Since I had a three-year old who could eat anything, and the baby was now learning to eat table foods, I had to learn to juggle the needs of both children. I fed the baby first to be sure she didn't get anything with milk or eggs. I made special trips out with my other daughter to buy her the ice cream and cookies we no longer served at home. Unfortunately, the doctor's only advice was, "Go home and avoid milk and eggs." It wasn't until I got home that I realized I had no clue what that meant or how to begin. Furthermore, every time I made a mistake [by giving her something she couldn't tolerate], my daughter broke out in hives, the crying and vomiting started and the guilt I felt got a little higher. I hit the library and bookstore and read every book I could to try to learn what was going on and how I could best handle this new situation.
There were a few surprising aspects:
- When we made a mistake and when we had a victory, the feedback was quick.
- Most people didn't believe me and thought I'd made up the diagnosis.
- Several people tried to sabotage our elimination diet, [a procedure by which a very simple diet is started and foods are then introduced one at a time to determine which cause reactions], to see what would happen or to prove to me that she didn't have food allergies.
- Other new mothers didn't want to be around us because we were too much trouble and I didn't have a "perfect" baby.
Life Gets Easier
Parents of children with food allergies need to know that life does get easier. Once the family gets used to the new way of cooking or eating, managing a food allergy isn't so time consuming. They also need to find a doctor who believes in them and is willing to work as a partner to take care of their child. Finally, planning ahead and always carrying a 'safe' snack makes a world of difference.
I wish I had known that the symptoms my daughter had were classic allergy symptoms. I wish I'd known that babies can get allergies and that a pediatric allergist is the best source of help in determining what is wrong. Finally, I wish I'd known that there are millions of families with food-allergic children. We felt like outcasts because we knew so little about food allergies and we didn't know anyone else who was raising a child with food allergies.