I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when I was 6 years old. Type 1 diabetes is an auto-immune condition that requires me to do some of the (very critical) work my pancreas once did: balancing out the food I consume, the exercise I partake in, the stress I feel, the hours I sleep and dozens of other factors with just the right doses of insulin. Because my body no longer produces its own insulin, I “get to” do this epic balancing act every day, all day. And even when I think I’ve done everything right, there are always things affecting my blood glucose (sugar) that I can’t predict.
Last July, my daughter was born. Going through pregnancy with Type 1 diabetes was one of the most difficult and challenging times of my life. If I had thought diabetes was difficult to predict before — oh buddy, fasten your seatbelt. Pregnancy hormones had an astounding impact on my blood glucose levels. My Type 1 diabetes meant my pregnancy was considered to be “high-risk” by the medical community, so I was monitored very closely throughout. It seemed I was in a different doctor’s office every week — and every day at the very end of my pregnancy. If they had offered some sort of punch card, I surely would have earned a few free visits!
And so, knowing all this, you may be surprised to learn that while diabetes can certainly trip me up while chasing my toddler, there are a few times when being a parent who has Type 1 diabetes actually has its advantages.
1. I come with built-in toys.
I wear an insulin pump and a continuous glucose monitor, and they just happen to be the perfect size for my daughter’s hands. (The pump has a touch screen, which makes it even more intriguing.) My vials of test strips and jars of glucose tabs make excellent impromptu rattles. The drawer where I keep most of my insulin pump supplies is just her height and full of interesting things that can be pulled out and spread around! (There are no needles; don’t worry.) And if you’ve never watched a baby discover how to turn on the light-up portion of a glucose meter, man, you haven’t LIVED.
2. I’m already used to having kid-sized snacks on hand.
Squeezable applesauce pouches? I have them in spades. They’re an ideal amount of fast-acting carbohydrates for when my blood glucose levels dip too low, and they also happen to be one of my kiddo’s favorite treats. Everyone wins!
3. My diaper bag-packing skills were ready to go.
Type 1 diabetes can require a lot of … accessories. Glucose meter, test strips, lancets, extra batteries, syringes, medication vials — the list is enormous, and it takes some serious skills to pack all of that up into a respectably sized satchel. When it came time to pack my first diaper bag, I felt like I’d been preparing most of my life for that moment.
Having Type 1 diabetes has certainly provided its challenges, but finding the silver lining in all circumstances is important. In this case, seeing my daughter intrigued and interested in my diabetes devices and accessories, knowing I’m prepared with snacks, and having the skills to pack on the fly helps me focus on the positive when it comes to balancing diabetes and parenthood.