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Posts tagged ‘diabetic mommy’

Birdy the Kid and Jerry the Bear.

“Jerry has diabetes, like you do, mom.  So I give him food and insulin and check his blood sugar and he likes to play archery.”

A brief pause as Birdy rand her hands over Jerry’s soft bear ears.

“Mom, what’s archery?”


A photo posted by Kerri Sparling (@sixuntilme) on

[Disclosure:  Jerry was a gift from Hannah to Birdy.  We did not purchase Jerry.]

Yesterday, Hannah Chung from Sproutel kindly visited Birdzone and I to drop off a new friend for my daughter:  Jerry the Bear.  Jerry is a stuffed animal bear who has type 1 diabetes, and part of snuggling him and playing with him can also include checking his blood sugar by pressing a button on his paw.  Developed to help kids make sense of their own diabetes diagnosis, Jerry helps normalize diabetes by being a kindred spirit who also needs insulin and glucose tabs. 

He’s a stuffed animal who happens to have diabetes.  Similar to how I’m a mom who happens to have diabetes.

And that’s exactly how I want my daughter to learn about life with diabetes, with the constant, comfortable caveat that diabetes provides a to-do list, but it can be done.  And it can be fun.

Birdy knows quite a bit about diabetes, but mostly the brass tacks sort of stuff.  She likes to press the button on my lancing device (though she’s always surprised when a drop of blood comes out – “Does that hurt, Mom?”  “No, kiddo.”  “Are you sure?  Because I see blood.”), she prides herself on selecting the spot for my insulin pump infusion set, and she has a solid grasp on the meaning of the sounds ringing out from my Dexcom.

What she and I have not discussed, however, is what so many of the numbers mean.  She knows that my glucose meter gives me numbers of some kind and that I respond to them with certain sets of actions, but the numbers aren’t in context.  165 means the same at 50 means the same as 433 … nothing.  They are just numbers, or at least they were, until yesterday.  Yesterday, through her interactions with Jerry, Birdy learned what “high” and “low” look like as glucose numbers.

“Jerry is high.  See?  His number is one-seven-six.  He has to pee.  I need to give him some water and some insulin,” she said to me yesterday and she and Jerry were coloring at the kitchen table.

“Oh yeah?  So what will you do, then?”

“Mom, I already said I will give him insulin.  And some water.  I know what I’m doing.”

“Okay then,” and I turned away so she couldn’t see me smirking.

Later in the afternoon, she asked me how many glucose tabs she needed to give to Jerry if his blood sugar was low.

“How many do I usually take?” I asked her.

“You stack them up on the counter.  You take four.  Is four right, mom?”

(And this is where she teaches me something  – I do stack up the glucose tabs on the counter before I eat them.  I take out a set number and make sure I eat precisely what I take out, to help avoid over-treating and to also help protect me from forgetting to eat enough in the flurry of a hypoglycemic episode.)

“Yes, four should do it.”

“Okay.”  She “feeds” Jerry four glucose tabs and checks his blood sugar.  “Oh, I fixed it.  He’s not low anymore.”  She smiles, satisfied.  “Hey, do you know that if I smush his fur down and draw my finger through it, I can make eyebrows for Jerry?”

I want her to continue to draw eyebrows on Jerry.  Just because his little stuffed pancreas doesn’t splutter the way it should doesn’t mean he should have weak eyebrow game, yeah?

As she learns, I want her to feel safe and feel protected, empowered to ask and to help.  Resources like Jerry aren’t just for kids with diabetes, but for kids touched by diabetes on all levels.  I want my daughter to learn about my diabetes absent discussions about complications, fear, and pity.  I want her to see type 1 diabetes in the context of my actual life, which is filled with joy and chaos unrelated to my health.  She should know about this health condition because it’s part of what I do every day, and part of what she does, too, after a fashion.

Because it’s not about diabetes; it’s about life.

HypoPedicure.

“Mom, can I [something something] ?”

“Sure, kiddo,” I responded.  But I had no idea what she was asking me – her words were swirling around in the fog of my brain.  My blood sugar was 38 mg/dL and my Dexcom was wailing.  Chris was a few feet away, stirring something on the stove while he kept an eye on his wife.  “My blood sugar is really low, so I’m going to sit here for a few minutes.”

“Okay, that’s fine.  Do you need some glucose tabs?” she asked, sitting on the floor near my feet.

“I already had some.  I’ll be okay in a minute.  Don’t worry.”

What was directly in front of me hard sharp edges of focus, but everything on the peripheral was hard to see.  My body was concentrating on chewing and swallowing and trying to slow down the speed of my heartbeat in my ears.  I knew stable blood sugars were coming, but they needed a glucose jump-start.

“Okay, Mom.  I’ll just do this while I wait.”

And it wasn’t until later that night, after she had gone to bed and once I was readying myself for sleep, that I realized she spent the duration of my hypoglycemic episode painting my toenails bright pink with a glitter topcoat, globs of glitter and pink stretching all the way up to my ankle.

“Do you wish you didn’t have diabetes?”

“Hang on two more seconds, kiddo.  I need to check my blood sugar before we go.”

She watches me casually as she slides her arm through the sleeve of her sweatshirt.

“Mom, do you wish you didn’t have diabetes?”

She asks me this question all the time now.  While diabetes is not a secret in our house, it’s not a hot topic of conversation.  Instead, she sees what my pump looks like and knows what my Dexcom does, and she likes to push the button on my lancing device to deploy the needle when I need to check.  She knows that glucose tabs are for low blood sugars and that I apologize for being unreasonably grouchy when my blood sugar is frustratingly high.  A few times she’s seen me cry because I was low, but I try to explain to her that it feels bad in the moment but then I feel okay.  Most of this becomes threads in the fabric, but lately, she’s been asking me that one, specific question on repeat.

“Mom, do you wish you didn’t have diabetes?”

My answer is generally the same every time, because I don’t want to lie to her.  I am not filled with diabetes-loathing, and even though this disease is the single biggest negative issue I deal with every day, I don’t feel entirely devoured by it.  But I don’t fucking like this disease.  It’s a complicated half-way.  There are moments that are compromised, but my life as a whole is not.

“I don’t like having diabetes, but I’m fine.  I like having you.  And having Daddy.  And having Looper and Siah Sausage,” and then I deflect to something else because I don’t want to have long, drawn out discussions with my introspective daughter who has already queried me about how many birthdays people have left.

I think about how diabetes is something normal to her, and always has been.  Moms wear insulin pumps, and it furrowed her brow for years that my friends here at home don’t have a pump clipped to their hip.  Moms carry purses filled with crayons and hand wipes for kids, and then a jar of glucose tabs for when the car is hard to find in the parking lot.  Mom’s bike basket has a bottle of water and a Dexcom receiver in it.  Moms sometimes say, “Let me check my blood sugar first,” before going outside to play.  This is her normal, too.

“Mom, are you glad I don’t have diabetes?”

“I am glad you are exactly who you are.  If you ever get diabetes, we’ll handle it.  When it comes to cookies, we’re the toughest,” and I breathe out as slowly, slowly, slowly as I can.

Mommy’s Little Pack Mule.

Running alone brings out the Spibelt, and I cram it full of my on-the-move necessities:  glucose tabs, Dexcom receiver, keys, and phone.  Even though it’s reasonably streamlined and doesn’t bother me too much to tote around all that stuff, it’s a bulkier system than, oh, I don’t know … making my own insulin.

But lo!  The child rides a bike!  And insisted on having a bicycle basket!  To which I said, “Yes!  Excellent idea and can you please carry all my shit, too?” only I did not cuss at the child!

The miles might be logged a little slower than when I’m by myself, but there’s nothing more convenient than making use of her bike basket to carry all my diabetes stuff, and I love sharing some outside play moments with my daughter.

And she likes being in charge of such important things, since she is a “big girl” and can “carry the glucose tabs because then if I want a very, very, very small bite of a glucose tabs, I can just reach in and have one, right, Mawm?”

“Sure.  But only if you make sure you slow down if I need a glucose tab, okay?”

Bartering with my happy little helper of a diabetes pack mule.

How It Might Look.

Birdy tore by on a scooter and another little kid followed closely with a plastic shopping cart crammed with toy food.

“We’re superheroes!!!”  she yelled, out of breath as she zipped by.

“I can tell!” I answered, looking up from my papers.

I am the mom at playgroups who spends some of the time staring at an open Word document on my laptop, tapping away on the keys until the letters Centipede themselves around the screen and eventually come to form coherent thoughts.  I’m the mom who gets on the trampoline with her kid (and immediately wishes that she didn’t, mostly because I spend the whole time panicking about one of us falling off the edge).  And I’m the mom who occasionally fumbles through her purse and pulls out a piece of technology and stares at the graph on the screen, or grabs another piece of tech and bleeds with precision on it, or ferrets out a blue jar and eats several of those … giant smarties?

I am a mom with type 1 diabetes.

I sometimes wonder how it might look, through the eyes of the other parents and caregivers.  Do they think it’s gross that I deal with blood at playgroup?  Do they notice that I use hand wipes and carefully wipe down anything I’ve touched after testing my blood sugar, not because I’ve bled on everything but more because I want to demonstrate my respect for anyone’s potential concerns?  Do they think I’m a sugar-addict, sometimes popping glucose tabs into my mouth and simultaneously wiping beads of hypoglycemia sweat off my forehead?  Do they notice that my outfits always have a small pump bulge and usually some trailing tubing?  Do they think it’s unfashionable to have glucose tab dust smeared on the front of my shirt?

Diabetes parenting ... and a tutu.  Who doesn't love a good tutu?

Old school Bird

What’s most likely is that they don’t notice at all.  What feels like a big deal to me at times seems like an unremarkable blip on their overall parenting radar.  They probably see another parent, just doing their parenting thing, and are unaware of the small, tangible differences.  (I bet they’d notice if I didn’t shower, though.  That’s a hard one to miss.)

“Mom, come make pretend pudding with me!  In this little, toy kitchen with these real other kids!”

“Pretend pudding?  How can I resist?”

I am a mom with diabetes, not a-bunch-of-diabetes with a side of motherhood.  The proof is in the (pretend) pudding.

 

Ironmom.

“I really like Ironman.  And Superman.  And Spiderman.”  She paused.  “But not the Hulk, because he smashes things.  Why he smashes things?”

“He gets angry and that anger makes him turn into the giant green guy, and he smashes.”

My daughter, thanks to her father’s affinity for all-things superhero, has developed a taste for the slate of superheros and supervillains.  She rocks her Superman t-shirt at school, and her Batman pajamas at home with both encouraging regularity and vigor.  But that’s the nature of her being three years old – she is learning so much every day, taking in her surroundings and chewing on them until they make sense for her.

Part of what she’s hyper-fixated on, in addition to superheroes, is the location of  my Dexcom and insulin pump.  At least once a day, she asks me to show her my devices.

“Where is your Dexcom, mawm?” she asks me, patting my leg knowingly.

“Right here, on my right leg.”

“And your pump is right here, right?”  she asks, pressing her finger against the screen.

“Exactly.”

The other day, Birdy was troubled because she couldn’t find my insulin pump in the dress I was wearing.  “Mom, where is your pump?”

“It’s in the front of my dress, here,” I said, pointing to where the pump was clipped to my bra (disco boob style).

She contemplated this for a minute, and I could see the laundry list of information she’s been collecting in the last few weeks rolling around in the dryer in her head.

“You’re like Ironman, mawm.”

“Ironmom?”

She laughed that wild, unfettered laugh of a toddler who just learned what “a joke” is.

“Yeah!  Ironmom!  You made a joke.”

Take Good Care of Me.

Hi, Sara(aaah)!

Early Bird art, circa April 2013. The Hello Kitty period.

“I’m going to draw a picture of Grandpa.”

“Okay, so where do you start?”

She put her finger to her lips, pondering.  “How about … a head!  With two eyes!  And a nose with nostrils.  And some cheeks.”

Birdy pressed her pen against the paper, painstakingly drawing a circle for the head, and then two eyes, and a nose.  Her attention to detail shows me how much of the world she draws in through her eyes.

“So then … a neck?”  She draws a nice, loooong neck.  (Her people sometimes look like the kin of giraffes.)  “And then some shoulders and a necklace?”

“Does Grandpa wear a necklace?”

“No …” She thinks again.  “He wears a watch.  And then … hmmm … what else he has on his body?”

“Well, people have lots of the same body parts.  Two eyes, two ears, nostrils, teeth, a neck.  Look at mommy’s body – what do I have that Grandpa also has?”

She surveyed my body closely.  “We already has the eyes.  And the nose.  Oh, knees!!”  Pressing the pen to her notebook with satisfaction, some knees were added to her drawing.  “But not a Dexcom.  You have a Dexcom.  You has one but I don’t have one. Or Grandpa doesn’t have one.  You have it.”

“True.  But what does it do?”

“It goes ‘BEEEEEP!’ when you need glupose tabs or if you need some insuwin.”

“Right.  It helps me do my job.  Because what’s my job?”

“To take good care of me,” she says, concentrating hard as she gave Grandpa a second nose.

 

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