Confessions of a Food Allergy Mom

0

2 boys walking a dog

Photo courtesy of Cindy Gordon

My children beat the odds this year. At age 5 and 7, they have outgrown their allergies to peanuts and tree nuts, a miracle confirmed by oral challenges in the allergist’s office.

There had been improvement in their blood work, an indication that the severity of the allergies might be declining. So the allergist had scheduled the oral challenge to almonds first. We arrived at the office with fingers crossed. I found myself holding my breath, afraid to even hope.

For the challenge, Carson, my older son, consumed raw almonds while my younger son, Benjamin, ate almond butter. It was their first taste in a very long time of this nut, considered life-threatening for them. Every 10 minutes, they consumed increasing amounts under the watchful eye of the medical staff. After they each downed a full serving, we sat and waited almost two hours, probably the tensest moments of my life.

We were lucky. There were no reactions that day. The boys were officially designated no longer allergic to tree nuts and we were allowed to go home.

For Carson, that meant no more food allergies. None. He couldn’t stop smiling as he took off his medical alert bracelet. “This is the best day of my life,” he exclaimed.

Exactly a month later, Benjamin passed an oral challenge for peanuts. He remains gluten sensitive but this was his last remaining food allergy.

The amazing news thrust me into an unexpected place of flag-waving exuberance coupled with periods of caution and disbelief.

My journey into the world of food allergies began when Benjamin was an infant. With those first terrifying symptoms, life as I knew it abruptly ended. I felt like I was drowning in a haze of helplessness and isolation. Friends tried to be supportive but they were as frightened as I was, afraid to say or do the wrong thing. My husband and I attempted to educate our families with only mixed results. For clarity, I turned to writing about feeding my baby and my struggles to keep him well. Other mothers, strangers to me, started writing back to share their experiences and their advice, and a community of caring and support developed. It provided a platform that grounded me.

It’s hard to explain the invisible bubble of vigilance and anxiety that food allergy moms live in. When your child has life-threatening allergies, it can feel like everything you do is a gamble. Every step, every activity, a potential risk. Like going to the grocery store. The little guy wants to sit in the cart. So you pack wipes and clean the cart because there might be some peanut protein on there. Same thing with the playground. And visiting a friend’s house. And traveling to the relatives over the holidays. You bring food with you wherever you go. You work really hard to make everything as normal as possible for your child—but deep inside you know it isn’t even close to normal.

Food allergies have left my life—but will they return? The research is inconclusive. The other day, Benjamin took a bite of watermelon and a huge hive spread across his cheek. I couldn’t take my eyes off him all afternoon.

The allergist tells me to give my boys peanuts on a regular basis and to call the office if there are any changes. So my children eat peanuts—yet I’m still uncomfortable about bringing a jar of peanut butter into the house.

I still read ingredient labels.

I still wipe down the grocery cart.

Yes, my children have outgrown their food allergies…but there’s a part of me that hasn’t.

Blogger Cindy Gordon (vegetarianmamma.com, GlutenFreeAndMore.com) lives in Columbus, Ohio.