Only after a frightening trip to the emergency room, that included a shot of epinephrine, did we discover my daughter’s severe food allergies. At the tender age of 6 months (in an attempt to gain some semblance of freedom), I wanted to supplement a bottle of formula every now and then for my breastfeeding daughter. Unfortunately, my first attempt led to an anaphylactic response that left me (a total rookie mommy at the time) tear-filled and shell-shocked.
Within days of that terrifying incident an immunologist administered a full round of allergy testing to my daughter, the results of which showed a dangerous allergy to dairy and eggs. My jaw visibly dropped…dairy and eggs?
A brief slide show played through my mind of every delicious and delectable food my sweet little girl would never have the opportunity to eat. Visions of pizza parties and birthday cake left untouched on her plate, with all the other little children happily eating and frolicking around her. Halloween with no chocolate, Thanksgiving without my aunt’s famous broccoli-cheese casserole and Christmas (gasp) with no twice-baked potatoes or chocolate mousse pie? Could it be?
Okay, I admit, I sound a little dramatic. I realize to some moms this is just food and there are way more terrible diagnoses for a child. These points are valid, I totally get it — but for me (at least initially) there was some private mommy mourning going on.
So what’s a mom to do? Fortunately, at the time, I was still breastfeeding and barely introducing solid foods so my daughter’s diet remained, for the most part, unaffected. This bought me time so that I could scour books, articles and the internet for as much information regarding kids and food allergies as possible. I even visited a pediatric nutritionist that specialized in helping kids with allergies.
As a result of all this research, our family’s nutritional regime improved considerably. We were never horrible eaters per se, but nutrition became a new focus for us. Processed foods became cumbersome because of the vast list of ingredients I would have to carefully pore over. Picking up fast food on the fly just wasn’t an option for us anymore, or was the children’s menu in any restaurant we visited. (Really, why is it that macaroni and cheese, pizza and breaded chicken fingers seem to be the only kid food options chefs can come up with these days?)
Meal-planning is my best friend. We don’t go to any playgroup, party or event without bringing our own food — which, invariably, means she rarely eats random, sugar-filled treats or greasy, fried-finger foods. At home, instead of chicken parmesan it’s grilled, garlic chicken, steamed veggies never get doused in butter or cheese and seasoning is always used in place of creamy sauces.
My husband (who used to discreetly roll his eyes at any of my healthy-eating sermons) actively participates in serving our family good, healthy meals. He tee’s up the BBQ to grill chicken and veggies, bakes sweet potatoes and has even taken to using olive oil or vegan butter. Crazy, I know.
Of course, there are negatives to having a child with food allergies. The fear when dropping her off at preschool or leaving her with a babysitter is palpable. Explaining to temporary caregivers what she can and can’t have, how to recognize the signs of an anaphylactic response and finally, the gory details should they have to administer a shot of epinephrine…could drive any mom to never leave her child’s side.
Nevertheless, I choose to believe the positive impact has far out-weighed the negative. She has developed into a healthy little eater and, thankfully, our family’s food habits have followed suit.
Has your family faced an obstacle or challenge that have made you all better for it? Does anyone in your family struggle with any food-based allergies or intolerances? I’d love to hear about it.