‘I get it’: Woman with Type 1 diabetes encourages other diabetic moms with gripping newborn photo

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“They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Some are worth so much more. This is a photograph that represents a barrage of emotions, a battle well fought, a daily struggle, years of experience, frustration and successes, a picture of love and one of God’s greatest blessings.

I am not one to complain about diabetes, but I feel compelled to bring awareness and do my part to help others. I downplay the seriousness of the disease I have battled for 34 years but it can become life-threatening at any moment if I let the control I have fought to maintain, slip just a bit.

Newborn lies on red blanket enclosed by a blanket formed in the shape of a heart with syringes surrounding it
Addie Williams Fowler

This image represents the outcome of nine beautiful months that I was pregnant as a healthy Type 1 diabetic, and the end result, a very healthy baby. It also represents a multitude of doctor visits, lab tests, ultrasounds and scrutiny from a public largely uneducated in my disease. It represents the more than 1,900 insulin injections and more than 2,700 finger sticks endured to ensure a healthy pregnancy.

It represents the 35 miles my team, The Challengers, and I rode on bikes in the Houston, Texas, Tour de Cure, while I was pregnant, and why we have vowed to ride in all 50 states to help find a cure for diabetes.

Pregnant woman with diabetes stands with family under pink arch that says, "tour de cure"
Addie Williams Fowler

It is a representation of every day for every diabetic, that even though we struggle, even though we fail, we must carry on, and that there is in each of us a determination to control this ever-confounding opponent. This is a picture of that which pushes us forward into an uncertain future. It is simply a picture of Hope!

My reason for creating this photo was to encourage other diabetic mothers that someone out there ‘got it.’ Unless you are diabetic or are very close to someone who is, you cannot begin to understand the rigorous routines we face daily. It is one thing to control diabetes in itself. The difficulty keeping it under control is greatly magnified with pregnancy as insulin requirements change rapidly and frequently throughout pregnancy.

I also wanted to raise awareness for diabetes and give the general public a picture of a healthy baby born to a Type 1 diabetic mother, and a visual of just what it takes to ensure a healthy, successful pregnancy. I wanted other diabetic mothers to be encouraged that even after fighting Type 1 for 34 years, and being considered advanced maternal age at the time of this pregnancy, it was still possible to have a healthy baby without the complications we so often hear about simply because we are diabetic.

Woman who suffers from diabetes stands with family in front of body of water
Addie Williams Fowler

Diabetes is a full-time job. We have to think about it every minute of every day, carefully considering our blood sugars, medication, time and activities throughout the day. It can be overwhelming and exhausting. Many diabetics feel discouraged and suffer burnout where they just want to give up and not even try to maintain their blood sugars which could damage nerves, blood vessels and organs throughout the body. So I felt it my responsibility, understanding as only another diabetic can, to shed a positive light on diabetes and pregnancy.

Now, when I found out I was pregnant with Hope at 41, I was quite shocked at first. But I knew it was all in God’s timing. Our oldest son, Aaron, was 23. Our 15-year-old daughter, Grace, had been born the morning of Sept. 11, 2001. While the world stopped, ours was filled with the greatest blessing. We wanted more children after Grace was born, but things took much longer than we expected. My husband, Bobby, and I were both thrilled at the news when we found out I was pregnant. Then, when Hope was 6 months old, I discovered I was pregnant again, at age 42 with our fourth child, Joseph, who was also born healthy and without complications.

Wife and mother who suffers from diabetes smiles next to family members in the woods
Sheree Varnes

It has definitely been a challenge managing diabetes now with two small children but so far, my doctor and I are happy with the treatment plan I am utilizing and my last lab test results. I am learning to juggle caring for both babies, nursing and diabetes as well as starting cycling again in preparation for our next American Diabetes Association Tour de Cure in November.

Wife and mother who has diabetes stands with family under pink finish like that says,"tour de cure"
Addie Williams Fowler

Diabetes is hard and there is no break, no vacation, but it can be managed. I know I will have good days and bad days. That’s just part of it. The key is to focus on the good, remember we are more than a number on a meter and try to figure what works best for me, as every diabetic is different.

These days we find ourselves truly blessed. Our house is filled with the laughter of our toddler playing peek-a-boo with her baby brother, the baby squealing as his oldest sister greets him when she gets up for school, and both sisters’ excitement when they spot their oldest brother coming up the driveway for a visit home. Our house is filled with love, thankfulness and hope. Love for each other, thankfulness for four beautiful, healthy children born to their Type 1 diabetic mom, and hope for all diabetics to find the resources and encouragement they need to take the best care of themselves possible. And of course, hope for a cure!”

Mother with diabetes leans on fireplace with baby in her lap next to husband with daughter in his lap
Addie Williams Fowler

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Addie Williams Fowler, 43, of Mobile, Alabama. Submit your story here.

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