3 Ways Having Type 1 Diabetes Makes Me a Better Parent
There was absolutely a time in my life when I firmly believed I shouldn’t get pregnant and give birth to my own children because of reasons like, “This body isn’t a good environment for a baby to grow inside of” or “My body is under enough stress, why would I put it through pregnancy?”
And what about after the baby was born? Surely that baby would interfere with my own self-care of the chronic illnesses I’ve been diagnosed with.
And for some, those may be very valid reasons not to become pregnant, but for me, I’m actually pretty darn healthy despite having type 1 diabetes, celiac disease and fibromyalgia. On paper, when you don’t look at those diagnoses, I’m a healthy gal at a healthy weight, healthy blood pressure, yada yada yada. No doctor had ever told me I couldn’t pursue pregnancy. If anything, the opposite was encouraged.
About two years after falling in love with my husband, it suddenly dawned on me: I can absolutely handle pregnancy and giving birth to my own children. I can do this. And I want this.
I was suddenly done letting fear stand in the way of something I genuinely wanted: creating a family with my husband.
Here are three reasons I am so grateful I didn’t let fear prevent me from pursuing pregnancy and motherhood:
1. It gave me a new appreciation for what my body can do.
My body can’t produce insulin. My body can’t digest gluten properly. My body severely overreacts with symptoms of intense pain and extreme exhaustion for reasons medical researchers still don’t understand when I use my muscles and joints for anything beyond the mundane tasks of daily life.
But my body can create this life. This gorgeous, happy, healthy little baby girl…my body made her. Sure, my husband helped, but my body did the majority of the work. Me! My body! This body that has turned against me in so many ways and failed me in ways that will forever continue to impact every hour of my life is also incredibly powerful and capable. Knowing this leaves me feeling far more grateful for what my body can do and far less concerned with all of the things it can’t.
(Although, don’t get me wrong: this doesn’t mean I didn’t whine and complain regularly during my pregnancies!)
2. Persevering and improvising when facing challenges and obstacles are no big deal.
When you live with a chronic illness like type 1 diabetes that requires non-stop micromanagement, planning, reacting, checking, fixing and saving…you’ve already mastered many of the skills required for parenting.
I already know how to effortlessly pack the diaper bag for everything one might need over the next five hours because every time I leave the house as a person with diabetes, I have to be prepared for low blood sugars, high blood sugars, diabetes technology issues and many daily blood glucose tests.
I haven’t been the kind of person who can just leave the house with $20 in their pocket and the car keys since I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 13. I always need at least four or five things with me in order to ensure that I will be safe and alive for the next four or five hours.
When it comes to managing the needs of a baby or a toddler, honestly, it’s certainly never easy, but it’s also not the hardest part of my day either.
3. My chronic illnesses inevitably teach my children about bravery, strength and self-discipline.
My 2-year-old daughter has already seen me – Mommy – give myself probably 100 insulin injections right before her eyes.
If she’s near me when I need to give myself an injection, I simply say, “Mommy is taking her medicine,” so she knows to give me space – which she learned instinctively and immediately before she was even 2 years old. She watches quietly and waits until I’m finished before giving me a hug and asking me to come play by grabbing my finger and pulling me in her direction.
As she gets older and becomes aware of mommy checking her blood sugar before getting behind the wheel, or treating a low blood sugar while we’re in the middle of an activity, or counting my carbohydrates carefully so I know much insulin to dose for my meal, she inevitably learns what it means to be both vulnerable and strong.
Having a chronic illness (or several) as a parent doesn’t have to take away from my ability to parent my children – even if there are moments when I have to say “pause” or pop them in front of the TV quickly to take care of myself during more emergent issues. If anything, I have no doubt that my daughters will grow up to be more empathetic to others, more aware of the less obvious struggles and challenges we all face in our day-to-day lives and stronger when facing their own struggles and challenges.
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