When Diabetes and Parenting Collide: Lessons I’ve Learned

December 05, 2023 | By Phyllisa Deroze

It’s been eight years since my daughter made me a mother, and it’s been an amazing, unpredictable experience. Throughout these years and phases of her growth, I also have had growth spurts in life lessons.

Diabetes can impact labor and delivery.

When I made the decision to start the journey of becoming a parent, I consulted with my Endocrinologist (like all the diabetes books tell you to do). In hindsight, I realize that we spent more time focusing on pre-pregnancy blood sugar levels and keeping my glucose in a “tight” range during the many trimesters, that I wasn’t as prepared for labor as I should have been. Just weeks before the due date, I was told that I would be induced (even though my daughter was not above average in size) because women with diabetes are commonly induced into labor. My dream of being at a party with friends or at a restaurant with my husband and yelling with joy, “My water just broke,” and getting carried away to the hospital for a beautiful birth could not happen because of diabetes. I learned the hard way that there’s still work to be done in the maternal education of women with diabetes. I should have known that diabetes would impact my delivery.

Diabetes comes before the baby.

I didn’t come to the point of wanting to be a mother easily; in fact, I spent most of my adult life not wanting to be a parent. I never got butterflies in my stomach when I saw newborns or craved to rub the bellies of pregnant women. I reached the place of wanting to be a mother after five years of marriage, months of consideration, and many lengthy conversations. During one discussion with my husband, I blurted, “I wouldn’t know what to do if my blood sugar dropped and our baby needed me at the same time,” and started crying. For some reason, imagining that moment when I would have to decide if my needs were more important than my child caused great anxiety. Today, he jokes with me about that chat because we’ve been in enough situations to know that diabetes will always come before the baby (even if it makes me feel uncomfortable and sad at times). Just like when we’re flying, we must secure our masks first; we have to ensure we’re healthy in order to be good at parenting.

Diabetes is a family affair.

I was diagnosed as an adult and immediately felt the heavy weight of diabetes stigma. The stigma caused me to keep my diagnosis quiet, and for many years I operated on a “need-to-know” basis with family, friends, and co-workers. My mentality changed when I saw my daughter, at three years old, mimic checking her blood sugar with accuracy. It was an awakening moment for me because I realized that I would need to talk about diabetes with her as it is always going to be a part of my day. This year she and I co-wrote Diabetes Helpers, a children’s book that gives adults a tool to talk about diabetes with young ones who live alongside diabetes with their loved ones. I can’t keep diabetes to myself, especially when I depend on my family to help me treat hypos, remember all my diabetes supplies when traveling, and put up with the alarms when they beep. I carry the biggest weight, but my family is also affected by my diabetes.

Diabetes makes me a more patient parent.

If I could have it my way, my daughter would behave exactly as I want and would be perfect 100% of the time. This was the same dream I had for my own body before I was diagnosed with diabetes. Diabetes has taught me that the best plans can change at the worst times, and I need to pause, adjust and refocus on the larger goal. Diabetes management can complicate special occasions, social gatherings or playdates if I let it, but I try my best not to let that happen. I keep traveling, celebrating, and living my best life while managing a chronic condition. These are amazing skills that transfer extremely well in parenting, where there is never a dull moment. I better understand that kids will be kids, and part of their growth is testing boundaries and exploration. Additionally, diabetes helps me maintain “Cool Mom” status because I always have delicious snacks.

When diabetes and parenting collide, it can mean constantly carting a jumbo-sized bag of joy in one hand and a big bag of worry in the other. I tip my hat to all parents, but especially to those with diabetes because there’s no better feeling than when you’ve nailed parenting and diabetes on the same day!

The opinions presented in this blog post are those of the author and may not represent the opinions of Ascensia Diabetes Care. Ascensia has paid Phyllisa an honorarium for her services as a contributor to this blog.