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Advice for people with diabetes and their families

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DIABETES WEEK: Tara’s story: Staying connected throughout lockdown as a new mum

Tara Lawrence

Tara Lawrence

Diagnosed with MODY 3 diabetes 10 years ago

I found friends at the Type 1 Events and they’re like family now, so that’s why I’ve continued to volunteer for several years.

Tara, 27, from Hampshire, has been living with maturity onset diabetes of the young (MODY) 3 for 10 years. She’s been volunteering at our Type 1 Events for many years and has missed them, since they’ve had to be cancelled due to Covid lockdowns.

She also works as a primary school teacher and gave birth to her daughter named Felicity last year. Tara's shared her story of how she stayed well during lockdown whilst getting to know her new baby. 

Journey with diabetes

Having a baby during the Covid-19 pandemic

The past year’s been a bit of a strange one. I became pregnant in March 2020, so the last year has mostly consisted of pregnancy and looking after my new baby. So I’ve had to get used to that on top of a global pandemic. 

Being pregnant during lockdown was strange. I spent most of the first lockdown working from home, as I was considered vulnerable by my workplace due to my diabetes and my pregnancy. It was hard to access appointments, especially at first, but it got a lot easier to access them either virtually or in person towards the end of the year. 

It was also quite lonely at times, being stuck at home. I was living with just my husband, and we formed a support bubble with my sister and her daughter. But apart from that I didn’t see anyone else until I went back to work in September. 

Working and socialising from home

Working from home during lockdown was tricky because teaching is obviously more of an in-person job, so I had to adapt to teaching pupils online. It was a very different year for work, and strange to not see people and not work in a classroom like I’m used to. 

The biggest change for me was not being able to go out and do things as normal, which had a big impact on things like my blood sugars and my insulin doses. I wasn’t as active because I wasn’t getting out, so it was harder to control this on top of being pregnant. 

I had lots of plans for lockdown but lots of them went out the window! I was hoping to become fitter and healthier. I also wanted to learn sign language, but I didn’t finish everything I’d have liked to, which I think is pretty typical of the first lockdown. 

I also definitely experimented with some more foods, we’ve tried some different recipes and done a bit more baking. We all had to bake a banana bread last summer didn’t we! 

Not having the communication I’d normally have through events and meeting friends with diabetes was a big change too. As well as the typical Zoom quizzes during lockdown, I also took part in lots of the Diabetes UK voluntary teams events. 

Emotions

Staying mentally well during the pandemic

Mental health has been a really big focus for me in the last year, especially after my daughter was born. She was born two weeks before the second lockdown, so her first three or four months were spent at home. We weren’t able to do much because of the weather and everything being closed. 

This also meant not being able to have family come over and help us out. I couldn’t have friends pop over, I couldn’t go to other people’s houses, so I think my mental health definitely took a dip, having to be home all the time on top of the massive adjustment of having a baby. 

But now things have opened up, it’s definitely helped improve the way I can cope with everyday challenges.

My husband has been my biggest support, he’s been absolutely amazing over the last year. He’s coped with massive hypos and highs and all the emotions and fears that come with these in terms of how they might affect the baby. And then after our daughter was born he was a massive help for my mental health. He made sure I got the support and treatment I needed whilst looking after a brand new baby after a c-section. 

And because I’ve got MODY 3 diabetes, there’s a 50% chance of my children having the genetic mutation that means that they’ll develop MODY 3 diabetes themselves in the future. We found out about a month ago that my daughter does have that genetic mutation, so we’ve had to support each other with this. Just knowing that one day she will receive the same diagnosis I had is a lot to deal with in the first six months. 

Life with diabetes

Being pregnant during lockdown

Pregnancy, as most diabetics will know, can be stressful because your blood sugars have to be very tightly controlled. Having to be so on top of my blood sugars was a massive change for me. 

The change in my routine also affected my blood sugars and made my doses go a bit strange. I needed to change my insulin pump settings and wear sensors a lot more to make sure my blood sugars were in the right place. I also had a lot more appointments to make sure my levels were in the right range. 

It was scary in lots of ways to begin with, but it became normal quite quickly. Once I got used to being at home more and working from home and knowing who I could contact about different things my diabetes control was okay. 

I think the biggest thing that helped me was finding other people in the same position. I sought a lot of support through Facebook groups to talk to other diabetics who were also pregnant. It was quite nice to be able to see their pregnancies progress as well as my own, and the babies that have all come from it. 

It was also great to be able to ask the silly questions about who’s getting what insulin resistance and how they’re coping with blood sugar levels, since you can’t usually ask these questions in general Facebook groups. 

My advice for anyone who’s going through something similar of having diabetes and being pregnant is to find support groups online or in person if you can.

Coming out of lockdown

The first thing I did when lockdown began to lift was book swimming lessons for my daughter, as we hadn’t been able to book any baby classes in lockdown. I’ve also taken advantage of being able to go and see friends and family. It’s been great to see people again, and I’m definitely looking forward to things opening up a bit more. 

We've got lots to look forward to now, like a friend's wedding in the summer that we're hoping to turn into a mini-holiday within the UK. I'm re-enjoying life and appreciating things more, whether it’s being able to go to a café with a friend, or sit in someone’s living room instead of the garden. This year has really made me see the smaller things for what they are rather than taking them for granted. 

I also think I’ve realised how important health is to me. Of course, it's always been important, but in the past I might have said to myself ‘oh, my levels are high, but that’s okay because it only affects me’. But now I’m looking into the longer-term future, and my levels might be high, low or in range but that could have a knock-on effect in the months and years to come. And I want to be able to play with my daughter and watch her grow up.

So it’s put my health into a bigger focus in my life, knowing that I need to be here and healthy for my daughter as well, not just for myself.
 

Volunteering

Volunteering at Diabetes UK's Type 1 Events

Before lockdown, I had volunteered at the Type 1 Events for seven or eight years to help children with their day-to-day lives while their parents get to have a break, or go to sessions to educate themselves more on type 1. 

All my volunteering was in person and was being close to people and supporting them, so this has become non-existent for the time being at least. So I’m looking forward to getting involved with in-person events once they restart. 

Why I decided to volunteer

I was inspired to get involved with volunteering because I loved the idea of meeting others. I’ve always really liked the events, not only because of helping the children and seeing their point of view, but also for finding a community for myself. 

When I started volunteering I was at university and didn’t know anyone else with diabetes. It was really important for me to feel totally normal in a group of people with injections and blood glucose meters and all of those sorts of things, so that was what pushed me to do it. 

I found friends at these events and they’re like family now, so that’s why I’ve continued to volunteer for several years. We kept in touch through Zoom during the lockdown, and a few people I’ve met through events also live nearby, so we’ve been able to meet up in person. This has been really important to help me feel supported both through my pregnancy and since having my baby. 

I think events have also helped to keep me motivated when living with and treating my diabetes. So having them taken away was tough to begin with, but then having the social side of that added has been a big help. 

Diabetes UK and me

Support from Diabetes UK

I've definitely received a lot of social support from Diabetes UK in the last year. They’ve been there through the whole pandemic to make sure that we’re able to communicate with people we’re not able to see anymore. I didn’t specifically look for support, but it was nice to know that they were always there on the phone or online if I ever did need them.

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