Diabetes doesn’t come with a manual, it comes with a mother. 18 May 2023 By Jenna Cantamessa Mum was in the doctor’s room with me when I was diagnosed with diabetes and the support I had, and continue to have, from her is what helped me get through those first critical months. She collected all my supplies that day (and still does now). She sat down with me to carb count meals and was there to wipe away my tears of frustration at the condition. She did a lot of the research, and a lot of the worrying, while keeping a brave face. In the following years, after talking to many other parents of children living with type 1 diabetes, I have learnt that a brave face is so incredibly hard to keep. I remember her saying the night of my diagnosis when I was locked in the bathroom crying: “darling, I wish I could take this off you and have it myself”. I’ve spoken to many mothers over the years, who are the primary caregivers of their child/children living with type 1 diabetes, and I’m in absolute awe of them. The physical, psychological, emotional, social, and financial toll that can be experienced by families caring for a child living with type 1 diabetes is extremely high. All artwork by Jenna Cantamessa @beyondtype1 wrote an article that struck a cord with me, and this quote summed up the difficult truth: “Mothers work around the clock to keep their children ALIVE. With no medical degrees. With no daily help from a doctor. I decide how much life-saving medicine to give my child all day, every day. And by the way, too much of this said life-saving medicine could kill them. Try to wrap your head around that! But then people look at my child and see this vibrant, healthy-looking child and they think I’m exaggerating, or worse, using my child’s condition to get attention. And so, more often than not, I just keep quiet, but at what cost? Keep quiet when I feel desperate, exhausted and scared about this huge responsibility that I didn’t get enough training for and that I never get a break from.” I’ve been keeping in touch with a mum whose beautiful little girl was diagnosed at 11 months old, with no previous family history of type 1 diabetes, and her stories have opened my eyes to the challenges that diabetes poses on babies. Things such as diabetes devices on her little body, diaper changes that cause malfunctions with her devices, and the challenge of getting extra supplies subsidised due to meeting the capped amounts of CGMs etc quicker. The mother told me, “I dream of those newborn nights when I thought being awake throughout the night would soon be over, but it’s constant. I don’t know how she feels because she can’t communicate her feelings to me. The condition has changed our lives irrevocably. Not a single aspect of life remains the same.” Another beautiful mum had both of her daughters, who are three years’ difference in age, diagnosed with type 1 diabetes just five days apart. Again, no family history and she is suddenly having to navigate diabetes with two children. I could go on. There are so many stories that reflect how life-changing type 1 diabetes is on a family, especially a mother. It’s through speaking to the mums who live as carers of a child with type 1 diabetes that I’m incredibly grateful for my diagnosis at 19 years old. My mum didn’t have to experience this pain and stress every moment of the day because I was able to start managing it myself from the word go. But it is her support and unconditional love that has got me through. Then there are the mums who live with type 1 diabetes themselves and have to manage motherhood with type 1 diabetes. Does that mean their own diabetes health takes a backseat? It must feel like you are constantly juggling so many balls at once, and more often than not you would put your child’s needs before your own. In recent months I have been talking to friends who live with type 1 diabetes who are preparing for pregnancy and I’ve been in shock with how rigid and prepared a woman must be with diabetes management before they even consider trying to fall pregnant, let alone throughout pregnancy. To all the mums reading this – you are incredible, and the absolute definition of a superwoman.