Sunday, October 28, 2012

Recognition of Reality

I don't remember what it was exactly that tripped the thought in my head yesterday, but it flat out struck me square between the eyes and almost bowled me over that I'm going to be "normal" again soon.  With Tuesday marking the start of week 34 in the pregnancy, I have less than six weeks (take a few for reality's sake) of pregnancy left before Baby arrives and the complications of the last eight and a half months will disappear into my past.  I will no longer have to worry about the plausible existence of placenta previa, the horrifically real possibility of placenta abruption, the worrisome implications of abnormal alpha fetoprotein levels or the plan-changing results of non-stress tests.  I'll be able to cut the umbilical cord with the perinatologist's office and be a free woman... I'll be free to drink wine, free to exercise, free to pick up my son, free to vacuum the house -- free to be the regular, normal ol' me.


The thing is, I completely forgot that "normal" means being diabetic.  D-I-A-B-E-T-I-C.  Do you have any idea how weird that word sounds?  Ever since my diagnosis I've referred to myself as someone with "type 1 diabetes" as if it was purely something clinical and, by doing so, I've emotionally distanced myself from incorporating the reality of the autoimmune disease into my identity.  But when GW asked me about my medical ID bracelet (again) and why the symbol on it means "ambulance" (ah! That's what it was that started this train of thought!), I explained to him that "Mommy's got blood sugar problems because Mommy is a di-a-be-tic."  It was in teaching him to annunciate the word that reality hit me like a ton of bricks that my new normal isn't the normal I was anticipating.

For whatever reason it slipped my mind that all the medical issues of the right here, right now aren't purely solved by labor and delivery.  I think part of it is that, lately, a lot of people have assumed that I have gestational diabetes (GD) and in attempting to explain that this isn't the case I've some how managed to appropriate a degree of emotional detachment from my situation with the "comfort" GD offers pregnant women - a light at the end of the tunnel.  But as my insulin issues aren't purely pregnancy related and they aren't due to any form of basic insulin resistance, the rose colored glasses of wishful thinking come off and I am forced to acknowledge the reality that I'm chronically ill and not just knocked up.

While I may get a break from being pregnant (yes, we are planning for more kids and no, we aren't crazy) once Baby is delivered, nothing else changes.  I have to continue to check my blood sugar, to count carbohydrates, to wear my insulin pump, and to visit the endocrinologist's office.  I still have to wear a medical bracelet - even if I get to swap out my "PREGNANT Type 1 Diabetic" one for the more simple, straight forward "Type 1 Diabetic" version.  I still have to work to take care of me so as to take care of my family, even if they're all physically separate from me and my choices...  Baby will need me to maintain high enough blood sugars to avoid hypoglycemic shock from breast feeding (I'll get to that topic soon, I promise) and HB/GW will need me to continue keeping my blood sugars low enough to prevent other adverse side effects of diabetes from setting in. I'll have to continue checking my feet for sores and neuropathy, checking my eyes for retina degeneration, maintain a low-sodium, active life style to stave off the onset of hypertension and heart disease, and ...  unfortunately the list keeps going.

There is nothing funny about being a diabetic. It's awful and down right unwanted.  I couldn't do anything to prevent my body from destroying my islet cells and, believe me, if I'd had a say in the matter I would have fought like hell to protect those little suckers.  I guess that's why I've taken this pregnancy thing so incredibly serious from day one (well, more like D-90 since I started pregnancy self-care months before conception) -- I have influence in how things go.  I cannot idly sit by and let whatever medical benefits I can provide for myself slip away when everything else seems so completely out of my hands.  But as the pregnancy is winding down, the understanding that I am still sick is setting in... and while I'd love to alter the definition of "autoimmune" to mean that I'm automatically immune to stupid things like pancreas failure, I'm permanently weighted down by the rigidity of my new "normal" existence.  No amount of painful labor or delivery can save me from it.

I'm sure I'll be just fine - Lord knows I'm stubborn enough to deal with this disease and keep things on the road - but it'll probably take a while for me to really wrap my head around what all this actually means.  For so long my identity has been centered around the people I love most and the career choices I've made that I haven't really altered it to fully recognize the implications of my medical situation... no matter what role I fill or hat I wear, I am and will always be a diabetic.

Dang it.

January 2011 - The last family photo taken
before I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. 

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