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Raising Madelyn

 Life for me, is defined in two different and distinct ways: before the diagnosis and after.

We can never go back to the before, and these two variances will forever run parallel; never to intersect.

Life was and never will be the same again.

Before, we had ‘it,’ or at least our own version of ‘it.’ Our idea of the American dream, we had it.

And then, the diagnosis shattered the appearance of it – like a garden spade turns up the earth. We’re still a family and all outward appearances “seem” the same, but the truth is, the garden spade changed the chemistry.
 
{This photo was taken right after our discharge, and it's hard to look at.}

That’s chronic illness, especially one with little outside signs of it like Type 1 Diabetes.

In order to be discharged from the hospital, the nurses had to see Nick and I inject Madelyn. We had to show them we knew how to count the carbs, calculate a bolus or a correction, draw insulin into a syringe and administer it.

It is impossible to explain how that anticipation felt, because every single thread of your being as a parent screams for you to resist. She’s terrified. There is no way in hell you can poke her with this needle. And it sure as hell has no place in childhood. Can’t you just … trade places?! There is no word in the English language, or any language for that matter, that can articulate what that feeling is like.

But you have to do it. That poke of the needle is the only way to keep her alive. And with tears in your eyes, as your husband holds your daughter to equally console and keep her still, you plunge the needle into her thigh to deliver the life-saving, necessary insulin she needs.

It takes you a whole three seconds that feels like a damn eternity, and you’re all crying in the end – but you did it. Nothing will ever prepare you for anything you do, ever – much less administer a shot to your own toddler.

Slowly you build upon it, as experience increases your knowledge base. The fuck-ups come regularly of course, but it’s a new experience to build upon. There are high blood sugars, low blood sugars, failed cannulas, illness due to hyperglycemia, equipment failure, and dosage changes as she grows. It feels like you are constantly reacting, trying to catch up, unable to sleep because you just want her to not only be okay, but maintain the magic that is childhood.

It is a constant battle between a chronic illness that brings pain and questions, and a carefree childhood that is put first. You shoulder all of the responsibility; her only job is to be a kid.

 
Then, it is trying to console your son, the big brother, as he cries helplessly during the first days of diabetes. You can see him pick up on her fear and pain, and while the entire family struggles to accept it, trying to explain it to a then-7-year-old is one of the more difficult moments of this journey.
 
Diabetes has left you broken, because as a parent, it is the one adversary you are no match for.
 
You can break a fever, you can kiss an injury, and you can hug them until they are soothed.
 
Everything you once knew as a parent has been turned on its head by a garden spade.
 
But soon, you realize the garden spade and the overturned fertile ground of knowledge supports your new life. So you keep moving forward, because Madelyn needs to keep moving forward. Diabetes doesn’t get easier, you just get stronger. And though life will never be the same, it’s still just as beautiful.

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