Low Blood Sugar And a Child’s Fear

In 2008 I wrote a post called, “Scary Diabetes Stories.” Here’s what I said:

There was a story in the local paper yesterday about a 5 year old calling 911 because his mother was in a “diabetic coma” and last week, there was a story in the news about a diabetic man getting into a car accident and last night there was an ad on TV preaching about the deadly complications of diabetes. My six year old son can’t read the newspaper, but he did hear the stories on TV. The 5 year old in the paper called 911 from a cell phone and didn’t know his address which slowed EMS’s response time. The boy is quoted on the 911 call as saying, “My Momma is dead.” The reporter stated, “Doctors later told Richardson Burden (the mom) that she would have died if she had not received medical care.”

These stories are like an infection, they snuck up on me without any warning and after I read them, hear them on TV, I feel knocked out and want to crawl back into bed. These are defeating stories, these are Julia Roberts in Steel Magnolia stories, these are stories that scare me, scare my children.

This morning as I sat on the couch reading the Sunday paper, I listened to my boys talk as they built legos in their bedroom. Will, my 6 year old, was explaining to his brother that I would die before them because I was their mom, I was older. He didn’t say anything about diabetes and maybe he has not connected the ideas of death to the ideas about my disease, but he will eventually. And that is the part about this disease that I hate the most, the stories in the news of people who get into car crashes or lose consciousness because of low blood sugar. Maybe they didn’t check their blood sugar before they went to bed or got behind the driver’s seat, maybe that was their mistake, but I’ve done the same thing myself. None of us can be perfect all the time.

So maybe for every negative story that is published in the news and on TV, there should be a positive story to even the balance. Stories about people with this disease who climb mountains, run marathons, write books, raise children and work as educators and doctors in this field. I think my day would start off on a much brighter note with a story of inspiration instead of defeat.

My six year old is now ten and I’m still not sure how he thinks about diabetes and death. I know he and his seven year old brother (the toddler is too young to join in these conversations quite yet), think they are going to live to 100 years old. Yesterday they told me I probably had another 40 or 50 years to go. I told them I wasn’t so sure I wanted to make it to 90 years old and we all had a good chuckle. What I didn’t say is that my diabetes might shave a few years off my finish line. I’m not sure they are ready or even interested in talking too deeply about death. Or maybe they are and I’m not. I’m not a fortune teller and so I’ll let my boys think they will live to 100 and leave the conversation at that.

But their talk of death got me wondering about childhood fears. What scares my boys? When I was their age I was scared of thunder and lightening, fires and the dark. When I was scared at night I would get out of my bed and run downstairs to my parent’s bedroom. They always took me in and between them I felt safe. My boys are pretty solid sleepers and my husband and I don’t often have to share our bed. When there is a storm outside, it’s usually our 13 year old dog that we have to comfort instead of the boys. When I ask, my seven year old tells me he’s not afraid of anything. (Then his older brother reminded him of how he refused to go on the roller coaster last summer and he had to admit that okay, he was scared of the roller coaster.) Other then the roller coaster, I think he’s pretty brave.

I would like to think that feeling scared is an unfamiliar sensation for my children. And not because their lives are sheltered, but because we do a good job of keeping them secure and answering their questions and talking with them about the scarier parts of life. I know that they are scared when I get angry and I do my best to give myself a time out when frustrations start to mount, and to explain my frustrations when I am calm. Seeing fear in my ten year old’s face when I am yelling was humbling. I don’t want to want to make my children afraid.

Not wanting to scare my children makes me work that much harder to keep my blood sugars from dropping. Lows are scary. I used to have the kind of lows where my husband had to revive me. I’ve crashed a car, I’ve been taken by ambulance to the ER, I’ve stumbled and fallen, and I’ve crawled across the floor. But nothing since I became a mother. It’s almost like I flipped a switch between the before and the after. The other day I said to my husband, “Isn’t it amazing that I haven’t had a bad low since the boys were born?” I’ve been a mother for ten years. I used to have a lot of bad lows all the time and not there are none. What changed?

What changed is that I became a mom. The media will do its best to make diabetes sound terrifying to my children, but I will not help. I will do everything I can to keep my diabetes from scaring my children. If it means testing 15 times a day, I’ll do it. As a mom with diabetes, that’s one way I can help my children feel safe.

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