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Maternity Leave

Next week, I start my transition back to full time work after having a luxurious 12 months of leave from my job as a I adjust to motherhood. I acknowledge that I am ridiculously lucky to be able to have this time off. To be fair I have also worked extremely hard for it and during this time too. For anyone who thinks that maternity leave is a holiday, they are exceptionally delusional. Although comparing to the world of academia, some days I would prefer dealing with the clingy child who refuses to sleep, is extremely cranky and throws food everywhere.

In the beginning, I was excited to be able to catch up on my blog writing during maternity leave. Certainly I was able to do that when Miss N slept a whole lot and I was just running on adrenaline. However, you’ve probably noticed that there hasn’t been any updates since June; a reflection of the craziness that accompanies a growing baby who is becoming more mobile.

The days filled up with the constant watching and cleaning up after Miss N. I was crazy enough to still be involved with a few projects, which meant I had meetings from time to time. My colleagues have certainly watched Miss N grow up over the year! I have certainly appreciated their patience with me and their graciousness at having Miss N be at each meeting. Although I’m sure it was pretty entertaining for them at times.

Online meetings have probably been one of the benefits of lockdown and everyone working from home. I didn’t have to completely step away from projects. Being an Early Career Researcher, I definitely felt the pressure of not trying to let this “gap year” impact my research outputs. I admit that I worked way more than I should have. The times that I should be resting or going to bed early or spending time with my husband after Miss N has gone to bed were spent trying to catch up on emails and work. I felt guilty, horrible and stupid for it some times but I also enjoyed being able to use my brain on more than just meal planning and activities to fill the day up. It was a time where I felt like myself.

Still, I know it’s stupid to expect that life will be as before I had Miss N now that she’s at childcare. I miss her so freaking much and I’m constantly updating the childcare app to see if there have been any updates or photos of how she’s doing. This is by far the longest I’ve been away from her. I know this is a good step for both of us, but there are so many emotions to navigate through and live with! At the end of the day, I am excited to be getting back into the swing of things and having some “me time” again.

First day feels
My Diabetes Inklings

Think Before You Ask

What are the chances my child will develop diabetes? That’s been a question that has come up a few times since I fell pregnant and have seen been asked about in the community. Of course it’s also a question I’ve mulled over many times. Recently, while I was being interviewed by a friend about living with diabetes as part of her Masters thesis, we discussed this at length. We ended up having a pretty deep chat about it especially as she lives with diabetes herself.

Statistically speaking, the answer to that question is readily available on the web. You can read about them here. But I think often people who ask don’t just want to know the science. Some might want to know if we have considered this chance of passing on diabetes to our children and the ethics of doing so. I have seen comments online and heard of people who say people with diabetes are selfish for having children, knowing that they could pass the condition on; like diabetes is the worst thing in the world they could have (I would argue being rude would be far worse but anyway…).

How would I tackle the question? It would probably depend on who was asking it and the tone they had approached this. I am all for having an honest discussion about this topic. However, if the question was asked in a way to set me up for a big guilt trip, then I would have no interest in entertaining them.

Having children is such a personal and huge decision and responsibility. It’s one I don’t take lightly and have debated with myself internally for years. I remember someone once said to me I was still too selfish to have a child. I wanted to travel, and splurge money on delicious foods and tech gadgets. Now I realise that it can also be considered quite selfish to have a child. AND I don’t necessarily have to give up all the things I want to pursue and indulge in.

What if my child does develop diabetes? The more I think about it, the more I realise that it doesn’t really matter. Yes my heart will ache for them. But if diabetes is the worst thing to happen to my kid in their life, then they’re doing pretty well. Being diagnosed with medical conditions, whether they are chronic or short term, is a part of life. You can never guarantee someone a perfect life without any adversities. How boring would that be?

I know that whatever happens, we will support our kid however way we can. If my child does develop diabetes, I’d almost be relieved, as I know what we will be dealing with and our kid will be surrounded by some amazing role models to learn from. If anything living with diabetes has taught me so many valuable life lessons that perhaps they will come to learn and apply to other situations too.

Overall, I think it’s important that people understand that being diagnosed with diabetes does not diminish a person’s worth or a parent’s love for them. So next time you want to ask a person what the risk of them passing on <insert health condition> to their child is, I would implore you to give serious thoughts before you do. Think about what you’re actually trying to ask and how it may impact them.

For her, seeing an insulin pump is normal…
My Diabetes Inklings

The Privilege of Informed Consent

Here we are again, back in lockdown with mixed emotions. From others, there seems to be a pronounced sense of frustration and anger. People are getting increasingly cranky about mixed messages and lack of clarity around guidelines and being forced to close their business at the drop of a hat (understandably). Passing conversations with people around our community has taught me that majority are worried about getting the COVID vaccination. They have questions but are too afraid to ask them for fear of being shut down and labelled as an anti-vaxxer or feel forced and pressured by their doctors to get the vaccine.

I am well aware of how they are feeling as I’m in the same boat. Numerous conversations with my diabetes team and friends in the health industry have all led to my decision to wait as long as possible before getting the COVID vaccination. This doesn’t mean that I am an anti-vaxxer, which I have already been accused of. I am very well aware of the benefits of vaccination and am grateful for them. Especially as I rely on herd immunity for a few things like chicken pox as it turns out that I am one of the small percentage of people where its vaccine is effectively useless.

I’m grateful that my diabetes team have been willing to have an open discussion with me on the risk and benefits of getting vaccinated against COVID. They listened to my concerns and situation, provided me with what information they know and supported my decision. I only had one GP who insisted I get vaccinated simply because it was “the right thing to do” without considering my medical situation.

In research, we teach our students the importance of obtaining informed consent from participants before they take part in a study as part of ethical practice. I am lucky that we get to exercise that here in Australia, where you even need to sign a consent form to feed your baby formula in hospital because your breastmilk is taking its time to arrive. Before people are able to make an informed decision though, unbiased, evidenced based information and opportunities to ask questions should be provided.

At the moment access to safe spaces to have such discussions is limited to your healthcare teams. Information is only coming through social media, often through media companies where bias is rife. Social media is also a cesspool for peer pressure; with people blame and shame are inflicted upon those who dare speak out against the norm. It makes me feel guilty for having a medical reason to postpone getting vaccinated against COVID.

It’s not a surprise that I am feeling so exhausted and burnt out from social media. There’s little room to hide from such negative sentiments when it’s all everyone is talking about. I’m trying to focus on things I can control and minimising my time on social media or refocusing my content stream to things that are helpful or positive. But it’s tough and can be isolating. So if you’re in a similar situation, I hear you. You are not alone. And if you’ve got your COVID shot – awesome, now please be kind.