We couldn’t find the words to share the story of food allergies better ourselves, so we are passing along a couple of great articles that touch on the stages of processing, accepting, and living with a child who has food allergies.
Seeing that it is National Peanut Month struck home with the Ballenger family. One of their grandkids has multiple food allergies, and it’s been a family effort to keep him safe until he can be a better advocate for himself.
The challenges don’t just start and stop with accommodating a special diet; the mental toll is significant too.
Corinna, a mom blogger, is sharing her journey as she navigates being a mom of a child with severe food allergies.
I’ve been hearing about the mental weight that moms carry lately, how we do and feel so much more than what people know. In fact, I read an excellent article over on Urbanmoms.ca about this very thing which inspired this article about the high mental weight carried by food allergy moms too.
It’s funny because I didn’t think the weight would be that heavy at first.
Yes, I went through a mourning phase of giving up many of my favorite foods, but worse yet, I realized I wouldn’t be able to pass on traditions that I loved as a kid like decorating cookies, gingerbread house decorating, or just having an ice cream cone on a hot day. Not to mention the extreme stress of realizing that if I accidentally gave my child even a trace of their allergen, it could result in a life-threatening reaction.
But after the mourning and the initial fear, I became determined.
I was going to make everything and do everything, so my kids never had to feel left out. They would not realize they were going without because I wasn’t going to let that happen. I was energized, and I didn’t think it would be that hard.
But it was somewhere between baby food and family meals when reality hit me.
Now, not only do I struggle with the endless list of tasks that are necessary to run a home, but I also add tasks that have life-threatening consequences for the ones I hold dear if I don’t do them right.
It’s not just trying to make dinner that the family eats every night; it’s ensuring that the dinner is completely safe with constant label reading and worrying that I make a small mistake and cause a life-threatening reaction. It’s calling companies to make sure there isn’t a chance of cross-contact in the factory. It’s cooking everything from scratch because there not many companies are completely allergy aware, and the ones that are cost as much as my first-born. And then there’s the fact that eating in restaurants requires extensive research which means no breaks from cooking.
Every single social event is another endless list of tasks that need to get done. Friends and family who are willing to help need to be educated about how to cook safely. And even then, it takes days of texting/emailing to make sure ingredients & recipes are truly safe. And the friends and family that don’t get it?? The mental load of trying to either get them to understand or feeling the separation from them because of it is hard to bear at times.
Then there’s the tasks involved with things that others take for granted. Like finding & educating a babysitter that you can trust to recognize anaphylaxis and properly use the EpiPen when needed. Or, the extensive research required to go on a vacation so you’ll actually feel rested instead of worrying the whole time. And preschool or school comes with its own challenges of safety, inclusion and worry too.
The worrying may never completely stop, but with knowledge there is power. Sharing the information you learn will help those not living with kids with food allergies be more aware and sensitive to the issue as well.
Here is another story from a mom’s point of view while the family navigates food allergies. This story by Ruchi Gupta was shared on WedMD:
Every child is different, so there’s no one-size-fits-all approach for food allergy families. You have to figure these things out for yourself and then you have to educate others. And just when you get comfortable with the challenges you are facing, new ones pop up as children grow.
A deeply challenging one for me came when Riya entered school and I realized I had to trust someone else to keep her safe. It was not easy for me. In fact, it was terrifying.
The doctor in me made sure she had two epinephrine autoinjectors with her at all times, trained her teachers to administer the medication, and created an emergency plan if they had to call 9-1-1. Even so, for a long time the mother in me couldn’t just drop her off at school and leave. Day after day, I sat in her classroom looking for risks and problem solving solutions.
When I did get comfortable leaving her at school, I was afraid to be too far from her. I had put her in a preschool within 10 minutes of my work so I could get there quickly if need be, and I held onto my phone all day in case they called with an emergency. I also didn’t want to travel for work and risk her having a reaction without me there. So for a long time, I took her on work trips with me – bringing along my husband or parents to watch her while I did presentations on my food allergy research.
There is so much fear for parents of children with food allergies, and I felt it intensely. It starts because you know the serious implications of their allergies, and it builds every time your child has a reaction or even enters a new situation where that’s a possibility.
Receiving the news of a food allergy diagnosis is no fun. It means life for the entire family is changing. But Dr. Gupta has the encouraging words for us all to hold dear:
“As terrifying and challenging as the journey as a food allergy parent has been at times, I also see how it is shaping my daughter into a resilient, courageous, strong teen who is learning to self-advocate in ways that I know will serve her throughout life.”