“Is there anyway you can tell me your carbs for each meal before we pick it up? My son is a Type 1 Diabetic.”
These are the words I spoke on the phone to the take-out girl from Pei-Wei last week as we pulled out of the hospital. This is also the first time I say these words out loud. My son has Type 1 Diabetes. He has been asking for Pei Wei since I promised him days ago (when he was fasting and miserable) that we could have it after he was feeling better. The last week has felt like a blur. Knowing something has been wrong for weeks. Sensing what it might be, but desperately hoping I was wrong.
An impromptu visit to our family doctor to confirm my suspicions. A hectic race to the ER for my son to receive the proper treatment and help he needs. Four days of hospital care to stabilize my son, educate and train my husband and I, and finally set up a management program. And still the tears don’t come.
I felt such excitement and relief when we could bring him home. I keep telling him that everything is fine and this is really no big deal. We get him settled in, feeling confident in our knowledge of finger pricks, constant shots, carb ratios and watching everything that goes in his mouth, while monitoring blood sugar levels.
No snacking on carbs. Insulin before every meal. Correction factor. Emergency procedures. Sure, we got this.
We prepare our other children for some changes and let them know how we are going to support Hayden. Telling a 9, 7, 5, 4, and 2-yr-old how their diet will change due to their older brothers’ condition is not the most fun, but still we smile and say “no big deal guys.”
He has been so brave and strong. Responsible and mature, and hasn’t hardly complained at all. I am so proud of how he has handled everything and yet when I talk to him, I flash back to those moments before we knew. When he threw up all over the first nurse’s feet. And then passed out. His eyes full of terror and pain when they couldn’t get any blood. His screaming how badly his stomach hurt. Him looking like a walking corpse and having no energy at all. And my momma heart was so scared. And still, I smiled and talked to him reassuringly and told him that it was all going to be okay.
Because that’s what we do.
When our kids are going through something tough, we are all strength and compassion for them. They need us. It doesn’t matter what we need.
I think back to Saturday night when we went grocery shopping together to get him excited about choosing some new foods for snacks and meals. Our trip was going so well until we saw Halloween decorations. He told me what he was going to dress up as and then I saw the sadness settle on his face. “Oh right” he said, “Halloween.” And then the tears came. Not from me, but from him. I stood alone in Walmart and hugged my son as he cried. Cried for the changes, cried for the frustration, and just cried because he wanted to be a normal kid. But it passed as quickly as it came and we moved on and got back into school. Still smiling and saying “we got this.”
I have talked to the nurse, and to teachers and coaches and brought in all of his medications and called the Diabetic nurses each morning to report his numbers. Friends and strangers have messaged me to ask if we need support, advice or guidance and it really has been so generous. I tell them all the same thing. We are doing well and its fine.
And still the tears don’t come.
As we race around from different school pick-ups and activities and I stress about meals, and my son’s still very low blood sugar levels and wonder why they aren’t changing, I still count my blessings that it isn’t something worse.
Soon after we are home and kind of back in a “new” rhythm, my youngest two come down with high fevers and the stomach flu. After two days of not being able to do anything but hold them and make sure my other kids still get to where they need to be, and that my newly diagnosed Diabetic son is doing okay, I finally sit down in my neglected house with my huge to-do list and schedule, and then finally, finally the tears come. Not for his diagnosis. Not for the extra work this will be for me. I am fine with both of those.
No—I cry because I have been lying to my son. I have been telling him this is all no big deal, and that things won’t be that different. But that is a lie. His life is forever changed. He can never again go to a party, a friend’s house, a basketball game—anywhere—without making sure he has supplies with him and knows his blood sugar levels and thinks about what he will eat and when. Family movie nights, vacations, birthdays, holidays—they will all be different for him now. They won’t be bad, just different. And although we have talked about these changes, the need to protect him, to shield him, to be positive for him, has meant that I have lied to my son a little. It will all be okay, BUT this is a big deal.
In time it will be “our” new normal, and we will be fine. I know all of that. I am continually grateful for my 6 healthy children. Often times being strong for them means that our time to process is delayed. We cry later and in private.
Then we wipe our tears, put on a smile and get back to work.