebb and flow caused by breastfeeding.  I could manage without the CGM, but it’s much, much easier to feel safe and like I have some semblance of a clue when the graph data is streaming.  Dexcom gives me the 30 lives I need on some days, Contra-style.

[And I do have a relationship with Dexcom – disclosures here.]

8.30 am – noon – My intentions are good in this block of time.  I usually boot up my computer and open my email, letting the messages come flooding in.  I read every single email, and in my head, I compose useful responses … that never end up being typed and sent, because this block of time also includes a baby who needs to be fed twice.  I use the breast pump once (to build a supply stash for when I start traveling for work again).  I try and check my blood sugar once or twice more.  I spend at least half an hour coordinating the next round of pediatrician appointments, surgery follow-ups, and attempts at assembling a medical team here in Rhode Island (moving my care away from Boston now that I’m done pursuing pregnancies … more on that another day).  Oh, and there are baby snuggles.  MANY.  Because I did not work this hard for a baby to not snuggle the hell out of him.

So basically, I get a lot of important things done in this timeframe as it relates to keeping my son happy and cared for, but I’m spinning my wheels in a lot of other departments.  That’s okay – it’s Baby Time for the next few weeks/months, and I’m happy about that.

Noon-thirty – Tomato Man and I go for a walk around the neighborhood (using the stroller on days when I’m trending lower blood sugars, and on days when my BG is more stable, I wear him and walk that way).  This walk is necessary because it gets me out of the house and ups my mental health and happiness.

1.30 pm – Hey, lunch would be awesome, right?  I’m still trying to cook more at home/make some vegetable-based options, so my culinary creativity is at a high (despite cooking talent remaining woefully low).  I am not ravenously hungry most of the time, but I do want to snack/eat a small meal every two and a half hours or so (modeling my behavior after that of my son’s).  I’m kind of into protein balls (uncomfortable phrase) these days, and one version I like a lot is a peanut butter/pumpkin seed iteration that’s easy enough on my blood sugars but packs a caloric punch that keeps me from falling asleep.  (Will post the recipe tomorrow!)

2.00 pm – Baby snuggles.  And let’s feed him.  Oh, and snuggle him again. And restock the ever-waning supply of diapers and wipes.

3.15 pm – Use the breast pump.  (Our boy lost a fair amount of weight after delivery, so our pediatrician has been following his weight gain with interest.  We’re back up to birth weight, but our doctor has encouraged us to supplement breastfeedings with bottles of pumped breastmilk in order to ensure the little guy is getting enough.  So when he’s not attached to me, physically, the breast pump is.  Thankfully, he bounces easily from breast to bottle, so we’re thankful he’ll eat in a variety of ways.  Also, if you have dissenting opinions on how babies should be fed, can we just agree that babies should be fed, and leave it at that?)

4-something ish – Birdy’s school bus comes roaring through the neighborhood, and she comes scrambling off it, regaling me with stories about first grade and how much she missed her brother.  “I missed you, Birdy!”  “Yeah, but I missed HIM!”

4.30 – 6.30 pm – Another mangled window of time during which the baby is fed, changed, and snuggled.  Chris usually arrives home in this pocket.  Birdy (and a cast of characters from our neighborhood) rotate from house to house on their bikes, the embodiment of every gang of kids on bikes from 80’s movies.  I remember that I haven’t checked my blood sugar in a few hours, so I do that.  Dinner is assembled.  Dishes are ignored.  Loopy builds a biplane.

7.30 pm – Birdy gets a bath or a shower, and while she’s in there, I charge my CGM receiver or my pump (depending on which one is more depleted).  I’ve been trying to stick with changing my pump site every three days (the reminder for the site change on the t:slim is very useful these days, as I forget my name, nevermind when I last put an infusion set in).  Changing the site is hard sometimes because I hate wasting insulin, and sometimes my reservoir (even half filled) will last four days without any trouble.  I like using every last drop.

8.15 pm – Birdy is tucked into bed.  (When she actually falls asleep remains the mystery.)  Chris and I start to get punchy, realizing we haven’t properly slept through the night in weeks, and we know another long night is on tap.  And then the baby wakes up because hey, it’s getting dark out, and that means it’s time to wake up!

9.30 pm – I look at my email, cry, and shut my computer.  I eat a yogurt and wonder if it’s okay to eat these chickpea things straight from the bag with a spoon.

9.31 pm – I grab a spoon.

10 pm – Medical onslaught time.  As I’m getting ready to close up for the night, I need to take my blood thinner injection (thank you, Factor V Leiden and c-section combination – three more weeks of shooting up and then I’m DONE), my blood pressure medication (back on that as of last week), check my blood sugar, make sure my pump has enough insulin to last through the night, make sure my CGM receiver is charged, and that my bedside table is stocked with a glass of water (breastfeeding makes me dehydrated as eff) and something to treat low blood sugars with.  Baby is fed and changed, and tucked into his proper bed (in our bedroom).

And as I’m about to fall asleep, I realize we made it through another day, and we’re adjusting the best way we know how.  The exhaustion will give way to more sleep, and eventually we’ll be a few months out from life with a newborn and more in the swing of things.  (I know I will miss the warm, snuggly newborn cuddles a ton.)

We don’t have everything figured out, because our son is completely different from our daughter, so what we knew to expect is braided with a hefty dose of “what the hell do we do with that?!” sort of sentiment.  I have realized that all the preparing we did for our second child doesn’t actually prepare us … we’re still hot messes of exhaustion and confusion and hope.

And I also realize that it looks like I’m into some kinky stuff, considering the bag of marshmallows on the bedside table.  Whatever.  When you’re hypo, anything goes.

This is Thirty.

This is thirty years with type 1 diabetes.

I used to think it would stop me from enjoying life.  Now I realize that I’ve lived with this disease for thirty years and have brought it down the aisle, on stage, and around the world with me.  It hasn’t stopped me from doing a damn thing … other than making insulin.  But that’ll work itself out in, what … five to ten years?

Enormous hugs to everyone living with diabetes.  You kick ass every day, even when you feel like you have no idea what you’re doing.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox

Join other followers