When your child is diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, your world stops turning. For about a week, it feels like the earth opens up, swallows you whole and then spits you and your family out with insulin, needles and the constant thought of blood sugar. Something that most people would rather avoid thinking about. It's a diagnosis that for now, you can never quit, cure or treat. It's like you are told "Here's your new life, good luck". I remember stupidly wishing for another diagnosis that was tragic yet still curable. I do not dare actually type the name of it, for fear now that the gods will hear me. I admitted this to my mom and she said, "I know you are in pain now, but one day, you will think differently." I remember not believing her.
My mother-in-law's comments were something like,"Well, now you will eat healthier and lead a better quality of life." At the time my sensitive, girly, daughter-in-law ears thought she was trying to say that I hadn't previously fed my children well. I felt kicked while I was already down. I now know she was just saying we would end up thinking more about food and choosing things that were healthier. Healthy foods (high fiber, low-fat) process better in the body for everyone. With Type 1 diabetes, it's only unique because you test the blood sugar prior to eating and you observe the effect on the body as it processes the junk or good stuff you eat. As a parent, after a couple of times of watching your child's blood sugar spike to the 300s after giving him a sugary processed cereal, you tend to shy away from that kind of food. So, that is all she meant. At the time though, I sure didn't understand that.
I also remember something that my father-in-law said to me. He had been diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes almost thirty years previously. He had it well-controlled. He was the first visitor at the hospital. Michael and I were anxious to hear his advice on our new life. His words of wisdom were desperately needed. His first words to me were,"He's just so small." And then,after a long pause, he said "One day, this will become routine to you and Rocco, just like brushing your teeth!”
I remember being shocked by this. How could he trivialize our devastation? Didn't he understand that I now had to give my one-year-old son shots everyday until he received an insulin pump? Didn't he understand that my 18 pound baby sleeping in this steel-barred crib had just experienced something that would change his life forever? I got so angry that I actually blamed him for "giving" this to my son. As far as my blind anger was concerned, it was his genes that passed down the family tree and gave this to my innocent child. I was angry.
As I look back now five years later, I see clearly. Of course, I know this is not my father-in-law’s fault. No one even knows for sure if Type 1 diabetes is genetic. And there was no history of the disease in my father-in-law’s family. Popular opinion, and mine too, says it is really just the luck of the draw. Some get it, some don't. Like so many other diseases, diabetes just pops up one day, like it did for my father-in-law. Sorry Papa for blaming you. I think I really needed someone to direct my anger at, and you were just the first one to show up.
The other night, as I was putting the boys to bed, I noticed our bedtime routine.
Get two giggly, squirmy boys upstairs (this is usually the toughest part) - check.
Put pjs on - check. Brush teeth and retrain every single night how to do it right - check.
Wash dirty boy hands - check.
Check Rocco's blood sugar to make sure he is at a safe number - check.
I actually borrowed this picture from a Facebook friend. It happened randomly to her daughter. Isn't that neat? Thanks friend!
As we were finishing up, I smiled. Just like in a movie, my father-in-law popped into my thoughts and repeated the words he said five years ago - “just like brushing your teeth!"
I suddenly felt like we had arrived. Arrived at a party to which only diabetes veterans get invited! I was kind of happy to feel like maybe we had been through all the difficult parts and survived. I felt as if this part of our life was actually something we could finally trivialize. Trivialize because we had many other things that were more important. I was quietly glad to be part of the diabetes “tooth brushing club”. Finally!
Yes, Type 1 diabetes is stupid, difficult, life-changing, annoying and frustrating. But, after you get used to it, it is just like brushing your teeth!
By the way, mom was also right because I would rather have Type 1 diabetes in our lives than many other diseases. I am greatful to a wise mom and wonderful in-laws, even if I don't at first believe them.