Motherhood is fraught with challenges, but adding diabetes to the mix brings it to a whole new level of "OMG what am I doing?!" So it went for San Francisco D-mom Brooke Gibson, who knew that nothing replaces face-to-face interaction and dialogue between people who really get it. And so Brooke decided to launch Sugar Mommas, a special group for PWD moms and moms-to-be.
As a wannabe-mom myself (nothing in cards right now, folks!), who's spent a lot of time looking for relevant resources, I thought it was a brilliant idea and I'm so jealous of the women who will have this kind of personal support through their journey as moms with diabetes.
Brooke recently turned 34 years old and is currently a stay-at-home mom to a 2-1/2 year old daughter, and is expecting her second in just a few short weeks! Prior to the birth of her daughter, she worked as a DJ. Now her priority has shifted to motherhood and helping other Sugar Mommas, which makes her a perfect addition to our Amazing Diabetes Advocates series!
DM) Brooke, what was your initial inspiration to start a group for mothers with diabetes?
BG) Going through pregnancy being a type 1 is like an additional full-time job. It's not like a normal pregnancy where you don't have to worry about what time you eat, how much you're eating or not eating at all due to blood sugar levels/control. There are difficulties and frustrations that happen during this time and it is nice to be able to talk to others who can relate. Also for moms with young kids, most of our friends don't deal with a disease like this on a daily basis: the challenges, frustrations, overall ups and downs. It's so great when you can tell someone, "Hey, My A1C is 4.9%!!" And they know what it means and how hard you have worked to get there. All of us moms have worked really hard to get where we are with our children and being able to share our different experiences with one another is wonderful.
The group just started so initially we'll have group meetings at homes. Moms get to meet and know each other, and the kids get to play together. There will sometimes be themes, like "Bring your favorite snack" or "Bring your child's favorite toy to share with others."
In the future, I would like to plan special activities such as park gatherings, zoo and museum outings etc. I would also really like to see us build a real network of type 1 moms and have us get together to do such things as volunteer together at JDRF events.
And how often will the Sugar Mommas meet up?
Our goal is to meet one Saturday per month, excluding the month of December due to the holidays. Our second meetup was Saturday, Nov. 10, in San Mateo, CA, and next we'll meet again on Saturday, Jan. 12, 2013. We focus on trying to find a central location for all of the moms who will be attending, but the meetings can be anywhere in the central San Francisco Bay Area. Children are welcome, of course! They really enjoy playing together.
How many members do you have so far, and what do you hope women will get out of this group?
Thus far we only have about a dozen active members. For starting last month that is great! We started a separate Facebook group page that people, once they have joined, can use as an open forum for questions, information, etc.
I am hoping that women will get a sense of community and support, yo know they're not alone and there is someone out there to talk to who "gets it." We all have really enjoyed the support that we're able to give to one another already. It's awesome!
How can women join? Do they have to be moms, or can moms-to-be and wannabe-moms join too?
Women can join just by coming to one of our meetings! They can find out about meetings one of two ways: like us on Facebook, where they can find out about upcoming dates and message us for details, or they can email me directly for more information.
Most of the women who have come are currently expecting or have young children, but we are open for moms to be as well. Sometimes it's great to talk to one another to find out steps they took before getting pregnant with the diabetes. Additionally, as in any pregnancy, some people have had more challenges than others in getting pregnant, and it's nice to talk to others who have been through a difficult path while on top of that being type 1 diabetic.
What have been the most difficult things about diabetes and pregnancy for you? What advice do you have for moms and moms-to-be?
I think just the worry has been one of the most difficult things... and realizing that sometimes I don't need to worry as much as I do. Also, it's hard to be constantly monitoring my blood sugars (testing 15-20 times a day) and doing my best to make sure they're in great control as to not harm my baby. The frustrations of insulin resistance... when you get to a point where your (insulin pump) sets stop working and you have to change them every single day. The times when you're hungry but can't eat because your blood sugar isn't coming down for hours. I have to thank my wonderful husband, who will wait to eat dinner with me, even if it takes hours for my sugars to come down.
My advice for moms and moms to be is to take one day at a time. Have a good support team of doctors behind you and don't be afraid to ask them any questions. Talk to as many other type 1 moms and moms-to-be as you can. They've been through it or are going through it. While pregnant, be patient, don't panic; you can get your sugars under control.
What advice do you have for women who would like to start a similar group in their community?
My best advice is to get in touch with their local JDRF chapter to find out how they can start a group through them. If there is not a local chapter, I suggest bring the idea to your local doctor/endocrinologist. Let them know that you're interested in starting a type 1 moms group and ask them if they can help to spread the word to their type 1 patients and to other doctors/medical professionals.
I reached out to my local JDRF chapter and we created a flyer together. They emailed it out to their list of doctors, and I researched all of the type 1 diabetes high-risk pregnancy programs in the area. I emailed and or called each one and told them about the group and asked if they could help me spread the word.
Everyone has been really great and loved the idea and they have been passing the info along. I also reached out to any other type 1's that I know as well. It's a lot about networking, which I love to do!
Any plans to expand the Sugar Mommas program across the country?
First we need to really establish ourselves here in the San Francisco Bay Area. But yes, eventually I would love to expand Sugar Mommas across the country! It would be great to be nationwide with local chapters where people can meet up like we are doing here.
Thanks for all the work you do, Brooke, and congratulations on your newest addition!