Will He Get it Too?

There are a lot of nagging little thoughts rolling around in the back of my mind these days. I try to keep them there in the back, where I can avoid thinking about them, but occasionally I let my guard down and one of them slips to the front of my brain where I am forced to confront it.

Last week, the thought that slipped through was about the occasional high blood sugar spikes. In particular, it centered on how these spikes were affecting my baby.

This week the thought is about the odds of passing diabetes on to my son. Of course, I have thought about this one a lot over the years, but it never really bothered me that much. I’ve always felt like I was able to lead a full and productive life even with diabetes and, at least in my eyes, my childhood was exceptionally normal. So what’s the big deal if my child develops this disease, too?

But it’s a little different now. I can’t put my finger on exactly what changed, but now that my son is actually growing (and moving!) inside me, I am starting to feel a sense of anxiety over this possibility.

Being the compulsive researcher that I am, I’ve scoured the Web for information about the odds of passing the disease on, but there is not a whole lot out there and it is not very definite. I’ve read that the chances are a slim as 1 in 100 and as high as one in two. Being the scaredy cat that I am, I’ve hesitated to ask my doctors. Maybe I don’t want to hear what they’ll say.

My mom and I used to talk about the odds, too. She is also a type one diabetic and in the late 70’s when she was pregnant with me, her doctors told her that the chances of me developing the disease were one in two, or 50%. She recounted to me that she was devastated that day when my Grandma called her at work to tell her that I was running to the bathroom every five minutes. I was just four years old. Two days later I was in a hospital bed at Children’s Hospital and my parents were down the hall in the nurse’s office injecting carefully measured doses of saline into oranges.

So I’ve always just sort of assumed that my child would develop the disease. The genetic tendency is clearly there, and it’s all I’ve ever known, after all. Maybe this has been my way of coping with the possibility: hoping for the best, but planning for the worst.

Things are different today than they were in the early 80’s, though. Medical costs are sky-rocketing and insurance is harder and harder to come by. While information has made managing the disease easier, we are also faced with so many more day-to-day worries and stressors; we spend more time testing and adjusting, counting and estimating, fighting with our insurance carriers, and wondering how we will pay for it all. We are living longer, but we are facing more complications. Is it fair for me to bring this load to bear on another human being? And I’m not just bringing the burden to bear on my son, but on my husband, too. He will be the one learning to draw up a shot and learning to inject saline into an orange. And then there’s the selfish thought: Will I be capable of caring for two individuals with this high-maintenance disease?

Usually, I am able to just push this thought out of my mind. It’s not like I can do anything to control whether or not my son inherits my bad genes, and even if he does, we will just figure it out as we go. But every now and then, the thought lingers, and I start to wonder “what if …”

I am hopeful that my husbands genes will prevail and this little guy will make it through life without experiencing nauseating low blood sugar reactions, dehydrating ketones, and painful site changes. But if he doesn’t, I guess I am one of the best prepared people on the planet to help him find the right path through life with this disease. After all, my mother was the perfect role model and mentor for me and, hopefully, I can be the same for him.

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6 Comments on “Will He Get it Too?”

  1. saffy Says:

    Wow, a lot to think about. I tend to plan for the worst too – that’s how I managed another pregnancy after preeclampsia. I’d love to know more about how your mom did a T1 pregnancy in the 70s – it’d be so different to today, I’m sure. I don’t know about your son’s odds because of your mom and you, but I thought the odds were higher if the Dad was the one with T1?

  2. sweets Says:

    I also believe that the odds of your child developing diabetes is higher when the father has it, rather than the mom. If memory serves – 3% if the mom has Type 1, and 5% if the father has Type 1. And Type 2 has a higher likelihood of being passed down – but don’t quote me :)…

    I also never really thought about it before, but toward the end of my pregnancy thought about it quite a lot. Now that he is here the thought still crosses my mind, but I try not to think about it. A least I know that he would be able to live a pretty normal life if he were to be diagnosed. But I too am hoping that my husbands genes will prevail – along with some of his other pretty genes – no allergies, and one kick-ass metabolism!

    Good luck šŸ™‚

    • nici Says:

      Thanks for the link. I found this page to be the most helpful, too. The parts that worries me the most are:

      “Your child’s risk is doubled if you developed diabetes before age 11”


      “About 1 in every 7 people with type 1 diabetes has a condition called type 2 polyglandular autoimmune syndrome.

      In addition to having diabetes, these people also have thyroid disease and a poorly working adrenal gland. Some also have other immune system disorders. If you have this syndrome, your child’s risk of getting the syndrome including type 1 diabetes is 1 in 2.”

      I wonder if maybe my mom and I both have this syndrome given the host of autoimmune disorders we both have …

  3. Bethany Says:

    A woman with type 1 diabetes who married a guy with type 1 diabetes and has had two sons without (so far *knock on wood*) type 1 wrote a book called “When you are a parent with diabetes” and it was really really good. If you are over 25 when you have the baby and the mom is the one who has it, your risk of having a child of type 1 is the same as any other child (about 1%).

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