Happy Mother’s Day, Diabetes Community!

We have all the great moms out there in mind today — especially those forced to act as “surrogate pancreases” for their kids with diabetes.

Two beloved D-Moms who stand out are Stacey Simms in North Carolina and Moira McCarthy in Massachusetts. For those who don’t know them, these women are rockstars in the Diabetes Community! (And both happened to have been chosen as winners of our DiabetesMine Patient Voices Contest last year):

  • Stacey’s son Benny was diagnosed as a toddler in 2006 and is now starting the teen years. Stacey is a former broadcast journalist and now host of the popular podcast Diabetes Connections.
  • Moira’s daughter Lauren was diagnosed at age 6 and is now in her late 20s, off on her own adulting with T1D. Moira has been a tireless advocate over the years with JDRF and other organizations, including being a force behind the grassroots Project Blue November initiative.

In 2018, they teamed up to create a new podcast series aimed at diabetes parents in a Q&A format, in which they answer community questions in their unique quirky, entertaining yet informative style. It’s a great listen, and today in honor of Mother’s Day, we wanted to put them in the spotlight here at the ‘Mine.

DM) Hi Ladies! First off, why did you start your diabetes parenting podcast series?

Stacey: I had been looking for sneaky ways to bring Moira on the podcast more. She’d been on a few times over the past few years and not only was it fun and informative, but the ratings were always great! We were at a conference together last Fall and I posted online that between us we had more than 30 years of D-Mom experience and would anyone want to ask a question? Turns out, people did.

Moira: Funny thing: I had been pondering “podcast” for a while. Actually, I was thinking of doing a ski one (my “other life”) So when Stacey asked me, it just clicked. Also, Stacey and I totally enjoy chatting, so why not share our incredible brilliance — or mundane blather?? — with the world?

When did you first meetup in real life?

Stacey: In St. Louis, MO, in January 2014 at a JDRF where we were both speaking. We’d connected online before then, but that was the first time we met in person. I can’t remember exactly how we met online, but I I was a huge fan of Moira’s blog and I was SO excited to meet her. But we’d never spoken before St. Louis, that I remember.

Moira: She introduced herself, and I said, “Let’s have lunch!” And apparently, she was all nervous, like I was someone important or something!! Too funny.

What are some of the most common questions you get from D-parents?

Moira: The most frequent themes seem to be both burnout and independence. I think most parents know in their hearts what they need to do as far as letting their kids grow independent. They just need some friends who get it to back up that feeling. We’re those friends, I hope.

Stacey: Those are the tops. We also get asked about how to handle questions and judgement from well-meaning friends. There is a ton of pressure on all parents these days. I hope Moira and I can relieve some of that. None of us are perfect!

Regarding motherhood and diabetes: What’s changed since you first came into the pancreatically-challenged universe?

Stacey: My hope was always that my son would lead a long, healthy life with diabetes. That hasn’t changed. I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about a cure, although I do raise money and advocate for one. But the biggest change really has to be social media. It’s the best and worst thing out there. It connects us in ways we couldn’t have imagined, but it also magnifies fears and spreads false information.

Moira: Back when my daughter was diagnosed, in 1997, it was super-hard to find a community. It took me about a year, but I did. And then, it was always face-to-face with people you got to know. I think it’s incredible that people can just click on a screen now and find it — but that’s double-edged. As Stacey said, there are worries around it like magnified fear and false information. I’m kind of hoping our D-Mom Podcast is a middle ground to that. Sure, you click to reach us, but you hear our voices and get to know us personally, which helps you decide if we are “your tribe” for real.

When you hear of a family with a new T1D diagnosis, what’s the first thing you say to them?

Moira: “It’s going to be OK. It’s never going to be the same, but you’re going to thrive.” I usually first list off ALL the things my daughter has done in life since being diagnosed 22 years ago at the age of 6, and then encourage them to know in their heart that their loved one will do all the things they want to in life as well. It helps! And my biggest first two things are 1) Be careful of the Internet — take it slow first, and 2) Any time your child or you want to do something, ask yourself what your answer would be without diabetes in the picture? Make that your answer. Because there is always a way.

Stacey: Diabetes stinks but your child and your family are going to be okay. Your child is going to grow up happy and healthy and having fun. Find your local D-community through JDRF or another group that has in-person meet-ups or events. I feel like I live online some days, but there is no substitute for in-person support. The podcast name “Diabetes Connections” comes from a presentation I did years ago (and still do) about how to make those real life connections. It takes effort, but it’s worth it.

What’s helped each of you personally navigate the “D-Mom” path?

Stacey: Find yourself a Moira McCarthy! Truly. What I mean by that is, find a voice, a mentor really, who speaks to you. I found Moira’s blog early on and her message of letting your child grow up respecting, but not fearing diabetes, of going on with life, having adventures, doing big things and still having our own lives as moms was just what I needed to hear. Not every diabetes parenting blog fits every parenting style — you don’t have to read them all or agree with them all. That’s just parenting, even without diabetes.

Moira: Find yourself a Stacey Simms! Well, you know I had to say that! But for real, the best advice I can give is to find people in real life too. Head to a JDRF One Conference, or Friends for Life, or some kind of diabetes event — and find the people you connect with. With that as your base, you can add on social media friends with confidence.

Stacey: Yes. You need that base. I found my first tribe of local D-moms at Benny’s elementary school. I posted about our get-togethers which eventually led to starting a local Facebook group, which now has more than 600 parents in it!

Any advice to women who live with T1D themselves, who are planning to become new moms soon?

Stacey: For pregnancy advice, I’d recommend seeking out information from another woman with T1D. Ginger Vieira and Kerri Sparling have written quite a bit on this, as just two examples that come quickly to mind. I’d also address the fear that many people have about having kids with type 1 if they are type 1 themselves. Having diabetes may make it harder on my son Benny, but I’ll go out on a limb and say he’s still pretty happy he was born. If you want children, don’t let the fear of diabetes stop you. That’s easier for me to say as someone without T1D — I don’t have the guilt that I “passed it on.” But we have a ton of autoimmune conditions in my family. You can’t let fear of “what if” stop you from one of life’s great joys.

Moira: I would say first, find those D-Moms who have diabetes as well who you like and reach out to them for support. Next, it is not fair for me to say much here (as a non-diabetic), but I think if you can, focus on the positive in your life and let that guide you in raising your child.

With this weekend bringing Mother’s Day, what would you want to say to your child with T1D?

Moira: Thank you for always allowing me to tell (most of) your stories. I get all this credit out there but really, it’s you. Your willingness to be open has helped thousands — and that matters. Also, always bring a friend along for those first-time dates with people you meet on dating sites because I don’t want to search the Potomac River for you! Kidding. Kind of. It’s probably a great sign of our evolution as D-Mom and daughter that I didn’t even mention diabetes in there!

Stacey: I’m really proud of you. You don’t walk an easy path but you do it with honesty and humor. Thanks for letting me share some of our stories in the hopes that we can help others with T1D. Now go clean your room.

Thank you both for sharing here, and for your wonderful voices in the Diabetes Community! With that, to both Stacey and Moira as well as every single mother out there… Happy Mother’s Day!