Halloween was a hallowed tradition in my childhood, as it was and still is for millions of American children.
I was always so excited to create my costume for that one spooky night. When I became a parent I was thrilled at the prospect of sharing all of that excitement with my child. Grasshopper was born in 2012 and that first Halloween, since he was only seven months old, we stayed at home and handed out candy. The next Halloween we attended a neighborhood costume party but skipped the trick-or-treating. He was only 19 months old and seemed to be already worn out from the excitement of the party. Or so I thought. It is difficult for me to look back at those photographs. Now we can see the beginning signs of type 1 diabetes developing. At the time we thought he was just getting taller and leaner, like my husband. Grasshopper had gained height but not weight. He was dressed as a newspaper boy that Halloween and now I can see how gaunt and drawn his face was. We had no clue what life had in store for us just two months later when he was diagnosed on December 27, 2013. There were so many adjustments our family had to make. As a newly diagnosed family we wondered how we should handle celebrations and the usual focus on food that celebrations bring. Through that year we navigated a New Year’s party immediately upon our return from the hospital, birthdays, Easter, more birthdays, Independence Day, still more birthdays and once again we found ourselves standing in front of Halloween, a tradition that has become a Frankenstein of candy.
This was the first Halloween that Grasshopper was big enough to walk around our neighborhood trick-or-treating. It was also his first Halloween since his diagnosis. I let it sink in that he will never have a Halloween in which carb counting and exercise are not a part of the festivities. I was determined to share with him the excitement I had always felt for the holiday. For months every time I asked what he wanted to be for Halloween he said in his soft, toddler slurred voice, “Spiman.” I was impressed because the only Spiderman swag he had was a pair of pajamas his Grandmama got for him while he was in the hospital for 4 days after diagnosis. They have been a favorite ever since and he has almost outgrown them now. I made him a Spiderman shirt and he wore it with blue pants and light up Spiderman sneakers that were a gift from Nana. I got him an eye mask too but he didn’t want to wear it on the big day. Daddy wore it instead.
We gathered for dinner at a friend’s house and while it was a lot of fun, it was difficult to get any food in him because he wanted to play with his friend’s toys. We managed to get him to eat 15 grams of carbs worth of Goldfish crackers (pop quiz, how many is that? 26 grams by weight or 42 crackers) and a Happy Squeeze fruit pouch (17 grams of carbs, mostly sugar). His blood sugar was high but we temporarily decreased the basal rate on his pump since we knew he would be burning up a lot of sugar walking around. We went trick-or-treating with our friends on their busy street and I kept an eye on his Dexcom graph.
We went back to our section to see what goodies our neighbors had to offer. Grasshopper was perfectly happy knocking on our own door over & over, playing at trick-or-treating. After finally convincing him that even more fun was to be had by knocking on our neighbor’s doors, we set out to walk around our block. I looked at his graph and saw that although the number was in the mid 200s, the direction and speed was straight down with the dreaded double arrows. Earlier in the evening one of our sweet neighbors, Karen, had given him a whole box of Spiderman gummy snacks,17 grams of carbs per package. He adored the gift and was so enthralled with it he had insisted on bringing it into our friend’s house for dinner. I stashed them in his pumpkin bucket in case we needed them and they came in handy now. I gave him a package and he ate it as we visited the rest of the neighbors on our block.
We got back to our house and sorted his loot into candy for lows and candy to be added to snacks. He fell asleep happy with the excitement of the evening. As we have since getting his Dexcom, we remotely monitored his blood sugar through the night, only checking his finger when the Dexcom alerts us to a high or low blood sugar. Halloween night added an extra eerie element to getting up in the dark to check on him, but having the Dexcom as a guide eased my worries. It was spooky to walk through our dark house at 5am to treat his low blood sugar and see odd pools of glowing light in the bleary darkness. It took me several seconds, sleep addled as I was, to realize they were leftover glow sticks, bracelets and necklaces strewn about by a happy toddler. Our first Halloween with type 1 diabetes was over. We did it as normally as possible and he had a great time. On my way back to my own bed I took a deep breath. Soon another day, All Saint’s Day, would dawn with its own challenges. We would meet them together, as a family, and overcome them. But first, sleep.