I found this photo the other night. It was tucked away in an album I had created for my son when he was just a baby. There were sweet memories and even a bit about the time he spent in the hospital after his diagnosis with type 1 diabetes. When I saw this photo however I wanted to cry. I felt so terribly guilty.
It has been nineteen years since this photo was taken. My son is now a strong young man living on his own. The years have brought both of my children many challenges in their short lives and the way they have handled them makes me proud. Looking at this photo, however, cuts me to the core. How did I not see?
When I posted this photo to social media someone commented that the boys looked happy. Another person commented on how cute they were. I was struck by how thin my youngest was. His little face was hollow looking. His eyes seemed to be sunken in his small head. How did I miss that?
My youngest was always the slimmer of the two boys. He was born a pound lighter than his older brother. Throughout his life, he has always managed to remain slim. Looking at this photo though, he was beyond slim. As some would say, he looks poorly. He has a sickly pallor behind the glimmer in his eye. Why didn’t I see that then?
I now know that his body was eating itself to survive. He was just making enough insulin to keep himself out of the hospital. I know that holiday treats and Christmas dinner must have been hard on his small body. His blood sugars would have been skyrocketing out of control. No one was stopping them. No one was helping his tiny little body to work properly. What sort of parent was I?
I made sure that my children ate very few preservatives. I attempted to keep my them safe from toxins. While I thought I took good care of them, this picture suggests otherwise. Somehow I missed this. I didn’t see him fading before my eyes.
19 years ago this picture was taken. I thought that I was long past the feelings of guilt and sadness. It would appear I was wrong. An image of two sweet, small faces smiling from under a Christmas tree brought it all rushing back. This picture of innocence has unleashed a flood of reprimands for my former self.
This is why parents of children with diabetes don’t need society to blame us for our child’s diagnosis. Years later, we can still berate ourselves for what we didn’t do. We can still cry over the fact that we failed to protect our children from their own bodies…even when it really isn’t our fault. We still feel guilty.