Nothing Left to Give
Diabetes has a way of crowding out everything else in life. Nowhere is that more true than with childhood illnesses and injuries.
You see, even though my daughter, Noelle, has type 1 diabetes, she does have normal kid problems. Sometimes that’s hard to remember, and sometimes it’s even harder to deal with. It may sound strange, but I dump so much time, energy and anxiety into caring for her diabetes that I have nothing left for the bleeding scratch on her knee: “Oh, it’s fine, go hold a tissue on it.”
This past summer there was the first experience with … shall we say, female problems. She got a little itchy “down there” and we thought maybe she had a yeast infection or urinary tract infection. Because she does have diabetes, first we determine if whatever is ailing her is somehow related to that. With this “itchy” problem, it didn’t seem likely, and alas, the doctor ended up telling her to stop taking long bubble baths and sitting around in her wet bathing suit. Then a few weeks ago, her newly pierced ears got a little infected and stung when changing and cleaning them. Through her tears, we cleaned them and they improved overnight. Typical girl problems, right? Sure … except my reaction was along the lines of, “You’re not dying. Suck it up, kid.” She didn’t find much sympathy from me.
It sounds terrible. I feel terrible writing it. But the real truth is that diabetes aside, I’m not a touchy-feely parent, a helicopter parent, whatever you want to call it. Before Noelle was diagnosed, she was a very independent kid, and that suited my parenting style well. A little blood? No problem. A bee sting? Here’s an ice pack. You want to run off on the playground with your friends? Great, just don’t leave the park. And so forth.
Don’t get me wrong. I love her fiercely and will protect her until the day I die. But I don’t dwell on the little injuries and I don’t have to be on top of her every moment. I’m not that mom who smothers her child with, “Oh, did you get a boo-boo, you poor baby, let Mommy kiss the boo-boo and make it feel better” or freaks out if she’s 10 feet away at the mall. You know what I mean.
Diabetes changed all of that. Now, I have to be touch-feely. I have to hover. I have to soothe her when her insulin pump adhesive irritates her skin. I have to hold her when she cries about “not being normal” and waits for her body to recover from a low blood glucose that has knocked her to her knees. I have to go to playdates and activities with her, all of them. I have to be “Noelle’s mom” to every kid in her grade, who know me more than other moms because I’m on every field trip and at every class party.
The flip side of that is that with those normal, everyday kid problems, I have gone so far the other way. And that’s not always good and harmless.
Last week Noelle started second grade. This was her sixth year of school, between three years of preschool and then kindergarten and first grade. She had met her teacher before. Her best friend is in her classroom. I didn’t anticipate any problems.
And then the stomachaches started. For the first few days, it was minor. Then Sunday came and she became hysterical. Monday morning? She was screaming and crying and would not calm down enough to eat or tell me exactly what was wrong. Diabetes, as always, was first ruled out. Her blood sugar was fine, the pump site was fine, nothing else appeared to be going on.
And as she kept screaming, I lost it. I realized the ridiculousness of the moment as I was screaming back at her to stop screaming, but I could not stop myself. We live in a cloud of anxiety about her diabetes. Between that and working full time in a job that’s extremely demanding right now and other commitments, I actually feel like I have nothing left to give anything else. I’m drained. Empty.
Diabetes has crowded everything else out.
I don’t know what’s wrong with her stomach. As I write this, we are seeing her pediatrician this afternoon to rule out any medical issues, and then we will deal with any anxiety issues if need be, to see if there is something bothering her about the new school year that she hasn’t yet figured out how to articulate. I pray it’s something that we can address and move on and we can all go back to what is our normal life where everything revolves around diabetes.
It’s the best I can hope for.
What is Type 1 Diabetes: Type 1 diabetes (T1D) is an autoimmune disease in which a person’s pancreas stops producing insulin, a hormone that enables people to get energy from food. It occurs when the body’s immune system attacks and destroys the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas, called beta cells. While its causes are not yet entirely understood, scientists believe that both genetic factors and environmental triggers are involved. Its onset has nothing to do with diet or lifestyle. There is nothing you can do to prevent T1D, and-at present-nothing you can do to get rid of it. [Source: JDRF]
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.