I am very fortunate to not have any allergies. Aside from a seasonal runny nose on occasion, I'm good. So the majority of my life, I've been blissfully ignorant of the precautions people with allergies must take just to enjoy normal day-to-day life.
That all changed when my oldest son was 11 months old. As stereotypical first-time parents, we had introduced each new food to him separately to gauge whether he reacted to it. Then one evening we were having breakfast-for-dinner (brinner, as my sister would call it), and he seemed interested in the pancakes, so we let him try one. Later that night, I held him for hours as he threw up every ounce of food in his body.
The pediatrician thought it might be the flu, but when he had the same reaction to scrambled eggs several weeks later, we had to face the facts. Our son was highly allergic to eggs. Blood tests at his next doctor's appointment brought more bad news--he also registered an allergy to peanuts.
It felt like my world had turned upside-down (since I was still nursing him, I had to start avoiding his allergens as well). Suddenly we were carrying EPI pens everywhere we went, my grocery shopping trips took twice as long because I had to read the label of anything I wanted to buy, and eating at restaurants became an enormous hassle trying to figure out what was safe. In addition, I love to bake--how was I supposed to make anything when I couldn't use eggs?
Over time, it's gotten easier. I've become quite adept at reading labels, and in many cases I already know which products he can and can't have. I still manage to bake, I just have to get more creative with my recipes (did you know applesauce or banana can sometimes be used in place of eggs?!). But some things will always be hard. Like telling my son he can't have the cake everyone else is eating at his friend's birthday party. The instant anxiety I feel every time we're at the park and I see a peanut butter sandwich appear at someone's picnic.
I had a few reasons for wanting to post on this topic today. First, I'm so sorry to all of you out there who have to deal with allergies of any kind, especially to food. I get it now. It stinks, and it's so unfair. I am striving to be far more sensitive to other people's health issues now that I've gone through this with my son.
But I also wanted to share a few lessons I've learned through these experiences.
1) I'm not infallible, and I need to forgive myself for my mistakes.
The first few times I slipped up and let my son eat something with egg in it, I wasn't too hard on myself. How was I supposed to know so many random foods contained egg? Now, I feel like I should know better. Usually I'm the "expert" who can help other parents navigate the intricacies of dealing with allergies. But I still mess up. Last year it was Ragu pasta sauce, last week it was marshmallow creme. I know I should check every label just in case, but surviving grocery shopping trips with my two young sons can be a challenge, and sometimes I forget. When I realized my mistake last week, I couldn't stop crying. My son was going to suffer, and it was all my fault. But my husband and son forgave me on the spot. My favorite quote from my son was, "It's not your fault, Mama, it's their fault for putting egg in it." It took me a few days to come to terms with the fact that no matter how long I do this, I'll never be perfect. And I need to be okay with that, because I'm doing the best I can.
2) Sometimes we suffer for a reason.
I took my son to an allergist for the first time last month. They wanted to perform skin tests on his back, which was a traumatic experience for my sensitive little boy. I hated having to hold him down on the table, desperately wishing he could understand why he had to go through this, why it was good for him. As I was telling someone about it later, the analogy stopped me in my tracks. How many times have I gone through a difficult time kicking and screaming (metaphorically, at least some of the time...), only to find later that it needed to happen in order for some greater good to come of it? I could almost picture God at my side during these struggles, wishing I could comprehend the bigger picture and understand why it's something I needed to go through.
Regardless of whether you've had to deal with allergies or not, I hope this has given you some insight and/or inspiration! Do you or any of your family members have allergies? What areas of your life have taught you important lessons?
Thanks for reading!
P.S. If you or a family member have an egg or peanut allergy and would like to commiserate or swap recipes, please reach out through my website or message me through Facebook or Twitter!