In a personal essay, one woman describes how managing diabetes with motherhood became dangerous and what she did to overcome it.
I became a mother when I was 32 years old, 14 years after my diagnosis of type 1 diabetes. Until then, I had weathered my personal diabetes storm as best I could. Some times were easier than others, but by the time I decided to have a child, I had a good grasp of how to best live with diabetes.
But after my son was born and needed all of my attention, I soon learned that my diabetes did as well. I was managing two unpredictable forces in my life. Soon I had to ask myself whether to prioritize my son or my diabetes.
As a mother, I was responsible for a small, helpless baby, who needed everything: diaper changes, feedings and clean clothes. I also had to manage my diabetes with blood sugar checks, pump changes, and endocrinologist appointments. I did, somehow, manage for a few years, although the blood sugar management I used to stay so on top of slowly became less of a priority for me.
Then I began to experience hypoglycemia unawareness.
This came at a time when my husband was occasionally traveling for work, leaving us alone for a few weeks at a time. Our family had recently moved, and we didn’t know our neighbors well, so I was uncomfortable asking for any kind of help — especially of the diabetes kind.
One day, I was out with my son, who was 2 years old at the time, and I experienced a blood sugar so low that I lost consciousness. I remember waking up with emergency responders hovering over me, a glucagon drip in my arm, and my son sitting his stroller, happily playing with a toy.
I was scared. What if this had happened when I was at home, alone, with a baby who could barely communicate.
Immediately, I reached out to my endocrinologist, who recommended a continuous glucose monitor (GCM). This device automatically tracks glucose levels throughout the day, meaning I wouldn’t have to remember to check my blood sugar on my own. I agreed, not completely understanding what a CGM did, but convinced that it would improve the quality of my life as a mother.
A few weeks later, I trialed my first CGM. With my endocrinologist, we determined a range of blood glucose that we both felt comfortable with and she sent me home. When I explained the purpose of the monitor to my husband, he was immediately hooked. “We are getting this, no matter what it costs,” he said.
And so, another chapter of my life with diabetes began — that of CGM use. It’s been nearly ten years since my first CGM and I am forever grateful to those buzzes and beeps, alerting me of where my blood sugar is, where it’s going, and how fast.
Having a tool like this has allowed me to embrace motherhood fully. Because I know what’s happening diabetes-wise, I am able to immerse myself into whatever activity my son is involved with. Whether we are at a sporting event or a Cub Scout meeting, I can glance down and see if I’m within my healthy range, and, I can adjust my insulin or activity without a big fuss.
One small device allowed me to give both my son and my diabetes the attention they deserve.