With Mother's Day this Sunday (hope you didn't forget!), we wanted to honor the many, many Superhero D-Moms out there, by highlighting how they have dealt with the transition from "regular mom-hood" to being a parental pancreas.
It's tough to single out one in particular... But we're excited to have found a mommy blogger who's caring for not just one little girl with type 1 diabetes, but two.
You may recognize Heather Brand of Grand Rapids, Mich., from the D-Blog Sweet to the Soul. She's not the only D-Blogger in the family, though! Her husband, Tim, also has his own site called BleedingFinger. On their blogs, their daughters go by the pseudonyms of Lovebug (middle child diagnosed first), Princess (youngest daughter diagnosed second), and Peanut (their non-D daughter).
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We're happy to bring you Heather's story today about her experiences becoming a D-Mom, and the challenges she faces, including how they work to ensure the family isn't "totally diabetes focused" in order to not take away from their oldest, non-D daughter.
A Guest Post by Heather Brand
It was four years ago that I was celebrating my first Mother's Day as a D-Mom. Have to admit, though: I don't remember much celebrating going on. It was just six short weeks after our first diagnosis of type 1 diabetes. We were still learning and adjusting to our new life.
Before that, we were like any other "normal" family untouched by type 1. We had been married for 11 years, were in our 30's at the time, and had three great girls under the age of 10. Life was pretty good!
Thinking back to 2009, our Lovebug Audrey had all the classic signs of diabetes. We were, like so many, unaware and uneducated when it came to type 1 diabetes. It took a couple nights of her wetting the bed and waking up soaked in sweat from head to toe, for me to call the doctor. Up until that point I had thought it was just a phase she was going through. What I didn't see was the gradual weight loss that had occurred. Thinking back to her birthday a few weeks earlier, that's why the size 3T dress fit when I thought it would be too small. Then I heard the doctor's words on the phone saying something about type 1 diabetes, I didn't really know what that meant -- not until after checking her blood sugar, seeing the meter said "HI" and being rushed to the hospital where the official diagnosis came a few hours later.
Transitioning from being a Mom to a D-Mom did not come naturally for me, as I doubt it does for anyone else. I felt like a robot, doing only what I had to do to keep Audrey alive. There are still days I feel like that. It didn't matter that I got a sick feeling in my stomach every time I had to give her a shot and I would almost pass out. I had to do it. There was no other choice.
My heart took a lot longer to adjust than my brain. I would often burst out crying, wondering: why Audrey? why me? why our family? Audrey was a trooper, though, never fought us, and rarely even cried when it was time for a shot. She was my rock, as seeing her being brave helped me be strong. At least it helped me appear to be strong.
It was just when I thought I might have a handle on things when life threw me another curve ball. It was the first really warm spring day that year. Carissa (Princess) had been drinking a lot, but we were traveling and it was warm so I didn't think anything of it. That night she complained of a stomach ache and was up at least 10 times to use the bathroom.
The next morning she was still asking for water, and a lot of it. We decided to get Audrey's extra meter out and check Carissa. Countdown 5, 4, 3, 2, 1... and the result: 509. My stomach sank and my heart broke in two. We knew. It was two years and 9 days after Audrey was diagnosed.
So, that year Mother's Day was not so great, again. It was somewhat joyful because Carissa had just started on her pump the week before. To be honest, it was a huge relief because Carissa, unlike Audrey, didn't adjust so well to having diabetes. She would run in the opposite direction from us screaming, "Don't hurt me, please don't hurt me!!" We had to pin her down to give her shots. She told us from the start that she wanted a pump like Audrey and until she got that pump, she gave us hell.
There was a lot of adjusting we had to do after Carissa's diagnosis. It was particularly hard finding balance between the D-Kids and our oldest, healthy-pancreas kid. It's a delicate balancing act to not leave her out. Sometimes it seems too easy on her end to get bypassed, and we have to make an effort not to "forget" about her. She is the one kid I don't have to "worry" about (in the same way) and we have to be careful that doesn't come across to her as if we don't care about her. Both my husband and I try to do special things for her when we can, away from the other two. It gives her time with us to not focus on diabetes and gives Tim and me the chance to spend some quality time with her.
Obviously, having two D-Kids is challenging. Notice I say challenging -- not impossible. In all seriousness, it's hard work. Some days are just one thing after another and I often joke that if we haven't done something diabetes-related that day, we are missing something.
Trying to keep track of everything can make my head spin. It's hard enough just to remember who I bolused or didn't bolus at any one time. Thank God for the history setting on pumps and meters. They are life savers!! I do forget things at times; it's an easy thing to do when you have to be a pancreas for two. I can't count how many times we have had to do a last-minute site or sensor change because I forgot.
Another challenge for me has been not losing my own identity. I could totally live and breathe diabetes 24/7 if I wanted, but there is more to me than just being a D-mom. Don't get me wrong, being a D-Mom is a badge I wear with honor, but it's not the only thing I am. I am a wife, mother, friend and business owner. I have learned I must take time for me. It's not an option not to.
My husband has been a huge support to me in this area. He lets me get away. He encouraged me to start my own business. He helps around the house and is attentive when I am having a rough day. He has learned how to do pump site changes and CGM sensor changes and he is a pro at it now (of course he is, because I taught him everything he knows!).
Despite all the heartache, I can't say that everything about diabetes has been bad. It has brought some wonderful people into my life. I have made lifelong friendships and I have learned a lot as a Wife and Mother. I am more compassionate of others who have children with a chronic disease or disability. It has opened my eyes to more of the injustices in the world and how others are treated just because they are different. Diabetes has given me a whole new perspective on life.
With Mother's Day drawing near again, my thoughts go to not what my girls will get me for gifts, but to what could I give them... I have already given them life and they have given me the best gift of all: the chance to be their mom. Of course, I would give them a cure if it was possible. I have hope there will be someday.
So for Mother's Day, I want to give my girls the promise that I will always be there for them. I will never stop fighting for them until a cure is found. I want to give them strength and courage along with a belief that nothing is impossible when they put their heart and soul into something. I want them to look back and know I am and always will be their biggest cheerleader.
Thank you for this beautiful perspective, Heather (and Tim!). Being a mom is tough enough without diabetes in the mix, don't we know it!