In honor of Food Allergy & Asthma Awareness Week, I’ve invited Brooke to post today sharing her thoughts as a parent of a little daughter with severe food allergies. Feeding Beck is hard enough – I can’t imagine also having to consider allergies. Thank you to Brooke for sharing her story so I’m more aware.
Ever since Matt Damon played that hard-to-catch ex-assassin Jason Bourne, I have wished for such specialized skills. It’s awesome that he no sooner enters a room than he has observed every detail pertinent to his survival. Then he whoops up on everybody who’s out to get him!
Unfortunately, since my daughter was diagnosed with three severe food allergies a year ago, I have had to hone those same skills.
The mind of a Food Allergy Mom can be a hectic place. When she enters a room, she tries to maintain a look of ease and comfort for her child, be a good listener while greeting her friends, all while surveying the room for potential threats.
Okay, there’s a sippy cup of milk sitting on the floor, a kid with an unidentified brown substance smeared across his face (please, God, don’t let it be peanut butter), crumbs under the table (wheat? Most definitely. Containing egg? Probably.)
When she has conducted her survey and put into play an action plan (i.e., keep little Mary away from kid with the “probably peanut butter” on his face and pick up those crumbs and shove them into my pocket) then everyone can enjoy themselves. She gets pretty good at it. Her stomach learns to turn less and less as she quickly sizes up the dangers for her child at something as simple as a playdate. She begins to feel pretty competent. She thinks, I’m sooooo the Jason Bourne of allergy moms right now.
Like any allergy parent, I remember the day of my daughter’s first allergy episode so vividly. She was only a five-month-old little baby when someone’s peanut-butter popsicle melted in the Alabama summer heat, landing on her face and remaining there all of one second. I saw it drip-drop onto her cheek and, being the vigilant new mommy that I was, wiped it off immediately. Three minutes later, I could see that I needed to inquire about the flavor of said popsicle. Five minutes later, we sped to the doctor. A drive I will not recount for you because my nerves or stomach cannot bear reliving those moments, and I’d rather not ruin my computer keyboard with wet tears.
What followed involved hives, a face so swollen it looked like a balloon with softballs for eyes, vomiting, and two new parents not-sleeping on the floor next to her crib listening to every breath to make sure she didn’t stop breathing when the meds wore off in the night.
All this because of one tiny drop of peanut-containing popsicle landing on her cheek for one second. I can’t even imagine the scene for parents who find out because their child actually ingested an allergen.
After this day, life has never been the same. The incident led to testing that revealed my daughter was allergic to eggs, dairy, and (well, obviously) peanuts.
When simple substances that are usually found everywhere you go are life-threatening to your child, you are never in control or fully prepared. That is, if you want to have a fun and normal life with your child. The fact of the matter is, there is no cure. So, short of staying in the only environment you do actually have control over – your own home – you must get out and do life with these allergies. Throw that Benadryl in your bag, make sure those Epi-pens are up-to-date, and go to that birthday party! (And pack your child treats so they don’t come undone when they’re the only kid there who can’t have a cupcake.)
The numbers are on the rise – apparently 1 in every 13 kids now has a food allergy. Even so, parents of kids with severe food allergies often feel very isolated and misunderstood. They spend most of their time coming up with healthy meals that are safe for their child. Feeding a toddler is notoriously challenging, but knock out entire food groups, and you are really at a loss to answer the question – “what’s for dinner?” Not to mention breakfast, lunch, and snacks.
I think one of the reasons “Allergy Parents” feel so isolated is because they feel envious of other parents who don’t have to consider their child’s fragile mortality at every meal or snack or playdate. For any mother of a child with a special circumstance – it simply stinks to have to seriously consider that scenario and diligently be prepared for it.
Please be aware of parents and their children who are dealing with food allergies. If you would like more information, here are some wonderful food allergy sites:
– WowButter – Peanut Butter replacement
– Cherrybrook Kitchen – Allergen-Conscious treats
– FARE – Food Allergy Research & Education
– The BugaBees – children’s books about friends with food allergies
Thank you Brooke! Tomorrow I’ll be sharing Brooke’s list of 8 things that Food Allergy parents want from you.
photo of Brooke and her daughter Evie by W + E Photographie