Rachael Garlinghouse is a mom, a writer, a teacher and a smart woman with diabetes. I am also proud to say that she is also one of the contributors to my book, The Smart Woman’s Guide. Rachael answered every one of my questions with thoughtful and inspiring answers. She blogs at White Sugar, Brown Sugar and is currently working on a book of her own about adoption. March is Rachael’s 6 year anniversary with diabetes….Happy Anniversary and here’s to living well with diabetes!
How old were you when you were diagnosed with diabetes and how long have you lived with diabetes?
I was 24 when I was diagnosed with type I diabetes. I had been sick for about a year and a half with chronic sinus infections, weight loss, frequent urination, constant thirst and hunger, and overall weakness and depression. I went to the doctor (five medical professionals, actually) numerous times over that time period, trying to figure out what was wrong. I believe my doctor thought I was a hypochondriac, and he did tell me at one point that he thought I might have anorexia. I was finally diagnosed in an emergency room. My a1c was 16.9, and I was in DKA! I was lucky to be alive.
I have had diabetes for six years this March. It’s been a long, confusing, and bittersweet (no pun intended) journey thus far.
You adopted 2 daughters, tell me about your decision to adopt and how motherhood has changed the way you manage diabetes.
Upon diagnosis, I spent five days in the hospital. On day three, I met my first CDNE. She asked my husband and me if we planned on having children. We both said yes, and she said that we still could (with diabetes). Immediately, the word “adoption” popped into my mind. I’m a Christian, and I firmly believe that God spoke to me that day, one of the darkest days of my life, and gave me hope despite the circumstance.
I did a lot of research on pregnancy with type I diabetes. I wanted to be sure that though my heart said adoption, my head knew it was right choice, too. At age twenty-five, we were ready to start a family, but my body wasn’t prepared for a pregnancy. I was coming out of my honeymoon period with my disease; my sugars were unpredictable and at times, quite dangerous. I wasn’t willing to wait to have children, nor was I willing to risk my healthy (or my baby’s health) for the sake of biology. I have two precious daughters, ages 3 and 1, and our lives are “cup runneth over” blessed. We are open to adopting more children.
Motherhood—it’s the hardest job in the world. I thought diabetes was tough! Being a mother with diabetes means I’m much more aware of the importance of exercise, down time, and nutrition. Eating healthy is a top priority in our home—-organic, vegetarian, homemade. We “exercise” as a family—dance parties in the kitchen, yoga poses (check out The ABCs of Yoga for Kids learning cards on Amazon), going on walks. And we enjoy our down time—watching movies, reading books, and creating art.
You write a blog called, White Sugar, Brown Sugar….and are working on a book. Tell me about the inspiration behind the blog and book.
I started blogging about adoption as a personal outlet. Adoptive parents receive so many comments, questions, and stares—some kind, some well-intended, and some that are quite rude and invasive. Blogging was a way for me to share with whomever would stumble upon my blog the intricacies of the life of an adoptive family. I also feature articles, other blogs, interviews with authors, giveaways, and so much more. The goal of my blog is to educate and inspire those who want to learn more about adoption.
I’m working on an adoption book—something I’ve wanted to do for years. I’ve finally worked up the courage and conviction to do it. The book is much like my blog—honest, educational, and inspirational. I recognize that people are curious about adoption; some might even feel compelled to adopt but are overwhelmed or intimidated. The book will offer insight into my life as an adoptive mother, but also offer the reader tips and resources.
I could talk about adoption all day long, but if I could share one message, it would be that despite the fact that my girls didn’t come from my womb and that they look nothing like me (for starters, they are African American and I am white), they are “my own.” Adoption is a unique experience, not anything like having biological children, but it’s not “less than.”
What is the biggest challenge to living with diabetes as a woman? What if anything, has been positive about living with diabetes?
Diabetes is my cross to bear in this life. It’s 24/7/356—I don’t live a moment without my disease. A diabetic can make plans, and diabetes can disrupt those plans unapologetically and without notice or reason. Type I is insanely difficult to manage, especially as a woman (oh the hormones!!!). Even with the best medical care, great insurance, determination, and knowledge, diabetes gives me hell—often. But I also recognize that without it, I wouldn’t have my children.
What has been the greatest piece of advice you’ve ever received about living with diabetes?
My first endo had terrible bedside manner—-but he did leave me with one tidbit I’ll never forget. He said, “Diabetes will eventually become normal to you.” He was right. Diabetes is my normal. I think I live well with my disease because I get really pissed off at it. If I have a debilitating high or low sugar (you know, the type that has you run down for hours or even a day or more), I feel sorry for myself for about five minutes, then I get really ticked and formulate what my next course of action is—then I move forward.
I won’t ever ever ever let diabetes win.