Advice. You’ll get lots of it after your child is diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. Fellow D-moms will share boatloads of tips on the best insulin pumps and how to best advocate for your child in school. You’ll be taught the “tricks” to avoid post-pizza spikes and the best ways to treat stubborn lows. The support you receive from moms who were once in the same “newly diagnosed” stage will be invaluable.
But there are some things you just won’t hear from most D-moms. Things that you need to know as a parent of a child recently diagnosed with T1D. So here goes…
Your Shopping Trips Will Be… Different
Your first trip to the grocery store post-diagnosis will be the longest amount of time you’ll ever spend winding up and down the aisles. You’ll feel like one of those extreme couponers without the actual savings, and without the overflowing shelves of shampoo and toilet paper in your basement to prove it. You’ll realize quickly that you should have paid more attention in math class as you try to recall the number of ounces in a pound. Staring at the nutrition label on the side of a cereal box will reinforce that you’ve never once paid attention to actual serving sizes before this moment. You’ll stare at grapes and wonder if the red or the green are less likely to cause a blood sugar spike. As you wait in the checkout line, you’ll notice the two-for-one candy deal staring you down and wonder if you can convince your kid that Tic Tacs® are just as delicious as chocolate bars. You’ll pick one up just to check out the carb count and see that it’s not as high as you thought. Maybe this won’t be so bad, after all.
You Won’t Be Much Fun at Parties for a While
For me, the scariest thing about birthday parties is clowns. But as a parent of a child newly diagnosed with T1D, it was the endless bowls of chips, juice, and candy-filled piñatas that were terrifying. With nary a carb count in sight, your first inclination will be to tell your child she can’t eat the party food, and you’ll pull out a beef stick you’ve stashed in your purse. You’ll ask for a cupcake to-go so you can weigh it at home on your food scale whilst trying to figure out if the frosting is Betty Crocker™ or Pillsbury™ so you can look up the carb count online. What if it’s actually homemade buttercream? You’ll decide just to toss it out and negotiate with your kid that you’ll get them a prepackaged muffin on the way home. The next time she gets a birthday party invitation you’ll be so exhausted thinking about your food strategy that you’ll be tempted to just hit “No” on the invite and make up an excuse as to why you can’t make it. You’ll break the news to your kiddo and realize from the look of disappointment on her face that maybe you can make it work. It’s scary but not impossible. In fact, maybe the scariest thing about parties actually isn’t clowns but a purse that smells like beef sticks.
Your Relationships Will Hit a Bumpy Patch
People say that a T1D diagnosis is a diagnosis for the whole family. They’ll reference the jealousy felt by siblings getting less attention. You’ll hear about parents’ sleepless nights and the seemingly endless stress-filled days. Your lack of sleep will lead to arguments with your spouse and children. The constant focus on the care of your child’s diabetes will make you push aside relationships with friends, along with any hope of spontaneity. That 40th birthday getaway you’d planned? There’s no way you can leave for that long. That surprise date night? You can’t just call the neighbor kid to babysit anymore. Soon you’ll realize you haven’t had time away in months… maybe years. You’ll voluntarily remove yourself from the group chat with your girlfriends to avoid saying no to a night out for the umpteenth time. You won’t remember the last time you’ve actually kissed your spouse good night. This isn’t what you had envisioned your life to be. But it is your life — and every day is a chance to change it. You’ll eventually come to know that diabetes is a part of it, not all of it, and that will change everything.
There are so many other things D-moms won’t necessarily tell you upfront. It’s not because they don’t want you to know, but because there is shame in admitting things are hard. While I’m happy to share many of these things, here is the most important: You will do the very best you can, and your child will thrive. It’s your choice whether the challenges you face are permanent or surmountable. My hope is that you’ll choose the latter and leave the Tic Tacs for the next guy.
Disclaimer: The experiences and suggestions recounted in these articles are not intended as medical advice, and they are not necessarily the “typical” experiences of families with a child who has type 1 diabetes. These situations are unique to the families depicted. Families should check with their healthcare professionals regarding the treatment of type 1 diabetes and the frequency of blood glucose monitoring.
Betty Crocker is a trademark of General Mills. Pillsbury is a trademark of The Pillsbury Company, LLC. Tic Tac is a registered trademark of Ferrero S.p.A. All other trademarks are the property of their respective owners.