I can still feel the joyful calm of that sunny summer Sunday morning. My bubbly one-year-old baby boy waking from a full night of glorious sleep ready for a fun-filled day of church, brunch, and our little family likely finding our way to the beach in the afternoon. However, on this beautiful Sunday morning our lives would make a very abrupt turn. At our one year well visit, our doctor recommended that we introduce scrambled eggs as a new solid protein. I was thrilled. I’m kind of known around my small social circle for making a notoriously good omelet. I love a good brunch. We happily whipped up some scrambled egg and measured out just under a teaspoon of them to let my little experience his first bite of fluffy goodness. Shortly after that bite he began screaming as he broke out in a horrible rash like I had never seen before. We rushed to the doctor where we spent several hours as they got his allergic reaction under control. Our pediatrician assured us that these responses were fairly common and although this was likely an allergic reaction, further testing would need to be done to confirm it. To get more precise understanding of what happened we headed to a specialist for more comprehensive testing.
One of the tricky things about allergy testing is that it cannot be done effectively when done in close proximity to an allergic event. While I understand that you need to wait for the medicine used to fully leave the body, the waiting for the answer is brutal and scary. That tiny moment: me smiling and happily handing my son that piece of egg still haunts my memory. And during that first waiting window, I replayed it in my head constantly. The day of our appointment arrived. I was relieved and excited to get some answers. I did my best to prepare for what the experience would be like; but nothing can prepare you for watching a physician’s assistant swab down your babies back, write all over it, then prick it what seems like a million times. You wait again. This time, you wait with the added hurdle of trying to keep your little one calm and not touching, rubbing or wiping his back while it erupts in hives. It is a gut-wrenching process; but we got our answer: allergic to both peanuts and eggs. And so our allergy journey began.
When I meet new parents, they almost always say something like, “It must be so hard eliminating specific foods. I could never let go of (insert XYZ) family tradition.” My response every time is, “The opposite is true.” The easiest thing about our food allergy diagnosis is adapting our recipes and changing our food behaviors. Sure, I have beautiful memories of eating boiled peanuts prepared with love by my granddaddy during farm fresh summers in Georgia. I loved my mom’s icebox peanut butter pie. Brunches filled with egg drenched French toast and omelets are a favorite. But, those wonderful food memories don’t have as much to do with a food ingredient list as they do with the love that went into those moments. There is no way to describe the agony of watching your child suffer through an allergic episode, the challenges of testing, and the constant vigilance required to keep them safe. Changing a recipe is … well … a piece of cake. It’s not letting go of a tradition it is letting go of an ingredient or two, simple.
The hardest part of our food allergy diagnosis has had more to do with educating others. We are and have always been surrounded by awesome, compassionate people. It is a blessing I thank God for every single day. Our allergist provides us with wonderful support and helps us educate our community. I was so lucky to have another more experienced peanut allergy mom in our mommy group to bounce thoughts off of as we learned to navigate public places, restaurants, and playdates. The other non-allergy moms in our life were so compassionate, never minding to eliminate food items, change trunk or treat guidelines, and keep all of our little ones with allergies safe no matter the occasion. While most of our experiences have been abundantly positive, we have also experienced some pretty horrible and dangerous moments as our circle expanded and we headed off to school. We remain grateful for the presence of those people who live with compassion and love. Those people who never put a food preference over a child’s safety.
Because you are still reading this post I have a pretty good feeling that you are one of those compassionate rockstar moms that values a child’s life over, you know, food. So here are a few tips from this allergy mommy to help you be the compassionate awesome class mom I know you can be.