I’m a type A lady who loves a good plan. Organization, punctuality, an outline…these bring me relief and happiness. Resolutions make sense to me: making life better, easier, and hopefully more productive. But I don’t make resolutions, and here’s why.
Ten years ago, I got sick. Really sick. I lost thirty pounds quickly, I was depressed, I was forgetful, and I had to visit the restroom constantly. I figured I was just stressed, being in graduate school while teaching two classes and being a newlywed. I did visit my doctor due to chronic sinus infections. Then I went to a dietitian, an ENT, my gynecologist, and my optometrist. My vision was blurry, my menstrual cycle was erratic, and I just couldn’t stop eating and drinking due to constant hunger and thirst. My general practitioner, frustrated with me after I scheduled my tenth appointment with him, suggested I had anorexia.
In March of 2005, my husband took me to the ER because I couldn’t breathe. I was shivering with cold, and I was disoriented. After about an hour, a doctor burst into my room, his eyes wide was he read over the chart cradled in his arm. He revealed that I had an autoimmune disease, one that had no cure, and I needed to be admitted to the ICU immediately.
The next five days were a blur of bad roommates, needle sticks, and instructions. This was my new life: syringes, carbohydrate counting, vials of insulin, blood. Type 1 diabetes meant my body was ceasing to make insulin, and without insulin, I would die. I would be in charge of checking my blood sugar ten times a day and injecting the insulin my body needed.
To say I was angry is an understatement. I curled up in my hospital bed, clothed in a mauve-colored gown made for someone six times my size. My paper-thin skin was stuck with needles and monitors. My disease was a prison, and it carried a life-sentence.
On day three, the hospital’s diabetes nurse educator came to my room to begin teaching me how to manage my disease once I left the hospital. I tried to ignore her. My feet felt like a thousand ants were crawling inside of them, a result of my blood sugars being too high for too long. The nurse was empathetic, gentle yet authoritative. She told me I was very sick and I was lucky I didn’t die. When I arrived in the ER, my blood sugar was seven times the normal level.
I didn’t feel lucky. My life was not going according to plan. I had managed to graduate, but I was so fatigued that I could hardly function day to day. I had completely lost my enthusiasm for new projects and adventures, for my marriage. My body had betrayed me.
The nurse understood the look in my eye. She told me, “Receiving this diagnosis is like a death you must mourn. You have lost function in part of your body, and you now have a forever-disease.” She then changed subjects and asked, “Do you two plan on having children?”
She had my attention. We said “yes” simultaneously and, for the first time I entered the hospital, enthusiastically. She smiled, knowing she had won me over, finally, and said, “You still can have babies.” She proceeded to talk about what a diabetic’s pregnancy might entail. It would be considered high-risk. I would have to see specialists. There was the potential my baby could end up with the same disease.
I stopped listening. A single word popped into my mind with confidence and clarity, two things I hadn’t experienced in many months: Adoption.
Every January, many of my friends make resolutions to do great things: lose weight, reduce their technology use, cook more vegetarian meals, get a promotion at work. Aiming high and reaching goals is commendable, certainly. But I have learned that hard journeys can be beautiful, what I think is best may not truly be best, and that my disease, as difficult as it is, gave me a tremendous gift: the gift of saying “yes” to motherhood in a way I hadn’t planned for or expected.
My diagnosis taught me that plans are great and resolutions can be monumental, but neither guarantees us anything. And in fact, there might just be a better plan at play, one we can’t see from our limited view in that moment.