Recently, I was slightly shocked at a comment made while I was enjoying a pleasant lunch.
‘A is pregnant,’ came the announcement.
‘Oh, that’s lovely,’ I said. Although I don’t really know A, I was still very pleased for her.
‘Really? I’m not sure if that’s such a good idea considering her health condition. What if she passes it on?’
Now, if I had any sense of decorum or tact, I would have stopped right there and changed the subject. Or left the table, suddenly desperate to visit the bathroom. Or become focussed on the pattern on the table cloth. Or thought about the dessert that was about to be served. I would have done anything other than say something.
I am not that person.
‘You’re kidding right?’ I said, prickly with anger. ‘Do you know how many times I’ve been told that? Do you know how many times people have inferred that I am selfish for having a child – and trying to have more – because of my diabetes and the possibility that I could have passed on my crappy genes?’
I was annoyed at myself for saying anything. My kid was sitting opposite me, listening to every word I said. She may not have joined the dots between how A’s health condition could impact her a baby, and me with my health condition impacting my baby (i.e. my kid). I’d just made it abundantly and painfully clear, however.
‘I’m sure that she’s getting really good advice and that she is on top of it. But I’m thrilled that she is having a baby if that’s what she wants and it sounds like it is. Not that long ago, she wouldn’t have been able to. Just like women with diabetes couldn’t. I really hope she is feeling well and has lots of support around her.’
This conversation happened a number of weeks ago and it is only now that I am ready to speak about it; to write about it. I was terribly upset at the time – the topic is very sensitive and clearly, more than 12 years after our girl was born, I still struggle with the perception that others may have: I was selfish for having a child because I could pass on diabetes to her.
But the more I thought about it, the more I realised my feelings are very mixed up. Along with the anger flashing in my voice, there is guilt. I have so much guilt about the chances of passing on diabetes to our daughter. It terrifies me, and the fear can be overwhelming.
Living with diabetes meant having a baby was not a particularly straight forward matter. The decision to actually go ahead took a lot of soul searching and discussion. The actual getting pregnant took time, effort – and great pain as I lost babies. Yet, I never had a baby because I was being selfish. I did it for a lot of other reasons, but being selfish was not one of them.
And rarely a day goes by when I don’t consider the impact my decision could have on our girl. Perhaps I don’t like to be reminded of it which is why I reacted so stormily. Or perhaps I am still just really, really scared.