Being a mother with three chronic illnesses (type 1 diabetes, celiac disease, and fibromyalgia) feels “normal” to me the same way that being a college student with those chronic illnesses felt “normal”…it’s all I know. But that doesn’t mean I don’t notice the way these conditions seep into my daily life and most recently, the way they impact my role as a mother to my 3.5 month old baby girl, Lucy.
Sure, Lucy doesn’t know — at least not yet – -that I can’t go hiking with her when she’s older because of my fibromyalgia. That sometimes holding her is incredibly painful because my hands and wrists hit a new level of pain and muscle spasms around the same time she turned 3 months old.
Lucy doesn’t know that part of why breastfeeding felt challenging was the nervousness of being pinned to the couch for several hours of each day and not being able to get up at any moment to check my blood sugar, take an injection, or a treat hypoglycemia. A bizarre diabetic-claustrophia.
Lucy doesn’t know that every time she eats gluten when she’s a little older, I’m going to wonder and worry about all the research studies looking closely at foods like gluten and how they may or may not trigger the onset of autoimmune diseases like type 1 diabetes.
But none of these things make me less of a mother. They make me a different mother — sure — in ways that I’m extremely aware of, and sometimes annoyed by. On the other hand, certainly every mother on the planet faces her own unique challenges that affect the way she can parent her children. These are just my challenges.
Meanwhile, I do wonder if watching me, her mother, take multiple insulin injections and pricking my fingers every single day will inspire Lucy to be braver when it comes to her own medical care or even just braver about cuts and scrapes. I wonder if watching mom make careful decisions around food will teach Lucy the importance of eating healthy things while always making room for reasonable treats.
And I know for certain that a chronic illness like type 1 diabetes, while incredibly high-maintenance and demanding, has also taught me to juggle many different things at the same time without being stressed. Preparing for a simple power-walk with type 1 diabetes is about as demanding in terms or preparation and supplies as is leaving the house to run a few errands with a 3-month old baby! So after 15 years with type 1 diabetes, neither the power-walking prep or the grocery-shopping-with-a-baby phases me as stressful. Thanks, diabetes…I think.
I also know, for certain, that my three chronic illnesses will not take away from my ability to be a mother to my daughter. Each day, I will make sure of that by continuing to take good care of myself, every day, with thoughtful diabetes management, checking my blood sugar regularly even if it means letting the baby cry for 20 seconds more, taking my insulin when I need to even if it means propping up a bottle so my hands can be free, eating healthfully so I feel good and my blood sugars are easier to manage, preventing fibromyalgia flare-ups by getting enough rest and not too much exercise instead of putting my exercise and sleep needs on the back burner.
While a new mother without three chronic illnesses might accidentally let her own healthcare go by the wayside for several years until she finally breaks down and learns how to make herself a priority again, I know right from the start that my health must be a priority in addition to caring for my daughter. For the sake of my family, my health needs must continue to be important.
In the end, motherhood with three chronic illnesses is my normal, it’s all I know. It’s up to me to prevent it from taking away from my family and instead to ensure that it actually somehow strengthens my family.
Most of all, I am certain that my daughter will grow up watching me face the demands of three chronic illnesses each day with confidence and bravery, and hopefully, she too will learn how to apply that same kind of confidence and bravery to whatever challenges she faces in her own life.
About the Author
Ginger Vieira has lived with Type 1 diabetes and Celiac disease since 1999, and fibromyalgia since 2014. She is the author of Dealing with Diabetes Burnout, Emotional Eating with Diabetesand Your Diabetes Science Experiment. Ginger is the Editorial Director at DiabetesDaily, with a B.S. in Professional Writing and certifications in cognitive coaching, video blogging, record-setting competitive powerlifting, personal training, Ashtanga yoga, and motivational speaking. She lives in Vermont with her fella, her baby girl, and 3 silly dogs.
This blog post was originally published by AutoimmuneMom.com, written by Ginger Vieira, and first published on May 21, 2015.