The sisterhood of motherhood

 Two years ago, when my son had just been diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, a work colleague told me about the mum of a student where I teach. My colleague told me that she was in the school at that moment and walked me over to where she would be. I had to stop for a moment: I felt really overwhelmed, was nervous about meeting her, worried that I wouldn’t know what to say and felt scared about being emotional, especially as I was at my work! 

I’d never taught this student or her siblings and had never come across this mum, yet, from when I first met her, we shared a bond: a child with Type 1 diabetes. She was much more experienced than me, as her child had been diagnosed several years before. As we sat in the school yard, she took my hand and told me it would get better and that I would survive! 

Luckily, I was wearing large sunglasses and had my back to the yard as I lost control and had a snot-filled, wobbly-chinned cry which lasted several minutes. Who knows what she could really understand of my Scottish warble but she understood enough to know that I needed this connection.  This lovely lady was the only other mum of a child with Type 1 diabetes that I had met and she totally got me without even knowing me. I so needed for someone who had shared a similar experience to give me this positive message. I also really needed someone to ask how I was, as my total focus in the previous few weeks was learning all I could about Type 1 diabetes and helping my son manage it. 

Nowadays, we catch up on the side of sporting fields on random occasions, as my eldest son plays sport in the same team as another of her children. We laugh and giggle, rant and rave and do not stop talking for the entire time we are together. We have more in common with each other than children with diabetes.

I hadn’t seen her for a good few months, until today. I bumped into her in the school yard, approximately two years since we first met and in almost the exact same spot. We gave each other the biggest hug and we swapped stories about our children. I was able to tell her about the crazy night we had just had with levels of 24 at bedtime and the hourly checks we did, looking for ketones and giving extra shots of insulin to bring levels down. There was no need for explanations about what it all meant. She put her hand on my arm and said, “Look at you! You are doing a great job and surviving!”. 

She reminded me of that first conversation two years before and I realised how far I’d come. It was good to take a moment and reflect on those two years. I’d lived through many crazy nights, held down and even enjoyed my job, done my best to keep the rest of the family happy and importantly, my son is thriving. I love my three sons and husband but they definitely deal with their emotions differently from me. 

Online, thanks to the Diabetes Online Community, I have met an amazing bunch of mums from around the world and we often joke about meeting up one day. Knowing what I have learnt about of few of these fabulous ladies, I know we’d have a fun time together.  I have also made connections online with some great bloggers (male and female, young and young at heart) and people on Twitter. Writing this blog helps me process my reality. It is my reality and I’m acutely aware that it’s about me and how I deal with being the parent of a teenager with diabetes. It feels a bit like I’m naval gazing at times but, hey, it works! 

I live in rural Australia, in a beautiful coastal area, far from any big cities. We are supported by an amazing Diabetes Educator, have a great paediatrician and access to a whole team of people. My friends are wonderful and have really taken the time to understand Type 1 diabetes. In my day to day life, I have few conversations about diabetes and very little to do with people who have connections to diabetes. That doesn’t reflect how much time I spend thinking about it so this is my outlet.

My connection to this other mum is important to me. She remains, to this day, the only other mum of a child with diabetes that I really know. She has mentored me,  albeit in a random and often hysterical way. I feel honoured that she has taken the time to do that and hope that maybe one day in the future, I can do the same for another mum. 

Supermarket Sweep. 

  

Shopping in a supermarket during the holidays with a friend turned into a game show. She would throw items at me and I would tell her the carbs or in some cases guess. We’d been discussing what to buy for a meal and she was asking me about what kind of ingredients I’d buy to make sure my son had the correct number of carbs. 

Luckily, we were in a town far from home and had left everyone at the pool. As we skirted up and down the aisles, my friend lobbed, tossed and violently chucked various food items at me, demanding the carb value:

Her: Catch, bread one slice?

Me: Ha! 15g per slice, if not too thick! Too easy!

Her: Pasta?

Me: Ouch! One cup of penne, 30g, one cup of spaghetti, 45g! Why? No carbs in air, mate!

Her: Choc bar? 

Me: Ooh, now you’re talking! Flick me a Flake at a good solid 15g. Easter’s coming with Creme Eggs coming in around 30g each. What, they’ve got them already? Gimme two, quick, for the car on the way home, of course!

Her: Apple?

Me: Small fist size, 15 g per apple! Haven’t you seem me groping my way through the apples like a dirty old man?

Her: Banana? 

Me: A bit like an apple but reference another body part! 15g for small!

We laughed, giggled and guffawed our way around the supermarket! Never has carb counting been so much fun! Getting back to the car, we packed the boot and jumped in. I handed my friend her Creme Egg and we sat blissfully munching. She admitted to not knowing much about carbs and I laughed and said I hadn’t either until we had to very quickly learn after diagnosis. I wrote this poem during that initial period of learning:

 

The nest- preparation for take off. Part One.

    

My boy is the boy with the egg. Read about him here. This blog entry really resonated with people and I was reminded of it last week as he jumped on the school bus for a new year. 
Following on with the egg analogy, I see us, as his parents, as his nest. Our home and support are unquestioningly there for him but I need to get him ready to leave this place of comfort.  I want him to high fly and free but in the mean time we can protect him and let him rest in the nest where he will learn some of the tools he needs for a healthy, happy future. It’s the same for his two brothers. The only difference is, he has to throw Type 1 diabetes in the mix.

This is a long term plan. As much as my three boys drive me mental at times in the House of Testosterone, I cannot imagine them leaving!

Preparation for the big take off. Part one.

The first big challenge this year will be work. He has scored a job at a fast food restaurant. He did not disclose his diabetes in the application or at the interview. I thought it was absolutely appropriate to answer ‘no’ to the following question: 

 

He rarely misses school so I don’t feel that his diabetes interferes with his education so we are hopeful that it will not impact on his ability to work. Most of all, I don’t want my boy to think of himself as having a disability or that his medical condition will stop him reaching for his dreams. His big brother already has a job here so we can anticipate the hours he will work with some certainty. It was great to get some perspective on this from the Diabetes Online Community.

Once he has shown that he is a capable, hard worker, I would imagine that he will disclose his diabetes. I’m so excited for him that he will have a job. His brother is not the biggest fan of working here but he only does an average of twelve hours a week. He does love being paid though and learning to save money for something you want is an invaluable lesson!

When he was first diagnosed, I could not relax if he was out of my sight. He would go and do everything he had always done as we were advised so well from the start to keep doing what we had always done and integrate diabetes into that. Sounds simple? It was really scary but I can honestly say there is nothing that he has not done because of diabetes. Here we are, two years down the track. Now we are ready for the next big challenge!