Allergy Anxiety

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food allergy momHave you ever worried that something you fed your child might kill them? Do you ever lay in bed at night trying to figure out how to keep your child safe at a playdate/birthday party/family eventAre you exhausted from constantly having to pack safe foods and explain to people, especially family, that it’s not a diet or lifestyle choice but a life or death choice?

The constant anxiety and stress parents with children living with food allergies have something very few people talk or even think about.

I have been living in this state of anxiety for almost seven years since my first son was born and diagnosed at six months. As parents, we all deal with issues, but most parents, unless you are part of the 1 in 13 people with food allergies, don’t have to worry about balancing a basic life need against staying alive.

Every party has a bag like this to keep my son safe.

Before becoming a parent, I dealt with food allergies through my job as an elementary school teacher. It was always on my radar, but I never really had to deal with packing lunches, worrying about birthday parties, celebrations, or special snacks. Yet, when my son began to exhibit signs of possible food allergies, I was in denial. “It’s just eczema,” was what I kept telling people. When he was finally diagnosed with multiple food allergies, I went through the seven stages of grief: shock and denial, pain and guilt, anger and bargaining, depression and loneliness, adjusting to my new reality, working through the situation with realistic solutions, and finally acceptance and hope about what life would look like from this point forward.

One way I’ve managed to move fluidly between the stages of grief is through support groups, like the one I started for local food allergy moms. These moms are always there for me to talk about possible new foods, doctor visits, and managing life in general. They are also some of the only people who know how hard it is to stay sane with the incredibly high-stress level we experience. There’s a certain level of loneliness that comes with having food allergies. It’s an isolation that’s difficult to imagine. We bring our own food at every event, usually wipe down our seating area, which most likely is not near the main event, and typically have called the host and asked so many questions we worry our child might not be invited to the next event.  

When my second son was born, I immediately was worried about possible food allergies. Would he have them? Would they be the same? With the same oven but a different recipe, my husband and I created a child with no food allergies. I felt blessed and lucky…until I realized it actually made my life harder. Now that my younger son is 2.5 years old, he eats everything, and we are constantly running behind him to wipe him and any shared surfaces. Thankfully he’s in the stage where he also idolizes his older brother and wants to eat the same thing, most of the time.

To my fellow food allergy moms, my advice to you is to find your tribe, be it in real life or online. This card in life we have been dealt doesn’t have to define our children or us, but rather teach us to find strength from within and together.

Are you a food allergy mom? How do you handle it?

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Maria is a full-time mom, teacher, wife, daughter, and sister, who feels pulled in too many directions! Her older son Michael took over 24 hours to be born, and at six-months-old was diagnosed with allergies to dairy, eggs, nuts, soy, shrimp, and wheat…all after exclusively nursing because she was SO SURE that would help him be a healthy kid. Luckily at age 1, he began to outgrow some of his allergies. Fingers crossed the others will soon follow because that plus a husband who doesn’t eat any veggies and Maria always battling her weight makes for three meals to prepare every night. Luckily, Christopher, her younger son, is a cooperative eater! As someone who has always been committed to making positive change, Maria uses her privilege and position as an educator and mom to work toward a most anti-racisit, equitibile, and inclusive world. Recently, Maria has even started getting up at 5am to workout in her basement. (Thank you pandemic living!) She is addicted to reading chicklit on her Kindle app in the dark, most Trader Joe’s products, and watching TikToks.

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