Saturday, April 3, 2010

You've come a long way, Baby!

For me, a huge piece of managing food allergies has been about managing anxiety. If I had the food allergies, my anxiety level would have been much lower; I am me, and I can trust myself to not eat something if I don't know what's in it. This is simply not the case with kids; when Sophie was really small I wasn't sure if she understood her allergies well enough to protect her if I wasn't around for some reason. Now that she's older, well, I still wonder about that.

When Sophie was first diagnosed, my food allergy anxiety (shall we just call it FAA for short?) was all based on three possible enemies:
1. Sophie
2. Other People
3. Me.
My FAA that Sophie would accidentally feed herself something that would hurt her led me to do a few really drastic things. When she was crawling, I swept or vacuumed the floor at least 12 times every day. I remember at one point my husband called from work at about 10:00am. When he asked me how I was doing I started crying and said, "I've already swept the kitchen floor 6 times!" During those early years, we completely eliminated a number of foods from our home, such as peanut butter, crackers, and most breads. As she's grown older (she is now 8 years old) some of these foods have made their way back into our lives, with no detrimental effects. We've come a long way, Baby!

I found the Epi-Pen to be my greatest ally in resolving my FAA that Other People (grandparents, siblings, friends, aunts, uncles, etc.) would feed Sophie something harmful. Whenever I absolutely had to leave Sophie with someone other than my dear husband, I taught the babysitter how to use the Epi-Pen. After doing this a few times, I realized that people were terrified of it! Teaching someone to use the Epi-Pen practically ensured that they would take no risks, since they didn't want to have to use it! Pretty soon, I started showing it to anyone who was even around Sophie, because something about needles really brings home the severity of food allergies.

Alas, I was most anxious about myself. With all of the terms to learn and information to assimilate in a critically brief period of time, how could I be sure that I wouldn't miss some ingredient on a label? Indeed, I did miss ingredients a few times--only to catch my error seconds before Sophie ingested the offending food. In one instance, I didn't catch it in time, and poor Sophie paid the price in vomiting. But it's been a long time--maybe even years--since I have made such an error. And as I have been more accurate, my FAA has decreased. I no longer wake up in a cold sweat from the nightmare in which I have temporarily forgotten Sophie's allergy to eggs and witnessed her poor body swollen and sick. I have a new nightmare: Sophie is now reading her own labels. She still lets me double-check her work, but for how long? When the time comes, will I be prepared to hand over the responsibility of keeping her safe? Will I be able to trust my precious child with her own safety? Will I be able to say, Sophie, you've come a long way, Baby!"


  1. I can so totally relate to the FAA, though our reactions are not as severe). We will be homeschooling this next school year and it is a load off of my mind that my 5 year old will not be exposed to the temptation or fed stuff the teachers assume is okay. Bless them, they can't seem to remember to read labels.) I will be relieved not to have to pack breakfast and lunch every day. My FAA is dramatically reduced!

  2. Thank you for your posts---i have felt the same way--some of the same emotions....though my son has many food allergies...his symptoms are mild...but in my quest to help him be healthy...i found your book. THANK YOU. After three months of using sorghum, tapioca, & potato flour recipes that no one would eat...we have LOVED what we have tried from your book. Thanks for making our lives easier....and yummier :)