Friday, March 23, 2012

Low Places

As with everything else in my very type-A life, I began thinking about what my life as a parent with diabetes would be like long before I was even pregnant.  True to my need-to-know-everything-about-anything-that-affects-me form, I read a book on the subject last year 
(When You're a Parent With Diabetes: A Real Life Guide to Staying Healthy While Raising a Family by Kathryn Gregorio Palmer).  It's a great book with tons of tips for managing your disease in the context of parenting, and I highly recommend it.  Of course, no matter how much reading you do, nothing ever really prepares you for reality quite like...well, reality.

I knew theoretically that there would be times when my diabetes got in the way of parenting to the point that I'd sometimes have to put taking care of my disease before taking care of my child (the whole "putting on your own oxygen mask before trying to save your children" thing); however, I never imagined how bad this would actually suck in practice.  Before when I had a low, even a bad one, it wasn't much cause for concern.  I'd treat it, wait a bit, and go on with my life.  Now, though, there's another little person who is completely dependent on me to think about.  When I have a low, I have to drop what I'm doing with her to treat it, which usually means leaving her there to cry on her own for what in reality is only a minute or two but in my world seems like an eternity.  Probably the suckiest time that this happens is when I've just sat down and have everything situated to feed her, only to have to leave our comfy home base (aka, the recliner) to find something with sugar as quickly as possible so she doesn't break into one of those gut-wrenching, inconsolably angry crying jags.  Ordinarily, getting up from a chair wouldn't be a big deal; however, when you're (severely) sleep deprived and are trying your best to satisfy a crying baby, it's an entirely different story.

I've also been letting my numbers run slightly higher than normal, especially at night, because now the fear of the low you don't wake up from has an entirely new dimension.  Our poor baby would undoubtedly go hungry until morning, because although the hubby helps me as much as he can when he's home, he just doesn't wake up at night.  The first two nights in the hospital, he woke at her every, sometimes I think it'd take a freight train to wake him up!  One of our first weeks at home, I remember having a pretty bad low during the night.  I turned the lamp above our bed on and went to get some glucose tablets, then came back to our bedroom to wait it out.  15 minutes later, my blood sugar still hadn't risen much, so I grabbed some orange juice from the fridge in the kitchen and crossed my fingers.  My blood sugar was back in the normal range after that, but I was hit with the realization that (a) my hubby (aka, the slumbering log in bed next to me) didn't even know I was up and (b) the baby wasn't going to be much help if I passed out.

Since then, I've made sure to keep a close eye on my numbers before bed, and set temporary basal rates if necessary to keep me hovering above 100.  Of course, this inevitably leads to slightly higher numbers first thing in the morning; however, at this point I'd much rather run a bit higher on average than to risk the danger of a horrible low at night...there's just too much at stake now!

When I was pregnant, I had to keep a super close eye on my diabetes because it very directly affected the baby growing inside me.  Thanks to the hormonal changes that come with pregnancy, it was very difficult to keep my numbers in a tight range.  I figured it would be a lot easier after the baby was born, and in a way it is...because my hormones have returned to normal, I no longer have to take massive amounts of insulin to cover my carbs at meals, and my patterns are a lot more predictable.  However, the fact that my baby is no longer directly affected by highs (but just as much by lows) makes me a lot more laid-back when it comes to my blood sugars than I was before.  Don't be mistaken; highs still frustrate me and I'm still concerned with keeping my average in a reasonable range; but at this point, I'm more concerned with the lows than the highs.  Once I get a better handle on the parenting thing, I know I'll return to my perfectionist style of diabetes management...for now, though, I'm okay with good enough.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Baby Love

Yesterday was the last official day of my maternity leave...and I honestly can't believe six weeks went by so fast.  I know everyone says that once you have a baby they grow up in the blink of an eye, but I've found out that (like many other things, a la the accompanying lack of sleep) you really can't understand this phenomenon until you have one of your own.

Six weeks ago, our lives changed.  Six weeks ago, we brought home a precious baby girl that still seemed like somewhat of a stranger to us (but whom we've since come to understand a little better, thankfully!).  In the time since, I've grown as a person.  I've learned what it truly means to be selfless as I've spent countless hours in a sleepless delirium trying to please a screaming baby, often to no avail.  I've come to understand a different kind of love, one in which the prospect of this tiny person being hurt, sick, or just unhappy brings a sinking feeling to my chest.  I've learned that good enough is, in fact, good enough when it comes to many things that I was a perfectionist about in the past.  Not only is it very difficult to get much accomplished when you're at the mercy of a newborn's crazy "schedule;" it's also incredibly easy to pass the hours and days entirely just holding her in my arms.

Then there's the sheer awesomeness of watching her grow and change before our very eyes...My husband was quickly amazed by the fact that such a tiny little girl could be so strong, and I love to take pictures of her (sometimes several a day) and look back to see how different she looks a short time later.  Around her one month "birthday," she started smiling...#ohmygoodness!  Her adorable toothless grins never cease to put a smile on my face, even if it is just while she's carrying on one of her "conversations" with the ceiling fan!  Last night, I had finally managed to calm her down after she'd been crying when she sighed dramatically.  I mimicked her, and got a huge smile in return!  It's true when they say that you'll do anything you can to get those priceless grins =)

She's also starting to interact more with the world around her.  There is a canopy on her Pack 'N Play that has giraffes hanging from it, and the other day while I was getting ready in the bathroom a short distance away, I could hear her cooing at them...and now they're within arm's reach!  I also finally ordered the Skip Hop activity gym I'd been wanting to get for her--it's a little pricey, but it's much cuter than any of the others I've seen.  The first time I laid her on it after it came in, I propped her up on her tummy on the miniature Boppy-style pillow it comes with so she could look at herself in the mirror, and I was amazed at how much head control she has!  It didn't take long for her to topple over the front of it, though, because her little legs never stop moving...if I lay her on my stomach, she quickly ends up by my face/shoulder as the result of her pushing off with them.  Of course, I knew when I was pregnant with her that she was going to be a little wiggle worm...she never stopped moving!  I didn't even bother doing the prescribed "kick counts" at the end because she moved so that way, she's definitely her daddy's child!

To shift gears a little, I was reading a post on SixUntilMe the other day about Kerri checking her daughter's blood sugar and the fear that comes with being a parent with T1.  As Kerri says, it's a thought that creeps up on you, either during (or before) pregnancy or when a harmless symptom (such as a wetter-than-normal diaper or an extra-thirsty baby) pops up later on: the big "What if?".  As a PWD, we're very familiar with the subtle symptoms that accompany this disease, and sometimes we're a little over-vigilant when we see them in those around us.  The thing is, just like Kerri said in her post, there's no need to sit around fearing that our children will suffer the same fate we did in the autoimmune/genetic pool.

When I was pregnant with our little girl, the question of whether or not she would "get it" (T1) too came up fairly often.  I tried to use these instances as education opportunities as I informed people that my children would have about the same chance as anyone else of ending up with this disease.  Although their risk is somewhat elevated (4% versus 1%), there's still a very small chance that they'll have Type 1 as a result of my having it.  In fact, as stated on the JDRF website, "only 15 percent of people with type 1 diabetes have an affected first-degree relative - a sibling, parent, or offspring."  Therefore, that my sister and I both have it makes us an anomaly among anomalies...We're part of the 5-10% of people with diabetes who have Type 1, as well as the 15% of the aforementioned group!

Even though the chance of our children developing T1 is very slim, I'm still going to do everything in my power to decrease that possibility as much as possible.  Because of the (loose) link between the protein in cow's milk and T1, I chose to use soy formula when we were forced to start supplementing.  Of course, the original plan was to breastfeed exclusively for the first six months; however, we had to start supplementing with formula when she wasn't gaining weight like she was supposed to (which I still believe is possibly due to gastro esophageal reflux, because she will do fine for a minute or two, then arch her back away screaming...her two-month checkup is about two and a half weeks away, so I guess we'll find out then).  Because not much is known about the cause of T1 (and because it's an autoimmune disease, and therefore extremely complicated), it's so hard to know what to do to prevent it...I suppose all we can do is raise our kids with a healthy lifestyle and hope for the best!

What many people do not understand is the autoimmune aspect of T1.  Thanks in part to the media and popular (mis)conception of diabetes, they assume that age is the only difference between the types.  I'll be the first to admit that before I was diagnosed, I didn't understand the difference--and my younger sister was diagnosed years before me!  Since my diagnosis, it's become very clear that we need to put more effort into educating the general public about diabetes, but especially T1.  It would make life much easier for those of us living with it!  I've tried to use every opportunity I get to educate people in everyday conversations, and in November I wrote an article addressing many of the misconceptions about the disease for our local newspaper.  However, it seems like for every person who "gets it," there are 10 more who don't.  Sometimes it seems like a losing battle, but I refuse to give up.  Until there's a cure for Type 1, the next best thing is making living with it easier, and that's something I--and you--can be a part of.