A guest post by Noor Al Ramahi
Motherhood is a sweet journey filled with ups and downs. Being the mother of a child with T1D can be even sweeter (sometimes too sweet for the liking), filled with “highs” and “lows,” but it never goes unrewarded. Let me share my story.
My name is Noor. I was diagnosed with T1D 19 years ago, just before my 6th birthday. My journey with diabetes started like so many others’: filled with confusion, uncertainty, and a feeling of helplessness. Yet when I looked into my mother’s eyes never once did I see any of these things. She always wore a big smile and told me “Be strong. Everything is going to be ok. God only tests the people he loves and will never give you more than you can handle.” As a six year old these words contradicted the definition of diabetes. How was I going to eat cake at birthday parties? How am I going to take shots? What are carbs? Can I play in the park with the other kids? And the biggest one: am I ever going to be able to get married, have a Cinderella-style fairy tale wedding, have kids, and live happily ever after? Every time I looked into my mother’s eyes and saw the strength she had and how calm she remained, it made me think “if my mom’s ok with it maybe it’s not as bad as I am making it in my head.”
The next seven years sailed by smoothly achieving target HBA1Cs. A lot of the credit goes to my mom for being my 24/7 personal Endo (without ever going to med school. Moms, this is one more thing to be proud of!). Little did I know it was all going to go downhill from there. Being a teenager is in itself a challenge, but when you add diabetes to the mix, you get a whole other level of crazy. At 14, I rebelled in a way that my now-adult mind still cannot comprehend. I was hospitalized twice for severe Ketoacidosis and once in a Hypo diabetic coma for five days (by the way you do not hear anything anybody says while you are in a coma; it’s just a verrrrry long beauty sleep). Those are just three of my many bad encounters with diabetes as a result of my invincible teen mentality, not to mention the endless fights with my parents about how I handled my health. In my senior year of high school I got accepted to my dream school UCLA, but due to the fact that the dark years were not yet over my parents did not allow me to go. They could not stand the idea of sending me on my own 16 hours (by plane) away from home knowing I was hanging by a thread. I resented them for years, and only recently I realized that if I were in their situation I would have done nothing different. Many mothers have asked me was there anything my mother could have said or done that would have changed my mind. My answer is always the same: “No”. In retrospect, knowing what I know today this “simple” answer shatters my heart and brings tears to my eyes. I know now that behind the brave face my mom kept was fear. Behind her glowing eyes were dark circles from many sleepless nights. And that the glaze in her eyes were tears that had not dried up from living in fear everyday wondering if I am going to wake up the next day.
Finally, in my freshman year of college, when all those hormones started to settle down and allowed me to think much clearer, a light went off in my head and changed things. I wanted to be “normal” again; I wanted to gain my parents trust. And most of all,I wanted my mom as my best friend—not my sworn nemeses that my out-of-control diabetes has turned her into. But I did not know how to do that. My mom held my hand through the next phase, my best phase, and took me to a diabetes conference in Orlando where I discovered I was not alone. With all that support I learnt how to make things right again. Going from HBA1Cs of 13 to 6.5 was a challenge both physically and emotionally. My body had gotten so used to high blood sugars, that this was my norm. Bringing my sugar levels down to even the high 100s made my body feel like I was at 35mg/dl. Eventually that feeling went away and I have never felt better. I became healthier than most of my “healthy” friends, I was more aware of what was happening inside my body, and best of all—my mom became my best friend again.
Last year I married my soul mate, in an out-of-this-world wedding ceremony (beat that Cinderella!). He seems to believe that all our fights are a result of low blood sugar crankiness, but that is a story for another time. I looked at my mom before I walked down the aisle and saw her cry for the first time ever as she told me how proud she is of me and how she wished this journey was easier but still she wouldn’t change a t hing because it made me a stronger, better person. The smile on her face was very different from the smile she had in the doctor’s office 19 years ago, it was one of pure joy. That is when I realized I had made the best decision to take care of myself. In case you are wondering, yes she made me check my blood sugar before walking down the aisle and what do you know? I was low. I spent my last moments before becoming a Mrs. trying to chug down mango juice without spilling it on my white dress or ruining my makeup, every girls dream scenario right?
So on this Mother’s Day, I want to take this opportunity to thank my mom and all the moms out there who deal with the daily struggles of having children with T1D. Take a look at your child sitting next to you smiling or frowning (most likely due to a low, high, or just doing their job at being a teen) give yourself a big pat on the back—you are doing the best you can and deep down inside whether we like to admit it or not we know that behind every “Did you check your blood sugar?” is an “I love you and want you to be safe.” You always reassure us and let us always know that we can do anything we set our minds to and that diabetes can’t get in the way of our dreams. Lastly don’t forget you are awesome, you made the sweetest kids! Happy Mother’s Day!