A Type 1’s Decision Not to Have Children

Being a type 1 and open to pregnancy was a decision I didn’t take lightly or without many tears of worry.  It’s a personal decision and whether a woman does or doesn’t choose to have children, the emotional turmoil and heartache involved definitely exists.  Today, I’m so grateful to have my friend and fellow type 1 diabetic, Stacey Divone guest post.  She blogs at The Girl with the Portable Pancreas, is married to Joe, has had type 1 for almost 30 years , and she has decided not to have children.  In keeping with our Fabulous Friday topic of self love and respect, I asked her to write about her decision and a heartfelt and honest post from her is what follows.

Stacey and Joe

Diabetes. It’s something that was once, a very long time ago, a death sentence. And although the tools available to monitor glucose levels has improved dramatically, the risk of complications still exist.

Pregnancy. It’s something that crosses the mind of every women in one way or another. That’s one of the reasons women were put on this earth; to bear children.  Even the pregnancies of the healthiest women carry some risk of complications.

Diabetes + pregnancy. It’s not always an ugly equation. Healthy babies are born to diabetic mothers all the time.  However, putting two risky elements together, change the entire decision making process.

As if there wasn’t already a ton of effort involved in managing diabetes on a daily basis, that effort doubles or even triples while working to maintain a healthy pregnancy.  The endless testing, carb counting, insulin dose adjustments, logging, doctor visits, worrying.   For 40 weeks.  I’ve been doing those things to some extent for almost 30 years.  But the life or well being of a child growing inside me has not been dependent on it. It has been a great challenge for me to get my a1c below 7.  It has only happened twice that I remember in recent years.  My body has been through a lot in my diabetic life.  And so has my mind.   Also the prime child bearing age has begun to slip away from me. We are not in any way resolving to the old fashioned theory that women with diabetes cannot have children.  But to stretch the stress even further, especially since complications are beginning to creep into the picture for me, is something that neither Joe nor I want to put me through.  It may feel like the right decision for us but it certainly wasn’t an easy one. Or one to be happy about.  I can’t help but wonder if it weren’t for diabetes, if I would have a child. Or two. I can’t help but feel like I’m robbing my husband of fatherhood.

Yes, there are other options for having a child that doesn’t involve a pregnancy. But there are a ton of different pains endured with those as well.  Adoption is a long, exhausting process that entails spending a significant amount of money with the possibility of repeated heartache. Surrogacy is a very complex situation that requires money as well as an indefinable trust with someone outside your marriage. These are not effortless options.  Nor are they realistic for everyone.

It’s painful to know I’ll probably never be a mother.  It hurts when I hear of new pregnancies.   Especially from diabetic friends. It’s upsetting to be surrounded by friends and family with all their children; hard not to feel like an outcast.  But I try to remember the good things of being childless. I can spoil my nieces and nephew without having to actually support them. Joe and I can plan a night out or vacation any time we want. I worry about when I get home from work to be with my husband but not stressing about picking up a child by a certain time. I can focus on my diabetes management. I can sleep.  These are the things I remind myself of when it gets hard to accept.  And treasure the time that I get to spend with Joe.

Having a baby changes everything.  For everyone.  But if the bad changes can possibly outweigh the good ones, I don’t think it’s wrong to want to avoid that.

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Thank you so much, Stacey.  I really appreciate you sharing this with us.  Can anyone else relate?

3 thoughts on “A Type 1’s Decision Not to Have Children

  1. Amy

    I loved this post, especially as a type 1 who is seriously considering adding a 3rd child to my household. I think one of the most important things in life is trusting that voice inside of you. I really respect the way Stacey has come to her decision and doesn’t apologize for it while at the same time not criticizing those of us who have come to another decision.
    Also, Stacey, if you never have children, you will never need to watch hours and hours of Spongebob unless you really want to do it…just another perk I would seriously consider adding to your list.

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  3. CJ Wolfe

    Honey, I agree 100% with your decision and the reasons behind it, because I was in the same boat in my 30’s. In addition, I had the added issue of a DEFINITE genetic predisposition for both Type 1 diabetes and other, related autoimmune illnesses running through both sides of my family. My father, a Type 1 diabetic, passed the genes for it on to me. My mother has Chron’s, psoriasis, IBS and other ‘fun’ autoimmune problems, which my sister and her children share to a certain extent (only one of her daughters has remained free of those autoimmune problems). I suppose that I’d probably be doing the human race a favor by choosing not to have children and risk passing on this witches’ brew of genetic disasters, especially as I live in a country that only seems to want to provide healthcare to the rich and the insured. The other issue is that, like you, I met my saint of a husband in my mid-thirties and by the time we felt ready to have them, my reproductive system had decided that it was time to put me through hell, with fibroid tumors, periods that lasted for months (and bleeding through one’s clothing at work is hard to explain to an unsympathetic male supervisor). A medically-necessary hysterectomy ended any internal debate with myself about having children.

    I have a great incentive not to have kids: My father, now 71, is slowly being killed by Type 1. He has had multiple strokes, which have resulted in dementia and possibly early-onset Alzheimer’s Disease. He’s lost his right leg at the knee due to infection, and a portion of his left foot. He can barely see thanks to macular degeneration and the loss of vision in his left eye, also diabetes related. He’s currently in the hospital after yet another surgery to remove yet another toe and they’re worried that he also has gangrene. He can’t feel anything in his feet, thanks to both peripheral nerve and small blood vessel damage. For some strange reason, he still has normal kidney function, but that’s about all that’s still working properly.

    I will never sentence a kid to a future like this, thankfully, because I’ve chosen childlessness. And before anyone says ‘Well, that’s a worst case scenario – with blood monitoring and better insulins and better management, blah, blah blah’, I have to remind people that a Type 1 can do everything ‘right’, take care of themselves as best they can, have the greatest of ‘numbers’ and so on and so forth and they can STILL end up like my father. It’s a vicious, evil, nasty, hellish disease. Is it a harsh stance on choosing not to have kids because of this illness? Probably, and I’ll probably take a lot of flack for it. But I love my kids too much to have them and that’s my take on it.

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