Shifting priorities

Apple, pear, tape and glucometerYesterday I was diagnosed with diabetes. Not the gestational kind that comes with pregnancy, but Type 2 diabetes, the kind that comes from years of too many bad foods and not enough exercise.

It’s a devastating blow for me, further complicating an already complicated pregnancy, but it’s also the kick in the butt I need. You see, like most mums, I have continually put Aidan’s and Anthony’s wellbeing ahead of my own. Time spent exercising and planning meals was time away from my wife and mother duties and certainly hasn’t been a priority in my already busy life.

Unlike most mothers however, having a child with a terminal illness provided the perfect excuse. I promised myself that when Aidan died, and I had more time on my hands, I would address my growing waistline but until then I could go on emotional eating, burying my pain with chocolate and cheesecake. After all, I have a lot to deal with so why shouldn’t I eat what I want, or so I told myself.

Occasionally over the last five years, I have attempted to lose weight but not for my physical health, mainly because I couldn’t afford to buy bigger clothes and sometimes because I knew healthy eating and exercise would help with my depression. But my efforts were always short lived and easily derailed whenever Aidan had a medical crisis. With a lack of healthy food options in hospital, I convinced myself that I had little choice but to survive on a diet of pear and raspberry bread, Mars Bars and cheese-laden lasagnes that friends and family had kindly made for us.

With several friends who also have sick children, I know that I am not alone in gaining weight from emotional eating and a lack of exercise. In fact, Bear Cottage, the only children’s hospice in Australia, recently launched a week-long mother’s boot camp with a combined six month health and wellness program. Unfortunately, due to the pregnancy, I wasn’t in a position to join but it is a good acknowledgement of how many parents fail to look after themselves when they have a terminally ill child.

So here I am 16 weeks pregnant, about to learn how to give myself insulin injections, being forced to accept that I if I want to avoid hospitalisation during this pregnancy and deliver a healthy baby, I need to make my health a priority.  The best mum I can be for Aidan is a healthy one.

I know it isn’t going to be easy. In recent weeks (when doctors first suspected I had diabetes) I began exercising 6 days a week but of course, with limited time on my hands, some things have had to give. The house  isn’t as clean as it could be and I haven’t called my friends as often as I’d like but for the first time in a long time I am getting my priorities in order.

While I’m grieving for chocolate right now, I also realise that I have been blessed with a healthy body that has no underlying condition. If Aidan can live within his physical capabilities then so can I.


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