Dear Son, sorry for my T1 diabetes

To my dearest son,

Last month, just days after your 5th birthday you made an announcement: “Mum, I don’t like your diabetes.” Why I asked? You were sitting in the back of the car. I couldn’t see you. “Well,” you thought to yourself; “It stops us playing games. And sometimes it makes you have to lie down. And it makes you hypo.”

I’m glad I couldn’t see you. It meant you couldn’t see me. My face crumpled and I bit my lip. “I know, chicken,” I told you: “It’s rotten isn’t it. But it’s better than it was, eh?” I tried to chivvy us along: “Mum’s pump’s a lot better.” You agreed and we moved on. But your comments rolled around my head and have sat heavy in my heart.

They are part of a collection now; a negative narrative of the part of your young life that I wish I could take away but can’t.

Too young to have to learn how to dial 999....

Too young to have to learn how to dial 999....

Just a few months ago you asked me why I was taken away to hospital in an ambulance. I had to calmly explain I hadn’t been taken away in an ambulance and that Daddy had driven me. There are often questions about those days. It’s not a wonder you don’t remember it clearly; at just 2 and a half, when I was diagnosed, you were but a babe.

You don’t remember crying in the corridor as Daddy and Nana took you home after you’d been to see me in hospital, hooked up to drips and looking gaunt.

Or the way you used to hug me after I got home from hospital, tight and close, like you wanted to keep me there and safe. This is meant to be my job I’d think: I’m meant to be your anchor.

I hate that during the early days on my diagnosis with this relentless condition that you had to be looked after by grandparents because I was too poorly, too tired and my blood sugars too high to be much of a mother to you. I hate that you worried about me, asked me if I was OK, if I was getting up to play when I couldn’t. I’m troubled by how much of that might still sit inside you now.

I am sorry for the many times when I was strict with you to sit beside me and not run about while I tried to treat a hypo in the supermarket mid-afternoon. Thanks in particular for your patience in Waitrose during one of the worst; sitting quietly while the staff helped and got you drawing materials and Jelly Babies for me. You patiently sat until Daddy came to get us and took us to the hospital.

It has felt so wrong to have to teach you how to dial 999 and what to tell them if Mummy isn’t getting up. With every practice I felt like I eroded a little bit of your innocence.

Or to have to explain to you why your Mummy’s body doesn’t work and no, she’s not going to die. Although I am particularly proud that you did understand my explanation that Mummy’s body had stopped sending out cars (insulin) to get the fuel (food).

These aren’t conversations you should need to have with your 3, then 4 and now 5-year-old. And every time I’ve felt like crying inside and it always brings home to me how my Type One diagnosis hasn’t affected just me but all those around me; all my relationships. Most of those can be managed: how family relate to me, how friends deal with me now, but you’re too young.  It’s too hard sometimes.

So to keep myself going when you ask me “Why did your body break”, or tell me “I don’t like your diabetes Mum” I try to remind myself that for every yin there is a yang. For what has been taken away, there are elements for growth.

With our family’s newfound understanding we’ve been able to teach you the more intricate workings of the human body (what non-diabetic [or medic] knows what a beta cell is), about fast acting and slow acting sugars, or how food interacts with exercise (thanks Animas Sports Weekend).

In broader terms we’ve been able to teach you empathy for others.

We’ve had to teach you selflessness. It’s hard for youngsters to understand the world doesn’t always revolve around them but when I’m hypo and not able to answer, or play, you’ve had to learn to wait.

You’ve also seen me weak and helpless and perhaps, while I see this as a negative now, it may stand you in good stead to learn that it’s OK to ask for help.

And stemming from this your generosity knows no bounds: recently voluntarily offering me some of your chocolate bar as you knew my blood sugars were low.  Ha! I may have to start feigning a hypo….

Thank you for being you. Your ever loving mother,