(Positive) Ramblings of a Food Allergy Mom

I was totally blown away by the response to my most recent post, Rants of a Food Allergy Mom.  So many of you responded with thoughts like “You took the words right out of my mouth” and “I couldn’t have said it better myself”.  As food allergy moms and dads, we all feel like ranting at one point or another.  It’s a long, weary road with shots of adrenaline running through our bodies almost daily.  A cough sends our stomachs to knots, and hives make us shake and our hands sweat.  Put the cough and hives together, and our whole bodies tremble as we reach for the Epi-pen and Benadryl.

But, I’ll tell ya, this isn’t the whole story.  Actually, yes it is for some of us.  For most of us, food allergies and perhaps asthma is the worst of it.  My husband routinely reminds me that our son is so healthy otherwise, even though he is skinny as a rail.  He tells me, “We’re not dealing with cancer or something like that”.  And he’s right.  Then the guilt of my Pity Party for One weighs me down, and I am absolutely forced to look at our little guy and be so incredibly thankful.  Our son is nearly 4 years old, and has not once needed to be on antibiotics.  Not once.  He doesn’t have a physical disability that keeps him from running and playing.  He doesn’t need a wheelchair to get around or even a pair of glasses to see the latest episode of Martha Speaks (one of his faves!).  He’s not blind or deaf and doesn’t have a rare disease.  He’s alive.  He’s healthy.  As I watched him play yesterday as the warm breeze blanketed our patio, it hit me that he’s an almost 4 year old boy-and that’s it.  I refuse to let food allergies define who he is as a young boy to the point that it hinders our ability to parent the real, whole child.  There’s so much more to that little boy than food allergies and I can’t wait to watch him change as he grows up.

You see, we’ve got this.  We don’t have to let food allergies change everything.  I’ll be the first to say that after the initial diagnosis, it DOES change everything.  That diagnosis feels like a death sentence and until you figure it out, it is the most annoying, difficult thing.  Don’t let this be the end of your story.  Don’t let food allergies define your child.  The next time you lay eyes on your child, think about what they really are “into” these days.  I bet it’s not whether Clorox wipes are better than baby wipes to clean away allergens, or Epi-pen versus Auvi-Q.  My little guy is living and breathing seeds, planting, and digging these days.  He has been obsessed-no, make that OBSESSED-with picking up maple tree seeds.  You know, the “whirly-gig” seeds that flutter to the ground after you throw them in the air?    Those were my favorite, too, as a kid, and he picks up every one that he sees.  He digs the seeds out, puts them in a pile, and “plants” them in the mulch at the base of our Rose of Sharon bushes.  Now, what is your kid loving?  What can’t he live without? What must she do every day to keep her happy?  Parent THAT child, not the food allergic child.  When you are at home and you know you’re safe from allergens, let loose and pretend those allergies aren’t there.  Get out in the dirt and plant some seeds, or crawl on the living room floor and help build that train track for the umpteenth time.  It’s worth it.

I think what I’m getting at here, is that we all go through a grieving process.   I think I’ve gone through this grieving process at least two times.  I’m pretty sure it starts all over again with each new diagnosed allergy.  But, we’ve got this and we CAN do this. To every grieving process, no matter how many times you’ve gone through it, is the fifth and final stage-acceptance.  Once you get to this point, you can start to parent your whole child again, not your “child with life-threatening food allergies”.  To be honest, I think I limbo frequently between the fourth stage-depression-and the acceptance stage.  We’re only 3 years into our journey, so I’ve not yet graduated the grieving process.  Our latest new allergy was just diagnosed this past November, followed by a successful soy challenge, but then set back again by the failed baked egg challenge.  The ebb and flow of these emotions are still pretty raw and sore.  One step forward, two steps back.  Will it ever end?  It doesn’t matter.  Would your child’s personality  be any different if they didn’t have food allergies?  Nope.  They’d still pick up seeds to plant and they’d still love Thomas the Tank Engine.  You’ll get to that stage 5 of acceptance sooner or later, and until then do your best to see past the food allergies that scream to define your child.  Don’t let it.  Play with, love, and parent that little ballerina, baseball player, gardener, or gymnast that brings harmony to the worried life you live.

It’s your turn.  What’s something positive that has come out of your very own food allergy journey?

9 thoughts on “(Positive) Ramblings of a Food Allergy Mom

  1. Love this!! Definitely agree that you go through the grief process and that it starts all over when a new allergy (or asthma) is diagnosed! Thanks for being real!

  2. That was beautiful. I have learned so much from your journey that adds to my own. Because of that book you recommend, “Don’t Kill the Birthday Girl” By Sandray Beasly. I realized that my, at times OCD, ability to make well thought out decisions is developed far beyond my years, and at a much younger age than most, thanks to my allergies. Like she says in the book I had to make life threatening decisions at every meal with every morsel of food I put in my mouth or environment I chose to go into. This ability to start to think many steps ahead and consider different outcomes and circumstances and consequences based on my decisions, which revolved around my allergies, rolled over into my adult life. So now as an adult I have made excellent decisions in regards to finances, education, family, etc. My ability to accept delayed gratification (something I think many people struggle with in our society) comes much easier to me than many of my peer and even my own sister (same parents, but no allergies). I have been able to start to appreciate how my allergies have helped me grow into a thoughtful adult. Yeah it still sucks not being able to eat birthday cake with others or even miss out on dishes at family Thanksgivings, but no one gets a perfect life and Im ok with mine. LIke you said Im healthy, rarely ever get sick other than allergy and asthma stuff. Have seldom been on antibiotics. Because my immune system is so active on the daily stuff, like food and airborne stuff, I guess maybe it is better able to fight off the non daily illnesses that many other end up suffering with. Not sure where the quote comes from but “If your handed it you can Handle it”

  3. I totally agree with this, just as I totally agreed with your ranting post, too. In my food allergy communities and with my husband, I’m the mama whose world was rocked by the diagnosis and whose main reaction is the ranting. With my four (and a half!) year old son, though, I’m just mama and he’s just himself, loving superheroes and Star Wars and getting dirty and taunting his little brother. Of course he knows about his allergy and he wears his bracelet and takes his epi, but he’s a normal kid, as he should be.

  4. I loved your first post and this one hits home to, but I am not quite “there” yet. My little man is a healthy four year old with an egg, PN and TN allergy, eczema and asthma. I thank God everyday for his otherwise healthy little body and his sisters, but I am not “there” yet. I panic when he finds something to put in his mouth. I am terrified of when he starts school this fall. How does an active four year old keep his Epi on him without some other active four year old knocking it off? Overreacting? Ya, for sure I am, but I am not “there” yet. I will be someday, but… Thanks for your wonderful blog :-) God bless

    Suz

  5. Oh my… Today I wrote something similar to this (unpublished) but mine was not quite as positive as yours. I’m getting there, though. We are a year in and I’m still in the grieving process- and learning process. I wrote today a little about what you said- there are so many things she can do. Thanks for the encouragement. I need to start parenting my child. I just found your blog today and I’m going to follow you. I’ve enjoyed and related to every post I’ve read so far. :-)

  6. Here are the positive things that have come from my 10 yr old’s dairy allergy’s, and my 7 year old’s barley, egg, and chocolate allergy’s: We eat way more healthy as a family than if we didn’t face these challenges. I mean NOTHING makes you read labels like a food allergy. :) And when we started reading those labels and realizing what these foods were truly comprised of, it made us change our relationship with food. We rely on a lot more whole foods, and a lot less boxed nutrition-less quick prep foods. My 10 yr old is also thin, but she is also very strong and healthy. She loves to open a can of peas and eat them cold from the can for a snack, when previously we might have grabbed a sugary, fatty, useless snack. These are some of the things I use to comfort myself when in the 3rd Friday in a row I just want to order a pizza to be delivered and be done with supper :) And lastly, it has taught me that the gift of cooking that my Grandmother started teaching me at 7 years old in the kitchen with her is priceless. If I didn’t have the knowledge she taught me about food prep and where my food comes from (we were farmers) I don’t know how I would cope with food allergies!

    • Yes, you are sooo right!! Reading food labels is so eye-opening. We, too, have moved to a predominantly whole foods diet. Food allergies have been a blessing in disguise. My son loves frozen peas on a hot day-great on the go snack! I’m also thankful that my mom taught me how to cook at a young age!

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