Welcome to JDRF Bay Area’s blog, One on 1, a series of interviews with people who live with type 1 diabetes (T1D). Members of the community will talk about how T1D affects them, how they manage it and how they have conquered it. Today we talk with Brooke Gibson, mother of three and founder of Sugar Mommas, a Bay Area support group for expectant and new mothers who have T1D:
JDRF Bay Area: Let’s start from the beginning. When were you diagnosed with T1D? What are your memories from that time?
Brooke: I was six years old. I cried when I found out I had to go to the hospital. I remember practicing shots on my Cabbage Patch Kid doll. I quickly learned to how to check my blood and give myself shots so I could spend the night at friend’s house. I was doing it by myself within a couple weeks of being home from the hospital. I remember going to diabetes camp when I was 8 and getting the “Ms. Manners” award. I was one of the only kids my age who could give themselves their own shots.
JDRF Bay Area: What was it like being pregnant with T1D? Did each of your pregnancies differ when it came to T1D management?
Brooke: It’s a full time job. I was constantly thinking and worried about my blood sugars, what I was eating, counting carbs etc. Blood sugar patterns are always changing throughout pregnancy, especially in the third trimester. The best thing for me was to find a good doctor who could support me with my changes as necessary. I was more nervous with my blood sugars in my first pregnancy compared to my last. In the end I realized I was in great control and sometimes things were out of my hands. I just had to be patient and fix it (if I had a high number). My insulin resistance was different with each pregnancy…just like all pregnancy symptoms! I had most resistance with my third pregnancy and we couldn’t figure out why. Turned out my placenta was huge, over 3 lbs! That was cause for major resistance.
JDRF Bay Area: How old are your children? Do you discuss your T1D with them?
Brooke: Kaleigh is four years old, Keira is eighteen months and Kellan is seven weeks. I do discuss it with them, especially with my eldest. I talk about “Mommy’s medicine” and how “Mommy has type 1 diabetes.” I have tried to teach my eldest to call 911 just in case. Hopefully she’ll never need to do that. Kaleigh and Keira are enrolled in the TrialNet screening program and I will enroll Kellan once he turns one. My dad has T1D and his dad had it as well, so it runs in the family.
JDRF Bay Area: Now that you are a mother, how have the challenges of managing T1D changed?
Brooke: I have less time for myself which means less time to just think about my blood sugars. It’s been especially difficult to get things leveled back out after giving birth and breast feeding. My endocrinologist knows I’m usually in great control and it’s hard to focus 100% on getting back there quickly. It’s a work in progress and I’ll get back there!
JDRF Bay Area: What inspired you to create “Sugar Mommas” and what has the response been like?
Brooke: When I was pregnant I kept asking my doctors to introduce me to other expectant moms with T1D. It just never happened. I met my first pregnant T1D friend through a United Kingdom diabetes website where I saw she lived nearby in San Jose! We messaged, met and are still friends to this day. It was so great to have someone who understood what I was going through and I wanted other people to have this in their pregnancy. Living with T1D through pregnancy is a unique experience that one can’t understand unless going through it. I started the group for support and fun. The response has been great! After getting together with our kids, the feedback has been “Thank You! I needed a group like this,” and, “I love being with people who get it,” etc. I wanted a place where people can ask, “Did this happen to you with your T1D pregnancy?” Sugar Mommas is a group of women who can relate to each other in a special way.
JDRF Bay Area: What is your advice for expectant and new moms who live with T1D?
Brooke: It’s hard not to freak out when you see a high number…just know that it’s going to happen and it’s Ok here and there, as long as you don’t keep it there. Don’t beat yourself up over it. You know yourself best. If you feel that something isn’t right or should be changed, don’t be afraid to speak up! For new moms, life is definitely about taking care of your new baby now, but don’t forget to take care of yourself first. If you’re not in good shape you cannot take care of your baby.
Sugar Mommas can be found on Facebook at www.facebook.com/Type1DiabeticSugarMommas. All expectant and new mothers living with T1D are welcome at the next meeting on July 20.