Six months later I arrived at the awards ceremony with bleeding heels from a last minute stagger along Knightsbridge, having thrown on a frock from the back of the wardrobe, and taken the last possible train in. No lunch date, no hotel room to gossip in as we all donned Spanx and glitter. None of the excitement of previous years for me. I was sat at the back, on a table with people I didn’t know well. I’m not winning this one, I told myself, I’d be nearer the front if that trophy was mine. And then they called my name.
Winning the MAD Blog Awards
Photos by Tom Arber
I don’t like these images. Not because I am crying; nor because of the errant boob or the beginnings of a sagging chin. I don’t like them because they take me back to possibly the worst moment in my life. I was out on my own for the first time since my daughter’s diagnosis of Type 1 diabetes three weeks earlier. I had left my baby with my husband and I was terrified. My heart was broken, I couldn’t eat, I wasn’t drinking, I was barely there. I cried all night long. People tried to talk to me, but I scared them away – no-one knew what to say.
I spent the evening glued to my phone as first my daughter, and then her dad texted blood test results and requests for advice, then moved on to increasingly frantic voicemail messages – hers full of tears, his of angst. Not that she was worse off with him than with me. None of us knew what we were doing back then. We just knew that life as we knew it was over, that our child was on the brink of something that would affect every moment of her life – day and night. It was a lot like the first few months with a newborn baby. Without the joy, and the stitches. Here’s why Type 1 Diabetes is like having a newborn baby.
Type 1 Diabetes is like a newborn baby
- You will see the clock more times during the night than you do during the day, as you check blood glucose levels to make sure they’re safe.
- You visit the GP at least once a week, hyper-aware of symptoms you would previously have ignored.
- You spend two hours of every day in the chemist’s, perusing shelves for things that might be useful, but find yourself incapable of making a decision.
- You eventually find one thing that is useful (usually for measuring liquid – in this case the precise quantities of Lucozade needed to treat a low blood sugar) and buy so many that the pharmacist has to place an order to re-stock his shelves. You go back the following week and buy it all again.
- You begin keeping a detailed record of everything your child consumes.
- You spend hours procuring a life-saving, precious liquid for your child, (breast-milk/insulin) then forget that it needs to be refrigerated, and throw it all away the next day.
- You buy more plastic storage tubs than you could ever need.
- The supermarket checkout is something you quite simply MUST. GET. THROUGH. NOW! Before someone cries.
- You gush every time you meet someone dealing with the same as you. No matter that you have nothing in common – they’re your new best friend, and you intend to stalk them.
- No matter how much you learn, there is always a good chance of a curve ball.
- Illness is extreme, and keeps you up all night with worry.
- You don’t trust anyone with your baby – not even your partner. It’s you she needs, and only you know what to do. You’re going to have to get over that, or you’ll break.
- You experiment with your diet, to see if it makes a difference. You cook ridiculous things you’ve never eaten before, and never will again.
- You don’t eat or drink for months. There isn’t enough time, and when there is, you’re too exhausted to try.
- You up your intake of wine though, despite the certain knowledge that it will impair your ability to cope in the middle of the night.
And eventually your baby will grow; you’ll get better at recognising what’s needed, and heading off some of the tantrums before they’re uncontrollable. You will become a master of ingenious discipline techniques. If only diabetes would respond to the naughty step!
As the anniversary of our diagnosis approaches, I find myself unable to think about the things we did in the months before we knew. I can’t look at photos or my heart breaks again, and the fragile sense of things being okay starts to crumble. She wants a party, to mark how far she has come; I want to turn back time and pretend it never happened.
But we are where we are. We have studied, made notes, and learned. We are not in control, but we do have influence. Diabetes is another member of our family now, with a personality all of its own. Diabetes doesn’t always do what we tell it to do. But with a lot of hard work, patience and attention, most days are fine. A bit like raising a child…