When my children were younger, I was asked a couple of times about how I balance life as a mum and life as a person with type 1 diabetes. It was definitely a challenge to juggle parenting with anything but that's not news to any parent. Now that my children are older (13 & 11) I can look back on what were the tough parts and what were the “advantages” of being a mum with type 1 diabetes.
I still can't believe that my dysfunctional and broken body created two healthy and outstanding humans. I never forget how lucky I am and always remember that not every one who decides they want to be a parent gets what they want and sometimes it doesn't happen the way you thought it would.
Being a mum is a challenge and it's wonderful! I love it!!! I can say that now because I don't lose as much sleep these days as I did when they were younger. ;-) In fact, there has been an occasion or two where I'm asleep before they are.
Being a person with type 1 diabetes is a challenge too! Actually at times, it's a nightmare, completely exhausting but mostly it's a giant pain in the backside.
So what's it like to combine the challenges of being a mother AND having type 1 diabetes?
Well it's doable. And hopefully, you have adjusted to life with diabetes before motherhood is thrown in there or vice versa.
I had type 1 diabetes before I became a mother. So while diabetes didn't effect my decision to become one, it did make me hesitate and come up with a plan for how it would happen and how I/we would try to manage my pregnancy. Once, myself and my husband decided that we were in a good place to start a family, we didn’t jump straight into trying. Instead, I made an appointment with my endocrinologist to talk about how we would get my body ready for it and how my dysfunctional body was going to grow a healthy human successfully.
How does type 1 diabetes affect motherhood?
There may be an element of “the grass is greener on the other side” here. So, I could be wrong about this but I feel that mums with type 1 diabetes don't think quite the same as mums who don't. Mums who don't have diabetes seem to forget that they need to take care of themselves, as well as their baby. They seem to neglect their well being without life threatening consequences.
As a mother with type 1 diabetes, the first time I had a hypo while my baby was simultaneously
screaming crying, it made me realise that diabetes has to stay high up on my list of priorities. It was well up there when I was growing this tiny human, but then I was so exhausted from it and new baby life I thought I could let it slip down the list a bit. But no, that was not to be.
Type 1 diabetes and being a mum is an all hands, whatever hands are available, condition. It means realising that when my diabetes needs attention it needs to get my attention first.
It means that family fun days out may get interrupted by low blood sugars despite elaborate planning. It means that dinner might get delayed because of low blood glucose levels.
It means that I can't answer 300 toddler questions right now because I have to treat a low. It means considering if you want or should teach your child to use a phone and dial 999. In my house, it meant that my preschoolers taught their class mates about carbohydrate while the teachers taught healthy eating. That was kind of a Mum-Pride moment though!
It means that at dinner time, we wait for everyone to sit at the table before we eat but we don’t wait for mum because she has to check her glucose levels and work out her insulin.
It means that there is always, ALWAYS, a concern that I won't get to see my children grow up. It means that I will alway feel I owe it to my children to look after my diabetes as best as I can so that it never takes any more of me from you. It means that I worry that you will be burdened with looking after me and my diabetes when if I am unable to do it as I get older.
However, I feel that being a mother with type 1 diabetes means that I have taught my children about the value of health, that being good to yourself means eating nutritious food and being active. Being a mum with T1D means that I know a little more about nutrition than the average person. In my warped sense of thinking I feel that my diabetes has made me a better parents and my children healthier.