Diabetes and Adoption

This story has a happy ending. SInce writing this article, Rachel and her husband have become the proud parents of a baby girl named Ella.

| Apr 17, 2009

There is an old schoolyard chant that starts out with an image of two people "sitting in a tree" and "K-I-S-S-I-N-G." This is followed by, "First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes the baby in the baby carriage." The natural progression of life is to find one's "soul mate," tie the knot, and then have children.  

My husband and I always planned on having children.  When dating, we often babysat for our older friends' kids so they could have an occasional child-free evening. Together we volunteered to work in our church's nursery. While getting my undergraduate degree, I paid the tuition bills by working at a day care.  Changing diapers or wiping off dirty faces was nothing new to us.

The year I married my husband and also began graduate school was quite stressful. I was teaching a freshman writing class while balancing my own coursework. When I fell ill that Thanksgiving with a stomach virus, I forced myself to keep working, knowing that a stack of ungraded essays and several hundred pages of reading assignments were waiting for me. 

As my education and teaching career progressed, my physical wellness declined. I frequented the doctor every two weeks with chronic sinus infections. I was squirting drops into my eyes constantly. I visited the restroom every twenty minutes, and I couldn't quench my thirst. My weight dropped weekly, though I was consuming well over five thousand calories a day. Despite seeing five different doctors, I was left without answers.

A year and a half after that Thanksgiving, my husband took me to the ER because I couldn't breathe. The verdict was diabetic ketoacidosis as a result of undiagnosed type 1 diabetes. My A1c at the time was 16.9, and my blood sugar was 700.

I spent five lonely, depressing days in the hospital. Brochures with titles like "Sick Days" and "Taking Insulin" were placed at my bedside. I could only stare at the glossy covers, shocked by the fact that I would forever be imprisoned by a disease I did not ask for and did not deserve.

My first diabetes nurse educator was a patient, gentle, and knowledgeable woman named Sonie who visited me on my third day in the hospital. She settled into a green vinyl chair, opened a folder, and began. I barely listened to her words, sitting cross-legged on the bed with tears streaming down my face. I must have looked terrible-yellow skin, unwashed, brittle hair, my frame shriveled to less than a size zero.

Despite my determination to hate every single person who had anything to do with my new disease, I'll never forget when Sonie softly said to me, "You can still have babies." 

A year after my diagnosis, my husband and I started talking about the possibility of starting our family. I shared with him my desire to consider adoption. I had spent time researching the potential pregnancy complications that a woman with diabetes faces, a distressing list that includes high blood pressure, kidney problems, yeast and bladder infections, premature labor, miscarriages, and stillbirth. Our child could be born with birth defects of the heart, spine, or brain, respiratory distress, neonatal hypoglycemia, jaundice, and more. I learned that I had a three to five percent chance of passing the disease on to our child.  

Some professionals argue that women with diabetes can have healthy babies, but there is, of course, a catch and it's a big one. The mother needs to keep her blood sugars under tight control, meaning between 70 and 140, at all times. 

It wasn't just the list of complications that made me seriously consider adoption. I knew that pregnancy and childbirth meant that I might have to quit my job and make managing my diabetes my life's sole purpose. I knew that my pregnancy would be high risk from the very beginning and that the calendar for the next nine months would consist of numerous medical appointments. I also knew, deep down, that I did not want to risk my health and the health of my child, all for the sake of having "my own" offspring.  When I thought about my daily struggles and how difficult they are, I could not imagine worrying all the time that the baby would be okay and perhaps subjecting my child to the ups and downs of my disease. 

The choice for me to open my heart to adoption came fairly naturally, and I accepted adoption as a way to build our family early on.  But, being only one half of a couple, I had to see how my husband felt.  A year after my diagnosis, my husband agreed to learn more about adoption, and we headed to an informational meeting held by a local adoption agency. A month later we started our home study process, a journey consisting of paperwork, fingerprinting, home inspections, interviews, and writing checks. Our home study was completed in August of 2007, and we have been waiting for our child since then. 

Choosing to adopt a child is not as easy or as glamorous as Hollywood portrays. One must be ready to face the constant questions, ranging from "Don't you want your own?" to "Why would someone give up her baby?" to "How much does adoption cost?" I worry that no expectant mother will choose us to parent her baby because of my disease. I daily ponder how I will add "mother" (and all that entails) to my list of roles: wife, teacher, and manager of a chronic disease. 

Unlike a pregnancy, the adoption journey has no due date. Just as with diabetes, there are no guarantees that this adoption journey will turn out the way we wish. Regardless of the emotional risks, we are happy to be on the path to our baby. While we wait for our child, I keep taking my diabetes day-by-day, trying to be healthy and strong, knowing that some day we will go from being a family of two to a family of three, happily pushing around our longed-for baby "in a baby carriage," just like in the schoolyard chant.

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Categories: A1c Test, Blood Sugar, Diabetes, Diabetes, Insulin, Kids & Teens, Low Blood Sugar, Pregnancy, Type 1 Issues

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Posted by Anonymous on 16 April 2009

I loved hearing from your heart the emotions you faced with your diagnosis and your decision to adopt. I don't always get to see the other side of the picture of families that adopt. My interaction is a joyous culmination of months and years of tears and why me's to the joy of becoming a mom. You are doing a great job in the role of 'mommy', and I commend you for sharing you story with others. From another mommy in KC

Posted by Anonymous on 16 April 2009

Thank you for sharing your story.

Posted by Anonymous on 17 April 2009

Great article and I applaud your thoughtfulness and consideration to your own health, your husbands feelings and the health of an unborn child. The only question the article left me with is, Why not provide foster care in the mean time!?

Posted by Mickel on 17 April 2009

Excellent article. Adoption needs to be made easier and affordable.

Posted by Anonymous on 17 April 2009

Very nice article! I love it.

~ sugarandspice697

Posted by Anonymous on 17 April 2009

Adoption is such a great way to reinforce the idea that every life is willed by God and wanted by someone (like you and your husband). If only we could make this process more financially feasible for more families...

Posted by Anonymous on 17 April 2009


Posted by Anonymous on 17 April 2009

What a powerful story! You are going to be a wonderful mother. Best wishes to you and your family. Theresa

Posted by Anonymous on 17 April 2009

Great article, Rachel!

Posted by Anonymous on 18 April 2009

I loved the article. Very heartfelt and enlightening.

Posted by Anonymous on 18 April 2009

Insightful, personal, & informative story. With the prevalence of diabetes- why didn't medical personnel make a faster diagnosis? It only takes a simple blood or urine test! The opportunity to adopt is a generous and wonderful gift given by birth mothers (and fathers). There is such a parallel between the author's medical and adoption journey. (ie. professional advisors, paperwork, financial costs, and lots of inquiring questions by the public.) Information on adoption and diabetes is what makes those who particpate in this journey take comfort and have hope.

Posted by Anonymous on 18 April 2009

Great article!!!

Posted by Anonymous on 20 April 2009

Great article! People need to learn more about adoption and health probelms.

Posted by Anonymous on 21 April 2009

Awesome article. Thank you for sharing your story.

Posted by Anonymous on 22 April 2009

Great story, my heart goes out to you as a mom of two.good luck with your beautiful daughter,and keeping yourself healthy!

Posted by Anonymous on 22 April 2009

Great article, and congratulations to the author on the adoption of her daughter!

Posted by Anonymous on 23 April 2009

i agree no less. kids who are born in poor family nobody asks those parents when they go initially that r u sure to continue preganacy,will u b able to afford to raise them, then why they ask from adoptive parents. living in limited means doesnt mean that we will provide less than 100% of us in any manner to our child either natural or adoptive.

Posted by Anonymous on 23 April 2009

congratulations on the adoption of your daughter, I can relate to your hospital stay and hearing the news mine was type 2 and since i am older and heavy no babies for me

Posted by Anonymous on 24 April 2009

I have had Type 1 diabetes for almost 40 years and adopted my daughter 7 years ago when she was 4.9 years old. There is very little in the literature about qualifying to adopt a child when you have a health condition. I hope more articles can be generated and also published in non-diabetes magazines about people with diabetes adopting. Let's share the options. Great job!

Posted by Anonymous on 24 April 2009

I too enjoyed the article, but I hope that this article does not send the message to others with Type I that you should not bear your own offspring. I had a similar diagnosis situation (or lack therof) with similar weight and hair loss. As soon as I received my diagnosis and wrapped my head around the gravity of it all, I got my blood sugar under control and got pregnant the next year. Yes, the pregnancy was difficult and stressful, but I now have a beautiful and healthy 8 year old boy with no complications or learning defects whatsoever. The option to give birth or to adopt is a personal decision and I am so happy for you and your husband! I just want other "newbies" to know that you can have a perfectly healthy baby even if you have Type I. Congratulations again on your beautiful baby girl!

Posted by Anonymous on 26 April 2009

Thanks for sharing your story. I wish you and your family all the best and may God continue to richly bless your lives. Thanks :)

Posted by Anonymous on 27 April 2009

When I was diagnosed at age 11, it wasn't discussed weather or not I could have children. When I was 16, my doctor told me if I got pregnant, I would die. His form of birth control, or my mother's, I guess. At age 22 I became pregnant and miscarried. At 23 I gave birth to a beautiful baby boy, healthy in every way.
At no time ever was I told the risks of having children, for me or the baby. I didn't find out there were any until a few years ago when a friend, who is also diabetic, told me of her struggles. She has lost 2 babies and has one who is very sick.
We need to be more informed so we can make the decision our self weather or not to have our own children or to adopt.
And only after reading this article, was I made aware of the higher risk to my child of getting this horrible disease, and I've asked every doctor I've seen. No one knew!

Posted by angivan on 27 April 2009

Bravo! At last, a story from someone unselfish and balanced enough to understand that the risks to mother and fetus outweigh the lure of having "your own" baby. As you will discover, this will just as much your baby as if you had delivered it. Being a Type 1 heavily influenced my choice not to have children, and I have been judged harshly for it. Whether or not to have children, as well as how to have those children, is a choice, and you've made a positive one. As for "Anonymous" who worries that your article will discourage Type 1's from getting pregnant, I can't say that's a bad thing. With Type 1's, the fantasy of pregnancy all too often becomes a terrifying reality. Good luck to you and your future little one!

Posted by Anonymous on 27 April 2009

I don't understand how you went through five doctors to get such a simple diagnosis as diabetes. Seems pretty obvious now doesn't it?

Posted by Anonymous on 27 April 2009

Congratulations on your daughter; she's adorable! I applaud your decision to adopt. My husband and I would like to adopt as well. We are older (I'm 49, he's 57) and in addition to my diabetes (Type 2, well controlled), I have kidney failure and am on home dialysis every night. I am deeply concerned that this will prevent us from adopting.

Posted by Anonymous on 27 April 2009

At age 28, I was developed Type 1 DM. When my soulmate arrived, I was 36. We wanted to share the journey and experience of being parents, and though I understood I would have to be in extremely tight bs control for the sake of my developing child as well as myself, I felt I could commit and achieve these goals. I gave birth to a perfectly healthy son in 2/09, and I am an exuberant mother. I admire and commend any adoptive parents, and I also believe when tight diabetic control is practiced, a healthy child can be brought into this world.

Posted by Anonymous on 27 April 2009

Congratulations to you and your beautiful Ella! I was in the middle of my second IVF cycle when my husband and I suddently realized that trying to get pregnant was probably not what was meant for me (especially as a type 1). At that moment we stopped the treatments and never looked back. The adoption route "felt" natural to us. We brought our daughter home four years ago and I can tell you that for us, it is exactly as it was meant to be. You are right that the "adoption process" is not easy. But know that your family will forever have to navigate through adoption challenges, including ongoing strangers' comments, so continue to be aware and strong for your daughter with that. And don't forget to take care of yourself. Just because you didn't go through childbirth and have those hormonal issues, you are still just as busy as any new mom with a baby and it is easy to get caught up and forget to check your BGs etc. So be patient wiht yourself but find a rhythm so you can take care of yourself too and don't put your health at risk now. I wish your family all of the best!

Posted by Anonymous on 27 April 2009

Hi, I am from india, indians are very conservative, me and my husband both are type 1, we wand to adopt a baby girl. .your story seems to me my story

Posted by Anonymous on 28 April 2009

Congratulations Rachel on your beautiful daughter. My son and I have diabetes. He has adopted two beautiful girls. One was a baby and one a twelve year old with cerebral palsy. He said he wanted to put a little chlorine in the gene pool. This way a child who is already here gets a family. We love these grandchildren the same as if they had been natural children. Good for you!

Posted by Anonymous on 28 April 2009

Great article-heartfelt, real & honest. I am so glad this journey has a happy ending and here comes another one-motherhood! Have fun, smile lots and keep writing!

Posted by Anonymous on 28 April 2009

I have a little girl that is type 1 diabetic. This is a wonderful story that I will share with her when she gets older. The other thing to remember is not only the blessing of a new baby but the blessing of a loving husband who is also going to have to care for his wife when her blood sugars are out of whack. I pray all the time that one day my little girl will meet her prince charming...may God continue to bless your family!

Posted by Anonymous on 6 May 2009

In 1971, in my early 20s, when I proposed to my wife I added one condition: As a person with type 1 diabetes, I would not have children. I thought she needed to know how strongly I felt about the risk of passing on this disease to a child. We have never regretted that decision. Both of us are teachers and we enjoyed our contact with young people in our jobs.

Posted by Anonymous on 22 May 2009

I am so sad that your diagnosis was so badly handled. Is there any way you could file malpractice against any one of those Drs?

I am glad you chose to adopt a child.

Posted by Anonymous on 29 June 2009

Awesome article. I can't believe it took the docs that long to diagnose you!!!

Posted by Anonymous on 30 June 2009

I decided to not have biological children because I got my type 1 diabetes from my dad and I didn't want to pass it along the gene line. I have a daughter though, not through adoption, but I have guardianship of my ex's daughter, who I've been helping raise since she was 6 months old. Sometimes I look at my type 1 friends and see there kids, and wonder...but deep down I know I made the right decision for me. Kudos to you, I feel like I can definately relate to what you have written!

Posted by Anonymous on 18 April 2010

First, I am so truly thrilled for all 3 of you. I am now 40 and was diagnosed with Type 1 at age 29. Despite my efforts, my A1C has not been optimum and my husband and I have just begun the process to adopt a baby. Of course I am still committed to lowering my A1C so that I will be as healthy as possible, but we also are so excited and thrilled to adopt. My diabetes was a hidden blessing in this way and we can't wait to share our happiness and to change the circumstance of a little one whose best fit is not with their own birthmother.

Posted by Anonymous on 19 April 2010

First, I am so truly thrilled for all 3 of you. I am now 40 and was diagnosed with Type 1 at age 29. Despite my efforts, my A1C has not been optimum and my husband and I have just begun the process to adopt a baby. Of course I am still committed to lowering my A1C so that I will be as healthy as possible, but we also are so excited and thrilled to adopt. My diabetes was a hidden blessing in this way and we can't wait to share our happiness and to change the circumstance of a little one whose best fit is not with their own birthmother.

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