The 4th Child – By The Diabetic Traveller


I call my Type I diabetes, the fourth child. Why?

When my third baby was six months old I finally succumbed to diabetes, I had Diabetic Ketoacidosis. It wasn’t a surprise. I had been flirting with diabetes three times already. Diet controlled gestational diabetes with baby number one. Insulin with baby number two, six months into the pregnancy and after the birth, I was diagnosed with impaired glucose intolerance. Then baby number three, insulin all the way through. After the birth, my bloods were a mixed bag, but after six months, they were so high that my glucose meter couldn’t read them. So off I went to hospital with a nice dose of diabetic ketoacidosis.

After my recovery I got into the swing of things, insulin, blood testing, avoid high sugar, no alcohol, constant tiredness, anxiety, etc. I still had a baby to take care of. When packing my day bag for jaunts with number three, I had to pack all her stuff: nappies, milk, wipes, snacks, spare clothes, etc. Then my day bag for my diabetes: insulin, snacks, phone, etc. It struck me then, that having type I diabetes was like having a fourth child: when did it eat last, when should it eat next, is it unwell, do you have snacks for it, was it up in the night with a hypo? Only this child never grows up, never moves out, never stops nagging, always needs feeding, always has highs and lows, causes depression, anxiety and is a major cause of tiredness. To say I was knocked sideways is an understatement. Three humans under five years old to look after, plus the fourth child, the type I diabetes. Nice.

This was six and half years ago. A lot has changed. I set about to educate myself on type I diabetes, went on a DAFNE course, learnt to carb count, started running intensely and learnt how exercise affects my blood glucose, learnt how to adjust my ratios, learnt about low-carb and carb-free days, read Dr. Berstein’s diabetes solution book (awesome man, a diabetic who is a doctor), travelled short-term and really learnt to handle the fourth child with tough love.

So how did I get here, travelling long-term with my husband, the three human children and the fourth child, my diabetes? Seven years B.D. (before diabetes) and one year B.C. (before children), my husband and Imy husband and I travelled for one year. It was the most enriching experience I ever had. My husband and I decided we’d like to share these experiences with our children. After playing house for eight years, working like a dog for twelve years, we decided it was time for our mid-life crises and to pack up and go for another jaunt. To say that travelling long-term with type 1 diabetes terrified me was an understatement. However, if there’s one thing I’ve learned about the fourth child, information is power. So I started preparing one year before our leaving date.

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