I remember sitting on my sister Bree’s balcony on the Gold Coast, New Years Eve of 2012, making resolutions aloud. 1. Try to stop being so controlling (met by raised eyebrows and a cheeky smirk from Carl). 2. Sell our home. 3. Try to grow a baby. It was toasted with a Rekorderlig strawberry and lime cider, all the rage that year, and just like that, off into the universe the resolutions went. How far they would be carried, I wasn’t sure but I went to bed with more uneasiness that I would have liked. A sign of the year to come? Time would tell.
Back to Melbourne we headed from our break on the coast and into selling our home. Offers came but they weren’t what we were hoping for. More open inspections, more cleaning than necessary, more dirty dishes stuffed in the fridge and clothes in baskets stacked in the boot of my car for the half hour time slot each Saturday morning. It became so draining. March rolled around and we were considering taking it off the market, stay put a little longer. That was until Carl called me one morning from work, I remember standing in Burke Street Mall on the steps of the GPO building with my boss, and he said “I lost my job.” Dead silence. What? I finally stammered. What do you mean? “I was made redundant.” He sounded so deflated. This job was everything to him. He had worked so hard for two years with this company in the hope of it being somewhere he could flourish, move up the ranks and spread his wings. Instead, they were clipped, with no warning and zero empathy from his boss. The word c*nt springs to mind when I think of that guy. Redundancy is part of business, I get that. But this, this was personal. He was the first to go ahead of 40 other employees who had been there less time than him and it come on the heels of him refusing to break union laws. Like I said, personal.
By April, an offer had been put on the table that we accepted. A few hiccups and it finally went unconditional mid-May and we had 30 days to find a new home to live in. Ten days later, we found out we were pregnant. Carl needed to go get bloods done to find out his blood type as I carry a negative blood type. If he was positive, I’d need a few injections during pregnancy to avoid complications with my blood crossing the babies. His results deemed him positive but not just for blood, for diabetes. He was diagnosed with Type 2 and put on oral medication. Family kept saying we should be thankful it’s not Type 1, trying to look at the positives. I felt like the ground was moving underneath us and we just couldn’t get our footing. I was hoping that was the third. You know, everything comes in three’s? Please let that be it, I pleaded to whomever up there would listen.
We moved into a new place, somewhere with enough room for a nursey and settled into what should be an exciting time. The one thing we both struggled with though was the diabetes. We were questioning how accurate the results were given he hadn’t been asked to fast before the test. His blood sugar level was 23. Back then, I had no idea what a normal persons would be versus a diabetic. It wasn’t his usual doctor that tested him and so he stopped taking the tablets with the plan to go and get re-tested again with my doctor. As the months wore on I started noticing changes in him. He managed to find another job but he wasn’t happy. He seemed extremely emotional and we were arguing more. Id struggle to wake him up in the mornings and he’d be up all hours of the night. No matter how many times I tried to speak to him about it, I never got anywhere. He’d agree he didn’t feel great but that was it. My instincts told me it wasn’t. Months passed and he didn’t go back to be re-tested and I was distracted with my own body as my belly grew bigger and I was preparing to become a Mother. By November, I knew something was really wrong. I could feel it in my stomach. There was this two week run where he was dropping weight like a fat person in The Biggest Loser house. He started to look sick. He was drinking copious amount of liquid. I’d wake up in the morning to find 6-8 empty 1-2 litre bottles of juice, sparkling water, milk… anything he could get his hands on. Those bottles, they were full when I’d gone to bed the night before. I didn’t tell him how worried I was but I made him an appointment with my doctor.
A few days later I was at the doctors have my test done for gestational diabetes, ironically enough, when Carl appeared. We sat for a bit before he went in and I left for work. He called me just as I got to work to tell me what I had suspected for the past fortnight, he had Type 1 Diabetes. He was taken straight to hospital and put on insulin. I didn’t know what to tell him. I started googling to understand what this diagnosis meant. The results, they scared the life out of me. I was heavily pregnant, 7 weeks out from welcoming our son and this was the last thing we needed. I left work early, got home to find Carl sitting at the kitchen table with his insulin pens. He hated needles. Always had. We both sat together and cried. Even in that moment, we were both still completely naïve to how much this diagnosis was going to impact on our lives. Doing what I do best, I pulled myself together, grabbed the insulin pen and after some directions, injected him. This isn’t so bad, I thought to myself. I wasn’t the one with the lifetime diagnosis though. When we shared the news with our families, the responses were all very similar. They felt sorry for him, told us we could handle this. You know, all the usual stuff. It was a complete turnaround from the “Be thankful it’s not Type 1” comments we got earlier in the year.
Overnight our lives changed. He went from living a normal life to having to inject himself 4 times a day to stay alive. It took a lot to get used to. I am pragmatic by nature. I read document after document to learn all I could about his disease. I was a walking information brochure. Ask me anything, I knew the answer. Soon enough I could spot a Hypo (blood sugar levels hitting dangerously low levels, which can result in a coma) coming a mile off. His skin colour went grey, he looked clammy and he would have the shakes. I could also tell when his sugars were high without checking his levels because he was moody, emotional, and erratic and would suffer from insomnia. The sugar high hangover from the night before would mean he was extremely hard to wake up and slept all the time. It was this never ending roller coaster of highs and lows with no happy place in between. Finally I got into a rhythm a few months after Baker arrived and started buying Diabetic Living magazine to try and ensure Carl was eating the best diet possible. We visited a dietician and she gave us guidelines by which he could eat. Every appointment, I was the one asking the questions. Carl, whilst he wasn’t silent, seemed defeated, frustrated, over it.
His management of his diabetes was something he never got in check in that first year. It wasn’t until July, nine months post diagnosis, we went to see his Endocrinologist. She was a no bullshit kind of woman, the kind I love. She wasn’t going to baby him. She was there to help but she gave him the home truths he needed. Turns out he was supposed to have been seeing her regularly for the last 9 months. The fear was all over my face. She knew I was scared of losing my husband. I thought after that meeting things would change. And they did, just not for the better.
I was running out of options. He wasn’t getting the message about how dire neglect of his disease can be. He didn’t think he’d die. He didn’t think about long term effects, losing eyesight, losing feet, kidney failure resulting in being put on dialysis… He was in complete denial. I found a support group in our area and asked if we could go. He agreed. I thought perhaps speaking to people living with it may help him. I knew speaking with partners of people with type 1 would help me. The day came, my sister came to watch Baker and we drove to the café but that’s as far as we got. He wouldn’t get out of the car. He didn’t seem scared, it’s as if he didn’t understand the seriousness of what we were facing and how much I was hurting. How much his neglect of his diabetes was affecting Baker and I. I just didn’t know what to do anymore. All professionals told me his response was normal for someone his age diagnosed. They go through a period of rebellion, denial, harming their own bodies by not taking insulin. It didn’t make me feel any better. I just felt helpless.
We went to Bali in August to celebrate my 30th birthday. It was the worst holiday I’ve ever had. Carl was out of control. The arguing just got worse and I found myself wondering where we had gone wrong. What had I done? Would our marriage survive this? He didn’t feel like my husband anymore. Physically, he looked nothing like his old self. His medical team even testing for terminal illness like cancer because he looked so poor. Getting back home, I was worn out. Exhausted. My entire life was consumed with trying to keep him from hurting himself, from dying. I was raising our son most of the time alone and I’d lay awake in bed at night waiting for the other shoe to drop. It all became too much.
We had to move house and the first night in our new place, he just didn’t come home. It was the third time in three weeks. It was the final straw. The following day I packed up Baker with the help from family and got on a plane to Queensland to my parents place. I needed a safe haven. Some distance to let me figure out what was going on and what direction I would take from here. I still remember asking my sister as I stuffed clothes in a case, “What if this is the beginning of the end?” The pain in her eyes, I knew she didn’t want to answer but as always, she found words of comfort, “It doesn’t have to be”.
As we sat on the plane, I hugged Baker extra tight, not for his benefit, but for mine. I needed him. So many thoughts ran through my head. Ones I wished never entered. I was in a dark place. As the wheels left the tarmac all I could think about was the safety waiting for us on the other end. I needed peace. I needed to build my energy back up, find some strength to keep going. Those three weeks in the sunshine filled me up with everything I needed because what was awaiting me at home, nothing could have prepared me for that.
Images by lemonade lane