'The Baby-Sitters Club' Shows How Mentally Taxing It Is to Hide a Diagnosis
Recently given the limitations of the pandemic, I’ve found myself going down unexpected Netflix rabbit holes and watching things I wouldn’t normally choose. As I was mindlessly scrolling through, I found the reboot for “The Baby-Sitters Club” and was filled with nostalgia as a 90’s kid who watched the show and read the books when I was younger.
I always wanted to have my own Baby-Sitters Club because it just seemed so cool. Now, as a parent, I wish there were such a thing — especially with the cool kid kits that Kristy created. It was fun to watch the newer version and reminisce about watching it as a kid. I loved how they added a modern spin to the characters and story lines, even incorporating how cell phones, social media and different technology affects their business and lives.
One of the story arches I had forgotten about that struck me differently than when I was a kid was Stacey’s diabetes diagnosis. In episode 3, “The Truth About Stacey,” I was quickly reminded when Stacey was confronted with her diagnosis when the club is creating kid kits after Kristy comes up with the concept.
Stacey realizes that none of her friends have ever been to her house and remembers a shopping trip with her mom, trying on clothes with her mother scrutinizing every item to make sure it covers her insulin pump so that no one can see it. Stacey even remembered feeling like her mother was ashamed of her diagnoses, especially with needing to keep it a secret. Throughout the memory, Stacey explains how she has to do things differently than other kids, she keeps juice or snacks with her in case her sugar is low, and she experiences reminders that she is sick and even calls herself the “sick girl.”
As if dealing with her diagnosis and trying to keep it from her friends wasn’t enough, The Baby-Sitters Club is competing with The Baby-Sitters Agency (BSA for short) who seems to be stealing their business and ideas. These rival babysitters even start to prank call the The Baby-Sitters Club, sending them on fake jobs and just trolling in general.
During an emergency club meeting to discuss ways to combat the BSA’s tactics, Stacey thinks she’s feeling funny because she met Kristy’s cute older brother, but she quickly realizes her sugar has dropped and she bolts. When she goes home to have a more substantial snack, her mother walks in on her eating an apple and freaks out a little, even making an emergency doctor’s appointment for the weekend while the girls are left to try and garner more business.
A few days later, the friends are seen walking and talking about what they can do to combat the rival babysitters’ tactics when they discover a boy they have watched playing in the street. The realize he is under the watch of one of the sitters from BSA and Stacey decides to call the mother, even though the other sitter warned her she would regret it.
She was not wrong. A few days later the BSA shares a video of Stacey having a seizure with the question, “Is this who you want watching your kids?” Stacey is immediately embarrassed and ashamed, and her friends in The Baby-Sitters Club want answers. Kristy even goes as far as asking if Stacey is taking hard drugs. Feeling stung, Stacey blurts out that she has Type 1 Diabetes, that there is no cure and that is why they moved to Stoneybrook. Stacey goes on to explain they figured out she had diabetes after she went into insulin shock, and how a video of her seizure was mocked and ridiculed at her old school. Her friends immediately show support and compassion, reassuring her she isn’t the “sick girl” that she sees.
The club decides to call another emergency meeting, this time with the parents, to talk about the video and Stacey’s diabetes. Some of the parents express concern about safety if Stacey has another seizure, if their children come in contact with her medical equipment and if she is responsible enough to care for their kids at all. Stacey offers to resign from the club so the parents felt more secure, and something special happens. The mother of a girl Stacey often watched stood up for her and explained that she knew of Stacy’s diabetes because she saw her insulin pump, and that not only is Stacey very responsible, but she is also an excellent babysitter because she plays with the kids, does crafts, reads to them and much more. All of the parents seem to understand that their assumptions were wrong, even Stacey’s mom. In the next scene, we see Stacey proudly wearing a now bedazzled insulin pump, and she has a moment with her mother where they both come to understand each other better. Stacey tells her mother she isn’t ashamed anymore and neither should her mom, and her mother reassures her she never felt shame, but worry.
These moments were pivotal, not just for Stacey, but for diabetes representation in general. So often diabetes is connected with gluttony, over-eating, excessive junk food, etc., and this episode showed not just how “normal” it is, but also how it’s not the diabetics fault. Illnesses and genetics play a significant factor in the onset of diabetes.
The shame Stacey carried came from specific situations and things we hear in society probably don’t help people’s understanding any better. The shame with the stigma of being sick, especially with something like diabetes, can be powerful, causing people like Stacey and even myself to keep their diagnosis a secret. So often, assumptions and stigma cause us to want to hide, not living our truth fully.
I was afraid to share that part of me, fearing what people may think or even say. Just like Stacey, I came to a place where I realized that living in that fear kept me from living my truth and keeping me from the loving support the people close to me had to offer. So even if you are a young and new to your diagnosis like Stacey, or like me have been living with diabetes for a long time, know that you are loved and valid just the way you are. The love and support waiting for you from your friends and family is greater than any judgment, stigma or anything that keeps you from fulling living your truth.
Screenshot via Netflix