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.


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