Putting up a Fight
Having a marital spat in the middle of a chain department store is not my idea of fun. Yet there my husband and I were, 7-year-old Noelle in tow, marching through the store, hissing at each other in a not-so-very-nice fashion. – It’s just one more way that diabetes brings out the worst in us.
You see, it wasn’t just a run-of-the-mill dispute. No, this fight was about a fundamental difference of opinion regarding the care of our daughter’s type 1 diabetes.
How can two relatively intelligent people who both love and cherish their daughter be so far apart? It’s truly mind-boggling. When Noelle was first diagnosed in 2010, a friend whose child has autism warned me what issues like that can do to a marriage. He was right. Nothing has been run-of-the-mill since.
This particular fight began when I allowed Noelle to push the buttons on her meter to give herself a bolus of insulin. To back up, Noelle wears an insulin pump 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It can be controlled from the pump itself at the site on her body or remotely via her blood glucose meter. That remote feature was one reason we chose this specific pump; not having to paw through her clothing to find the pump attached to her body seemed like a great idea, and it really has been great (One time I bolused her from across the room and she didn’t even know it!).
The pump does have a feature to lock out children, but it’s a pretty simple mechanism that most kids can and do figure out pretty quickly. We never used the lock feature; instead, we chose to emphasize to Noelle the importance of letting an adult do the bolusing for her until she reaches a certain age.
And therein lies the heart of the issue.
I do not believe Noelle, at 7, is ready for the responsibility of doing her blood glucose test, calculating her own carbohydrates, and then figuring out how much insulin to give herself. I do believe, however, that she should take baby steps toward learning how to do it herself, as someday (UNTIL THEY FIND A CURE) she will have to do it herself. One baby step I was comfortable with was letting her push the buttons, under my supervision. I was, and still am, confident that she understands the gravity of the drug she is putting into her body and she understands she is not to do this on her own. Letting her push the buttons, though, gives her a sense of pride and ownership of her body. I think, anyway.
My husband also does not believe she is ready for all of that responsibility, but he does not think she should be doing any of it herself, including supervised button-pushing.
Hence the battle in the store, which commenced after I let her do the bolus in the car with him driving and me sitting there watching her do it.
The fight continued a long time. It was ugly. I felt bad afterward. He felt bad afterward. We did agree to talk to her endocrinologist about the issue next time we see her, and I agreed to not let Noelle do it again until then. But those agreements did not come easily for me. I don’t think her endocrinologist, as wonderful as she is, is the be-all and end-all of the matter, no matter which way she leans on the issue (and I honestly don’t know, as she is new to us). She doesn’t live with Noelle and know her personality and her temperament. And I still feel deep down that not letting her take baby steps in her own care now is going to lead to more problems down the road.
My husband likely will do what the doctor says; he respects that authority. I, in turn and in the meantime, Googled “diabetes self-care in children” and found a wide range of opinions, from people who let 7-year-olds do it all to people who don’t let 10-year-olds do any of it.
There are really persuasive arguments on both sides of the issue. On “my side” is the idea that children need to take responsibility of their own bodies and their own health as they are capable. On “his side” is the idea that these kids are going to live with this (UNTIL THEY FIND A CURE) so we as parents should shoulder that burden for as long we can so the kids don’t have to.
Two weeks after this fight, Noelle had a bad diabetic episode when her pump site came out and was covered in blood and she didn’t tell me because she saw the mess under her pantleg right before a playdate. Two hours later when she did tell me, her blood sugar had soared to nearly 500 and her body already was “spilling ketones,” poisoning her blood and causing her to feel sick to her stomach. Two measly hours. Because the 7-year-old didn’t want a playdate interrupted.
My husband said this proved his point that a 7-year-old does not have the maturity to handle her own diabetes care. I swallowed my pride and admitted that maybe he was right, terrified by the episode and the reminder of how quickly things can go wrong with this disease. But deep inside, I wondered that if Noelle was doing more of her own self-care, if she made more of the connection between the blood glucose number on the screen, the needle in her body, the poison in her blood and the nausea in her stomach, she might have told me about the problem earlier.
I am completely sure that parents with healthy kids fight about their care. We did, too, before Oct. 1, 2010. It’s just that now our fights are more life-and-death than theoretical.
We are both sure we are right.
Can we both be right?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Pittsfield native Rebecca Dravis is a former journalist who lives in north Berkshire County with her husband and daughter in Williamstown, MA. In Just My Type Rebecca shares her experiences as a parent raising a child with type one diabetes. – Check out Just My Type on the third Monday of every month.