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The Smell of Life

Thursday, March 1, 2012

A smell can instantly bring to mind a memory.

I'm sure there are smells that can transport you back in time...  Your Aunt's apple pie, the smell of your high school boyfriend's cologne (J wants me to clarify that is not necessarily a GOOD memory!), freshly cut grass, salty sea air, the baby shampoo you used on your newborn, a certain kind of flower...

Smell is a powerful sense.

Can you guess the smell that reminds me of Sweetpea's first year? 

Nope, it's not J&J Lavendar Baby Bath.  It's not that new baby smell.  It's not warm milk. 

It's Spray-N-Wash.

Every time I smell it, it's like she is a baby all over again!

You see, about a week after Sweets was born she was diagnosed with reflux.  And it was bad.  I'm talking projectile spewing bad.  All the time. 

A few examples: 

Sweets and my Mom went with me to my 8 week post delivery appointment.  In the waiting room, a sweet older lady stopped by our seats to Goo and Gah over baby Sweets.  We informed this sweet woman about her tendancy to projectile spit.  She pretty much ignored us and took a seat close by.  It wasn't but 5 minutes later that Sweets spit up and it flew from where she was sitting in her car seat across the room in this huge arc and made a mess all over the floor.  The look on the woman's face was priceless!

When Sweets was about 6 months old, I had to go back to work.  She was being taken care of by a wonderful woman who lived down the street.  She had grown kids of her own and had watched other children for years.  I told her about the spit.  I could tell that she didn't really believe me.  The first day I packed a LOT of bibs and burp cloths.  She thought I was nuts.  But when I picked her up that afternoon, after telling me she had a great day, she said, "You weren't kidding about the spit.  I've never seen a kid spit so much!". 

Sweets spent the first year of her life dealing with this.  She took medicine which kept it from burning her throat but didn't keep it from coming up.  Sweets lived in bibs.  She wore "fancy" ones that matched her outfits when we went out but for everyday use nothing was better than the cheap ones from Wal Mart with the plastic backs. 

The only thing we could find to get the spit out of the cloths and bibs and her clothes and our clothes and her toys and the cat.... was Spray-N-Wash.  And that smell reminds me of that time in her life.

I was thinking about this the other day after we had done a pod change. I got insulin on my hands while we were switching pods. 

And that stuff is STRONG. If you've never smelled it...  a lot of people think it smells like band aids.  But it's more like band aids - if you were in a room so full of them that you couldn't move.  It is a REALLY strong odor.

And it doesn't just come off with a little soap and water. It sticks around. 

Later that day, in the middle of doing something totally non-D related, I smelled it. Insulin.

And I wondered... Will THAT be the smell that reminds me of her childhood?  Will I forever associate the smell of insulin not just with diabetes but Sweetpea's life? Will I be 80 years old and smell that smell and be instantly transported back in time?

I am pretty sure the answer is yes.

And that makes me feel a few different ways...

Part of me feels sad that I associate my little girl's childhood with the smell of a drug. Aren't little girls supposed to smell of Barbie perfume and Hello Kitty bubble bath?  Aren't you supposed to associate the smell of childhood with things like the smell or warm suntan lotion after a day at the pool?  Or freshly washed hair?  Or bubble gum toothpaste?  Or newly mown grass clinging tolittle bare feet?  Or the sweet smell of their breath at night when they have fallen asleep on your shoulder?

There's a part of me that feels sad that there is this OTHER smell hanging around. 

And really, not just insulin.  But the smell of alcohol wipes and adhesive remover, too.  A clinical smell.  It makes me sad.  And a little mad.  And a lot wistful.

But there's another part of me that doesn't feel that way.

There is a part of me that smells that strong odor and feels....  Grateful. 

Because without that smell.... I wouldn't have my little girl. 

And I wouldn't have all of those good smells. 

So, whenever I smell that insulin... before I wrinkle my nose...  I'm going to try to remember to feel thankful and grateful that we live in a time and in a country and in a place where we have access to insulin.  I'm going to feel grateful that my little girl is happy and healthy and thriving. 

Because insulin is really the smell of life.


  1. I can so relate - to the spray n wash part! Adam had HORRIBLE, horrid reflux! he was on 3 meds until he was a year old. And the spitting...staining....oy. What a mess!

  2. you are definitely not kidding about the power of the insulin smell! seriously overwhelming the nose! great post!

  3. this was such a lovely post! as a PWD, "insulin is the smell of life" hits home. I have an intense sense of smell and can get whisked away into daydreams and memories when I smell something familiar. great read!

  4. I had to laugh about the bibs. I've had major drooling babies, drooling that lasted for years, and I too was a fan of the Walmart bibs with plastic backs.

  5. As a kid, I hated the smell of insulin because I associated it with shots and diabetes and not being able to eat what I wanted. But when I was a teen, I learned about how insulin was discovered. I learned about two relatives I had who died as children from T1 diabetes because they were unfortunately diagnosed before the discovery of insulin. I realized, and really understood for the first time, that without this potent stuff that sat in our refrigerator and smelled like bandaids, I would be dead. I started not to mind the smell. And then I went to college, where I didn't have medical insurance and suddenly had to fight tooth and nail (and incur some credit card debt) just be able to get my insulin!! Let me tell ya, after that experience, I began to LOVE my insulin and the smell of it. It is truly the smell of life as far as I'm concerned and I never let myself forget that.

  6. wow.... I SO wonder if gastic issues and diabetes go together? From the sound of this blog, the comments here and my own sure sounds like the answer is YES!


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