The absolute worse thing about being a parent of a diabetic child is the midnight check. Every night before my husband and I go to sleep, we check Rocco's blood sugar. There are two night time fears that arise during the night with Type 1 diabetics.
The first fear is Rocco having a low blood sugar. Extremely low blood sugar can cause seizures and permanent nervous system damage. This is called insulin shock.
The second fear is death. Can you imagine going to bed every night worrying that there may be too much insulin in your child’s blood stream and that this could cause his death? can you imagine that YOU gave him the over dose of insulin? This statement is dramatic but this is the reality of what parents of diabetic children face every night. The scary part is that this can happen in a number of ways. You may have miscounted his carbohydrates at dinner. You may have forgotten that you already gave him his dinner insulin. Or all the exercise he had during the day may have just kicked in to lower his blood sugar. As my father-in-law, a well-controlled Type 1 diabetic, says, “It’s not an exact science.”
With diabetes, you must stay vigilant at all times. Parents of a Type 1 child cannot make mistakes. We must remain engaged all day and, more importantly, all night. We cannot simply put our child to bed and wish them sweet dreams. We must wake these children by putting a needle in their fingertips while they are completely asleep, dreaming of amusement parks, playdates with friends.
Thankfully, Rocco almost never remembers that we were there. We are thankful for the deep sleep that only children seem to enjoy.
I hate checking Rocco during the night. I can handle being "in charge" all day, but the midnight check is my nemesis. To be honest, I am angry about it. I hate going into his room, kissing his sleepy head and then jabbing his little finger. I hate squeezing his fingertip, hoping enough blood comes out. I hate the thought that in his subconscious, he may hear me. I hate that his brother sometimes does hear me. I hate swiping the extra blood onto my hand, hoping that I got it all and that I didn't stain his cute Pottery Barn Kids sheets. I hate waiting for the beep of the meter and then reaching for his pump in the dark, to give him his insulin without waking him.
Most of all, I hate guessing how much insulin he should have overnight. I hate knowing that if I make a mistake, my child could die. The pressure of that alone is enormous. The pain in my heart as I check him is something I never signed up for. Something I cannot bear, but something that must be done, every night.
My wonderful husband Michael knows how much I hate the midnight check. He doesn’t enjoy it at all either but, every night, he goes through this ritual to spare me the pain. For this, I fall in love with him over and over as each night passes. Funny how when you meet a hot guy in a bar at twenty, you never realize that twenty years later, you will no longer care whether he wears the coolest jeans or has great jet black hair. You stay in love because he shares your burdens along the way. If my forty-year-old self could talk to my twenty-year-old self, I would say, "Pick that guy. One day he will help carry you through the most difficult days and, more importantly, nights."
When Rocco's blood sugar is not right, he sometimes wakes up a little when Michael checks him. If you take too long checking his blood sugar he mumbles "I can't!" He gets very upset and then he says it louder and louder until he is yelling and sobbing. He is not quite awake and not quite asleep. I always wonder if Rocco is finally letting out his anger about his diabetes from this semi-conscious state. I mean, really, his diabetes sucks! But he never says a word. He never tells me getting checked hurts. He never complains about having diabetes. He NEVER feels sorry for himself. He is a trooper every day.
It takes a good twenty minutes to wake him out of his sleepy crying state, convince him that he is ok and then calm him down enough to send him back to sleep. This is brutal. We just HATE seeing him so distraught and confused. The energy it takes to do all of this, while your heart breaks, would wear out even a marathon runner. So Michael told me the other night that every night he now whispers in Rocco’s ear while checking his blood sugar, "Yes, you can Rocco, yes you can." Michael says that since he started this, Rocco hasn't woken up. Seriously, how sweet is my husband? My knight in shining armor (or at least a knight in some sleep pants and a ratty old Tshirt from the 90s- I'll take it!).
I decided to write this post not as a “poor me” story, but rather as a kind of "tell all" of my life and that of many other diabetic parents. Most nights, Rocco’s number remains steady throughout the night. However, some parents also must do a 3am check and a 5am check. I take my hat off to these folks. Type 1 diabetes is a 24 hour, 7 day a week job. During the child’s early years after being diagnosed, his parents become his pancreas. Parents can never take a break from this job, or their child will risk devastating complications. Their child can never eat another M&M or french fry without their knowledge. They must counting the carbs and calculate the amount of insulin to offset every piece of food that is eaten. It just never ends. It can be daunting and exhausting. It IS daunting and exhausting.
So, that is why I get angry and passionate about the midnight check. I am eternally thankful for my wonderful husband, who makes it easier on me, and, more importantly, easier on Rocco. Thank you Michael, you Rock!
"Yes you can" has a different kind of meaning in our house.