On Monday, September 14, 2009, I noticed my 14-month-old son Nate had been thirsty all day. He cried a little bit more than usual and stood at the fridge, pointing until I got him a drink. I thought he was pretty darn smart. He was only a baby and yet he knew what he wanted and where to get it.
That night he cried on and off during the night which was very unusual for him. He seemed thirsty again so my husband, Jim, gave him a sippy cup of water. Nate stopped crying, drank the water and went back to sleep. When he woke up again he was soaked- diapers, jammies, and sheets. Everything was soaked and he was still thirsty. More water and more soaking, more water, more soaking . . .
By Wednesday I was searching the internet for “excessive thirst in toddlers,” and only one thing came up. Diabetes. But my mind would not allow me to go there. I put it in the back of my head and continued to monitor the situation.
The next day Nate went to his once-a-week children’s day out program. When I arrived to pick him up at 2:00 pm, I noticed that they had changed his clothes. When I asked why the teacher told me he seemed excessively thirsty and had soaked through his diaper. It hit me like a ton of bricks. Diabetes. Yet somehow, even though I knew, I could not believe it. I called our pediatrician and made an appointment for that afternoon. I left my two older daughters with a babysitter, rushed Nate to the doctor, and insisted that they check him for diabetes. A nurse tested his blood glucose level, turned around, and walked out without a word.
When the doctor came back in, I wanted to run away. I understood the look in her eyes and I wanted to grab Nate and run away from the reality that was about to come.
Nate was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes on September 17, 2009, and admitted to the hospital right away.
We spent the next four days in the hospital while the doctors stabilized Nate’s blood sugar, and Jim and I learned how to care for our son. Somehow we managed to convince the doctors and nurses that we knew what we were doing, and that we were ready to take Nate home. Looking back I now know we didn’t have a clue what we were doing. We were moving on automatic, what I call ‘survival mode,’ and we stayed that way for a quite a while.
We plugged along as a family through our new normal, but the truth is that I was barely surviving. I pulled away from my friends and family. No one understood what I was going through and I had no interest in being around my friends, which made me feel even more lonely and isolated. I skipped play dates, birthday parties and my monthly book club. I wasn’t ready to hear about other people’s problems when my feelings of sadness, anger and frustration about Nate’s diagnosis were overwhelming me. I cried a lot. I never knew when tears were going to hit me, but they hit me often. There were times I would find myself sobbing in the shower, in my car at a stop light, and even silently while doing a blood sugar check in the middle of the night. I never wanted Nate or my girls to see me cry so I did my best to hide my tears from them at all times.
It took a long time but my feelings of sadness and anger have subsided. Parenting a toddler with type 1 diabetes is always going to be challenging and frustrating. There is no easy way to wrangle a two-year-old boy away from his beloved train tracks, Matchbox cars, Handy Manny tool set, or catch him during a heated game of chase with his two sisters for blood sugar checks. But we do it 8-10 times a day. Every day. It hasn’t gotten any easier to wake up at midnight and 3 am to check Nate’s blood sugar each and every night. We weigh and measure Nate’s food so we can accurately measure how much insulin he will get for each meal. And the biggest challenge, frustration and fear is knowing that there is such a fine line between the amount of insulin that keeps Nate alive, and the amount of insulin that could potentially kill him. Dealing with this requires a tremendous amount of support, and I’ve been lucky to find it. Thanks to my friends, my family and the wonderful Diabetes Online Community (DOC) I know that I am not alone in this journey.
After going through many stages of grief I have come out the other side with a new outlook on Nate’s diagnosis. I can say that although managing type 1 diabetes is not easy, we are living a happy and joyful life. We are no longer just surviving