Today I got a tweet from a friend, her friend’s baby was diagnosed with a list of food allergies. My heart sank because I remember what that is like. I remember standing in the allergists office like a zombie as they tried to train my husband and I to use an epi pen. I remember all the people handing me cook books and articles on food allergies after diagnosis but I was not ready for all that. I had to feel awful first.
People kept telling me it could be worse but I had a huge lump in my chest all the time. Yes, he did not have cancer, but food that most people eat can and will kill my child. It was a hard concept to wrap my head around. Food, that usually nourishes people can kill my kid. People in my life glossed over it and moved on. I did not. I put on a brave face but I was nowhere near brave. Finally, once I allowed myself to feel the fear and the pain things got easier. It happened slowly, but steadily, but I got there.
My son was diagnosed young. He was about a year old. We discovered his food allergies as I fed him yogurt the first time and he projectile vomited and was covered in hives. I look back at pictures at him as a baby and he was often red-faced and covered in rash but I had no clue. I started this blog the day Aaron toddled over and ate a peanut butter sandwich off a stroller in a park. He was sixteen months old. I carried an unconscious kid into the hospital while dragging a three year old behind me. I drove to the hospital with my hand under Aaron’s nose after administering the epi-pen. I hope you never have to do this. EVER. If you do you will learn to become diligent. You will limit the allergens in your house. You might withdraw from friends. To this I say limit the allergens in your house. Let your friends in. The people you expect to be there for you will not be there, people you never expected to will step up and help you in ways you have never imagined.
Your baby will grow. I found it super helpful to put him in a shirt that said I have food allergies at parties until he was about 3 1/2 years old. He will question why he can’t have certain foods, but you will teach him. Suddenly he started advocating for himself. He was able to ask me to read labels. I praised him every time he asked me to read his labels. Now my baby is 7 years old. He is starting to read his own labels. The allergies that the allergist told me he would out grow by three are all still there. Even better I don’t care any more. If he has to live the rest of his life with his allergies I know he will be fine. He has learned to advocate for himself and he is fierce. If in the classroom they have a snack he questions it and he makes them call me or he eats one of the safe snacks I have for him at school. I am that parent with frozen allergen free cupcakes in the freezer for when someone has a birthday in the class. My kid is a class act and could care less if he can’t have what the other kids have as long as he has a treat. Eventually you will be ok with this too. Your kids can still get straight A’s, be active in a sport, and be popular at school. My kid is and yours can too, although if he gets really active in his sport he may need to see a nutritionist to keep the weight on.
I will admit we have not gone on vacation much but we are learning. Having both a kid with food allergies and another with developmental issues makes vacation a daunting task. This past summer we went to the ocean and ate out three times safely. For a kid with five food allergies I found this so amazing. We ate out three times in a week! It helped we had a place that we could also cook. We went to the beach everyday and it was so wonderful.
You will all find your new normal. It wasn’t the normal you expected when your baby was born but you and your family can thrive. The first step is to be sad and mourn, that is normal. Don’t let anyone take that away from you.
Another Food Allergy Mom