At 26, that should make me happy, right? My family asks when I’m next. Are there marriage talks in the works with my boyfriend of three years? Yes, it’s the first stable relationship I’ve had, one that even survived 21 months of long distance, but that doesn’t mean I’m ready for marriage.
I don’t even know if I want to get married let alone have babies. I feel like a family slows a woman down, that if I want to accomplish anything in terms of a career, I must put the idea of a family on the shelf and hike it up the chain solo. But everywhere I turn, women are asking how can they do both? Can’t we have it all? What if I don’t want it all?
A week after I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, I met with my nutritionist for the first time.
She is short and cute for an older woman with a cropped white haircut and wrinkles full of wisdom. She is spunky and moves faster than me towards her office at the end of the hall at the Cincinnati diabetes center.
“So tell me what you’ve been eating?” she asks.
I don’t want to talk about my new detested diet much less what I eat. I have always been the guilty pleasure type. My reports may say I eat a salad for lunch and a bowl of rice and sautéed veggies for dinner. They may say my blood sugars spike in the evening because of extra carbohydrates, but what these reports fail to mention is the pint of ice cream I had in between or the slabs of peanut butter I ate from the jar.
I’m a food junkie (I like to blame it on my former body image issues). I’m not afraid to admit it. I’ve learned how to control it over the years, and every now and then, I slip and binge when it’s been a hard day. But I am afraid to admit it to my doctor or even this nutritionist. I don’t want to give them another reason why I might “deserve” diabetes. This is silly, I know, but if you knew my history, it would make more sense.
Maybe that’s why I don’t think I “deserve” a family. I’ve made bad decisions. I would never want my daughter or son to have my genes and make some of those same decisions. And if I ever gave them diabetes? I would never forgive myself.
“So what happens if I get pregnant?” The question sort of slips out.
The nutritionist smiles like she expected it, but I don’t. I am 22. I’ve been dating someone for a few months, but it isn’t serious. I am never serious when it comes to long-term relationships, including jobs and other matters.
“It’s very possible to have diabetes and be pregnant,” the nutritionist says. “You have to manage it differently like your blood sugars should be between 70 and 90 as opposed to 90 and 120, but I know many women who have successfully gone through the process.”
She says it like it’s easy. No big deal. I just have to keep my blood sugars between 70 and 90. I think of my recent blood sugar readings: 50, 120, 200, 150, 73, 88, 230, 119 … yeah that seems doable.
I don’t necessarily believe her, but somehow her easiness gives me relief. Having babies—it isn’t out of the question. At least I know it is possible.
But just to be sure, I buy the American Diabetes Association Complete Guide to Diabetes. I read the whole thing in a few weeks. Even my primary care physician is impressed—he’s never read the whole book. I am not impressed. I’m disappointed.
Diabetes affects everything: food, sex, relationships, exercise, weight, etc. How would I ever take care of a child if I couldn’t take care of myself? Plus, kids are annoying. There’s nothing that bothers me more than screaming babies. Why would I subject myself to that?
Because you get to raise a human being, teach them everything you know, watch them grow, and hope they make a greater impact than you. It’s funny when I was first diagnosed, I was open to babies, but in the four years since then, I’ve faltered to the other end of the totem pole. I find myself in a tug of war.
“I just don’t want to deal with it,” I tell my new primary care physician a month ago.
“But you manage it so well. Even if your child had diabetes, you’d be a great teacher,” he says.
I think of the medical expenses, the financial, physical, and emotional burden—I don’t want it for them or for me.
“I just don’t want you to write it off. It’s very possible to have a successful pregnancy with diabetes.”
Yes, it’s possible, but I’m selfish, doc, and 26. I’m not thinking about babies so stop trying to convince me otherwise.
Except that I am. I think about what it would be like to be a mother, to grow something inside me and watch it grow, to tend to its needs, and cry when it yelled back at me in spite. Maybe motherhood is my one chance to give something to this world? To give life to another? Maybe I have a natural knack for it? I don’t have any pets, but I name all my plants, and I still sleep with stuffed animals.
I even bought a baby pumpkin at the farmers market last week and named it Ginger. I call it Gingee and carry it from different parts of the apartment so it gets a feel for every room. I know; I’m crazy. I love inanimate objects more than I should. I always have, but maybe it’s my way of feeling connected to materialism? Maybe it’s my way of practicing empathy so that when it matters, I can truly be there for a friend? Maybe it’s just my weird, slightly off personality?
Either way, I still haven’t written motherhood off the table, but I’m still not sure about the idea of managing diabetes and pregnancy. Diabetes always complicates things. It’s even possible the pregnancy could go horribly wrong. I could die; the baby could die; the baby could have serious developmental issues.
Is it a risk I’m willing to take? I’m not so sure. But I can’t tell my family that. So I simply say, “I’m not looking at kids and marriage right now, but if I ever did, I would probably adopt. There are so many kids who need homes in this world, I would feel selfish if I didn’t try to help them.”
And then there’s the financial stability. Unlike my parent’s generation, I want to be financially stable before I bring a family into the world. I love animals, but I haven’t adopted a pet for that very reason. I don’t feel I’m stable enough to truly take care of it, and I’m not going to adopt an animal for my own selfish needs.
I just graduated with a load of student debt. I’m still looking for a stable, permanent job with benefits so I can take care of my diabetes. I see no point in getting married. After long distance, my boyfriend and I just moved in together. Let’s see how that goes first.
And babies? Well, I can admire them from afar, until they start screaming.