I am NOT a helicopter parent. My children have grown up knowing what it’s like to fend for themselves, and rely on each other for entertainment. I’m not saying it’s right, in fact, I admire the hovering moms, thinking they must somehow love their children more than I do, or their mommy DNA is just a tad bit stronger than mine.
But for whatever reason, my kiddos ended up with me as their mother, and I do pride myself on how well-adjusted they are to change. How even as young children we could pick up and head out the door if we chose to, without having to worry about dinner time or bed time. They would adjust and be happy, my little gypsy babies.
They survived two moves to two different states and though it took a decent amount of time to adjust, they learned to thrive completely on their own. I mean sure, I parented, we parented, but it was always to the tune of “Everything is going to work out,” or “I promise you, this won’t kill you.”
There was nothing that life could throw at us that could become so overwhelming, that we would have to recreate who we were as people, as parents.
Enter Type 1 Diabetes, stage left.
It was the weekend, thank God, and I was looking forward to doing exactly nothing for the next 48 hours. Instead we got an ER visit, a trip in an ambulance, 24 hours in the ICU and a two-day diabetes “camp” on the glorious set of the children’s oncology ward. Oncology. Seriously.
My son had been sick for like 5 hours, that’s literally the only symptoms we saw. He came into our room around 5am Saturday morning and told me he threw up all over his room. A very faint bell went off in the back of my foggy pre-coffee brain and went, “Well that’s weird,” this family knows how to time their vomit like it’s an Olympic Sport.
I had him crawl in bed with me and try to rest for a few hours, as no one needs to carpet clean throw up before sunrise. A few hours later, once we had recovered enough to turn the lights on, I looked at my kid and thought, “Well, he looks like he’s dying.” Yes it set off my mommy alarm. I pictured the guy from Into the Wild, the last few minutes of the movie as he starved to death. He had black circles under his eyes, his dry cracked lips stretched thin across his face, his contoured cheekbones bulging outward. I knew he was dehydrated from being sick the night before, but being a champion of vomit myself from my brief binge/ purge method of dieting back in seventh grade, I knew this just wasn’t normal. I told my husband to look at our kid, and he was alarmed instantaneously. We made him some broth and gave him some apple juice which he promptly threw up all over my room. At that moment my husband, myself, and our two daughters all decided a trip to the ER was in our immediate future.
Thankfully (for the first time, I’m saying thankfully) we live in a small town. Within about 10 minutes of walking into the ER he was hooked up to IV fluids. The nurse was asking me 300 questions about his medical history, and if there was anything different about how he was feeling recently. I racked my brain for anything alarming and couldn’t come up with anything. He’s 13. He’s thin because he just outgrew me last week. He’s tired because he’s a teenage boy. And then because I felt stupid about not having anything else to report, I told her how he had been complaining about how thirsty he had been and how much he had to pee. “At least I pay attention,” I thought, I do know my kid. She promptly ordered blood work.
About a half an hour later, the doctor asked if she could speak to me outside.
“Has anyone every talked to you about diabetes,” she said.
Say what now? Of course no one has talked to me about diabetes, my kids are healthy. I looked at her like she was crazy and that she got her medical degree online. She proceeded to tell me that she knew as soon as she saw him, how thin and gaunt he was. I told her that he doesn’t look like this normally, he’s gotten really tall recently, and hello, he’s here because he was throwing up, obviously it makes you thinner.
She told me that his blood work confirmed it, and that we would be spending the next few days at the children’s hospital an hour and a half away. Oh, and that his levels were so critical he had to be transported via ambulance. You know, so he wouldn’t die in the car ride over.
We’ve learned so much in such a short amount of time, my brain is full of information I never wanted. There is both fast acting and long-lasting insulin. We need both. He can’t get a pump for at least six months post diagnosis. There’s basically an epi pen for diabetes, in case we find our kid passed out and unresponsive. He probably should never live alone (this one hit me pretty hard since I tell all of my kids they should live alone at least once in their life, even if it’s just for a few months). 1400 is not an acceptable blood sugar reading. Diabetics and cancer patients are placed on the same floor of the hospital because they can’t make each other sick. And, having a kid with a chronic disease is expensive, sometimes it’s okay to have to ask for help.
It’s been exactly two weeks, and my laid back, passive approach to parenting has died an early death, just like my sons pancreas. I have the school nurse call me everyday to tell me his blood sugar and confirm the amount of units of insulin he is supposed to receive before lunch. I have a drawer full of snacks that are portioned out and labeled with the amount of carbs on them. I yell for him across the house if I haven’t heard from him in over an hour. I worry about his blood sugar as I lie awake in the middle of the night. I pack his lunch every day, and make him dinner every night. I feel his head, and look at his face every time he is near me. I’ve taken a step back in my job to make room for sick days and day trips to the endocrinologist.
I hover so much, I can hear the helicopter blades chopping above us.
Or is that just what my heart sounds like now. Now that it knows how quickly things can change, how fragile life can be. Now that it knows how much love it holds for one boy.
Now that I know…
All the things I wish I never knew.