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Children.

November 7, 2008

Upstairs, there are two sleeping children. A lively three-year-old girl and an adorable, blue-eyed baby boy. They are like any other pair of siblings. They like to watch cartoons, play with their toys that make the strangest noises, and run around the house. The only difference?

The three-year-old has diabetes.

When I started babysitting children with diabetes in high school, it seemed like the perfect calling. I have contemplated being a professional nanny for a child with diabetes, except I require a little thing called “health insurance” and I’m not entirely sure how one works that out. But being a 16-year-old high schooler with a boat load of first-hand diabetes experience, babysitting was the perfect after school job. I have babysat over the years about fifteen families, for children with diabetes ranging from two years old to twelve years old. I think the greatest compliment I’ve ever been given was by a mother who said finding me was a “Godsend.” It’s not often you’re called a Godsend, and while I’m certainly not a perfect person, it was wonderful to find yet another useful purpose for having this dreaded disease.

At the age of 23, though, babysitting children always leaves me wondering what it would be like to have to prick the finger or worry about my own child. Type 1 diabetes is less hereditary than type 2 diabetes but there is a genetic component and I would be remiss to lie and say there’s no connection. There is.

I know quite a few women who have given birth, and our community recently welcomed another bundle of joy. Most of the adults with diabetes that I know do not have any children with diabetes. This gives me great hope and I have faith that I’ll be one of them. But I do know people with diabetes who also have a child with diabetes. I remember listening to a mother testify at Children’s Congress in 2001 about the guilt and fear she had when her daughter was diagnosed with the disease. I know many of you parents have also had fears about your children.

Logically, I know that the odds of having a child with diabetes is very low. I also know that life with diabetes is not a horrible fate and to say a child should not be born because of a small chance they will have diabetes is to demean all of our wonderful, exciting and purpose-filled lives. I also know that there are all kinds of risks that you accept when you have a child, and that diabetes is really just one out of many. It should be considered, but it shouldn’t be the make or break in a decision to have children.

I’d like to have children. I want to have a baby and, if God allows, I’d like to be pregnant to do it. It’s something that, as a woman, I’ve been given the ability to do. If it’s physically possible for me to do it (assuming I’m not for some reason infertile or unable to conceive), I want to be pregnant and give birth. I don’t want to insult or belittle anyone who has adopted or chosen not to have children, but I think it must be one of the most life-changing events you can go through.

Just something I’ve been thinking about.

4 Comments
  1. November 8, 2008 4:23 AM

    I couldn’t imagine personally living my life with any kind of disease. I’d be a bit scared to raise a child, but you seem to have given it alot of thought and you seem prepared. Personally I’d rather adopt, but that’s probably because I was adopted.

  2. November 8, 2008 11:42 AM

    I think about this all the time. What if I “give” my kids diabetes? I know it’s irrational to think about it that way, but I know I would feel guilty. My friend Mark and his son both have type 1 diabetes… Alex is 17 now so he’s had it for 11 years. I didn’t know them when Alex was diagnosed, but I do wonder if Mark felt that way. It’s kind of a hard thing to reconcile with yourself before you get started having kids, I think.

  3. November 8, 2008 1:41 PM

    If you want to have your own kids (and as you note, aren’t infertile and don’t have trouble conceiving), type 1 shouldn’t keep you from doing so as long as you’re willing to do the work to stay in tight control. Good luck!

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