As a mom of a child with multiple food allergies (dairy, eggs, nuts, sesame, and shrimp), my stress level quadruples whenever we leave the house. It all started once he turned six months old. I feel ‘lucky’ because the worse my son has had as a reaction is a terrible eczema.
“Wow, that must be tough.”
“I don’t know how you do it.”
Those are probably the two most annoying comments I hear regularly. It is tough, and I honestly don’t know how I do it every day, except that I have no choice. As a mom, I’m sure everyone has something they never imagined they would have to deal with when they first heard the confirmation that they were pregnant.
What I do know is I wouldn’t have been able to make it without the expertise of the amazing doctors we see, both local and not-so-local, western medicinal, and our beloved homeopath. I hope this post reaches at least one family who needs my lessons learned.
Lesson #1: Follow your gut as a mom.
I learned this the hard way. Before my son was born, I researched and decided to split the vaccines (not skip, split). My doctor at the time (new doctor now, same amazing practice) advised me not to bother. I’ve since learned my son’s body is super sensitive, and regardless of cost and inconvenience, I always split them now so he doesn’t get more than two vaccines at a time.
Lesson #2: Exhaust all avenues, and don’t take ‘no’ for an answer.
As a parent of a child with multiple food allergies, I cannot be afraid to advocate and speak up for my son. His life depends on it; sorry if I offend you. Having a child with allergies must mean you must constantly educate and explain your situation. When my son was diagnosed with allergies and needed Neonate formula, $50 a can, and my insurance refused to approve it, I spent weeks on the phone with my healthcare advisor, local congressman, local CVS, and pediatrician. It took six weeks, but I did win.
Lesson #3: Find a friend who can hear and support you.
This is the most important. I was lucky. I am a teacher and have many families who deal with food allergies, so they helped a lot. These amazing people steered me to FARE (Food Allergy Research & Education), helped me when I struggled with epi pens costs, explained how to embrace life, not fear it, and taught me that this too shall pass. Most importantly, they always pick up the phone and return the emails or have coffee because they had it so much worse. In the past five years, food allergy families have grown, and thus the demand, and supply, of safe foods.
Lesson #4: Forgive yourself.
This one is by far the toughest one for me. Unfortunately, there is still no explanation for what causes food allergies. There’s no cure and no timeline for outgrowing them. You can do everything right. Eat peanuts while pregnant, don’t eat peanuts. Get vaccines, don’t get vaccines. Breastfeed, formula feed. Upper, middle, or lower class. Race and ethnicity. Nothing really matters. Food allergies affect everyone.
And if you think, well, not me. My kids are ‘normal;’ you probably know someone close by who is navigating the dangers of safe eating. Maybe they are the ones who come to your party with their cooler of food and administer wipes to anyone who wants to touch them. Or perhaps you’ve been asked not to feed your kid that peanut butter sandwich and milk. Please understand that we all want to keep our kids safe the best way we know.