Sunday, June 14, 2009

What Next?

A friend of mine has a son with food allergies. He is only two but already has asthma and a host of other allergy related issues. So they have been trying everything from changing the cleansers that they use in their home to altering his diet. But still his problems have lingered. He just had some more extensive allergy testing done and the news that they got was devastating. His allergies are much worse than previously thought and now they are going to have to take a more aggressive plan of attack. This situation would be trying for anyone to be in, but it is even worse to be a parent of a toddler and to be left with the question: What next?

Food allergies are especially complicated because culturally, food is huge. Family gatherings and holidays are planned around food. It is supposed to comfort us and sustain us. We cannot survive without it. And it is additionally challenging when trying to control the diet of a child. After all, as parents, aren't we supposed to be making sure that they eat enough to grow and get strong? It is so horrible to have to tell a curious child that "no" they cannot have what they want. Personally, I want my daughter to fear nothing. Yet what we are saying to them is, "DON'T eat that! That could kill you!" Because it is also our job to protect them and ready them for the big world outside. It must seem confusing on some level. Ella's situation, like most with food allergies, is complicated. There are foods that could kill her (pistachios) and foods that just make her really sick (soy and wheat). So when you have a shopping list of allergens that you are trying to avoid, it is only natural to give greater significance to one over the other. There have been times when we have been stuck without our "safe" snacks and I have allowed Ella to eat small amounts of wheat or soy. (As an example, last week we were at an event where we could not bring in our own food and after 3 hours, the kids got REALLY hungry. So I allowed Ella to eat a snack that was for sale that had a small amount of wheat in it.) I know that wheat does not cause anaphylaxis for her, but it does not make me feel any better about things. And Ella often seems confused, as well. "I thought that I am not allowed to eat this and now you are telling me that I can? If I am allowed to eat wheat now, there is a croissant that I have been eyeing so maybe you can let me have that?" Yes, your Mommy is a crazy, confusing mess!

Additionally, it is really tough when one child in the family has extreme food allergies and the other child can eat anything they want. My son seems to be free of food allergies so far (knock on wood) and he LOVES pasta and baked goods. Thankfully, he has no problem eating Ella's wheat-free foods. After all, that is all he has ever known. But often, when it is just the two of us, I find myself giving him wheat whenever I can. He is one of those kids who is constantly on the move and never sits long enough to eat. So I do what I can to get him some sustenance. And when we eat out with the children, the only thing that I can give him is bread or pasta. Ella, naturally, takes issue with this. She used to freak out when we ate something in front of her that she is not allowed to have. Gradually this situation has gotten better. But when it comes to her little brother, nothing makes her madder than to see him enjoying something she cannot. (Sibling rivalry is alive and well at Casa de Miller!) My friend is also dealing with this with her son and daughter, sexes reversed.

After a lot of thought, I decided that receiving an allergy diagnosis, like learning that you have any other life altering disease involves the 5 stages of grief: 1) Denial (As in, there is just no possible way that I am allergic to shellfish! I have eaten it my entire life!) 2) Anger (How could this be happening to ME? Why am I the only one in my family who has this problem? 3)Bargaining (God, please let my daughter be okay. I swear to do all that I can to keep her safe.) 4) Depression (I cannot believe that this has happened to us and we will never be able to eat at a restaurant again.) And last but most important, 5) Acceptance (So what if we have food allergies. Life is not over. I am going to start a blog, raise money for FANN, buy as many new cookbooks as I can get my hands on and be as supportive to others in this situation as I possibly can!)

As far as I can see it the glass is half full. It truly sucks to be in the predicament, one that I would change if I could. BUT we now have so many options before us. Yes, it takes a lot of extra work. And sometimes we have to greatly depart from the lifestyle that we once knew. But with the support and care of our loved ones, anything is possible!

1 comment:

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