The Anxious Life of a Food Allergy Mom
Life as a food allergy mom can be really stressful.
My Sweet Pea, is allergic to dairy, eggs, tree nuts and sesame all of which we found out about the hard way. I have been wanting to introduce chia seeds and flax seeds to her diet for over a year now, as they could be another good source of protein and healthy fats for her, but every time I go to do it I chicken out.
Why? Because I’m terrified. Because its too close to bedtime. Because it's a holiday. Because I have to go to work or how about my favorite reason: Because today is just not a good day to have to go to the emergency room. Yes, these are the things you have to consider when you have a kid with food allergies. Its overwhelming, frightening and some days it just downright consumes you. Every little scratch of the skin, every little red dot on the face, every watery eye sends shear panic into my heart.
Dramatic? Maybe. But when you have a child with food allergies you have the right to be dramatic. Only when you’ve had to inject your child with an epi-pen and hold her while you’re both crying, waiting for the paramedics to arrive, will you fully understand how terrifying it is.
Okay. End pity party. My point is, I finally bit the bullet the other day and bought her some granola bars made by Enjoy Life Foods that contain flax seeds. Enjoy Life is a wonderful company that makes products free of the top 8 allergens (dairy, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, wheat, soy) and then some (like sesame).
I had talked with our allergist several times over the past year - in person, on the phone and via email - about the potential for cross-reactivity with chia and flax seed given her allergies to sesame seed and tree nuts. Not sure what made me finally decide to introduce flax now, but I emailed her allergist one more time, just to be sure. All she could say was that there is no known connection, but it’s always possible she could react and to be ready. Great.
I made the mistake of telling Sweet Pea on Wednesday that I bought these for her, but that we had to wait until Saturday, after dance and swim class were over, when we we had nothing else planned to have them, so that I could just watch her. She begged me for three days straight to try them - she didn’t understand why we had to wait, but she’s 3.5 so why would she understand? This is the other thing that kills me - for as smart and aware as she is about her allergies, she’s still just a little kid that wants to be like all the other kids. Don’t even get me started about Halloween and birthday parties, or why she came home from preschool on Valentine's Day crying. Sorry - side tangent.
So the moment of truth finally came. I cut off ¼ of the granola bar and put it on a plate for her at the kitchen table. I made her take off her clothes, so that I could easily watch for hives. Can you imagine this poor girl sitting in her underwear eating her snack? She was not happy, but I told her we had to. I had the benadryl and the epipen ready just in case. She took her first bite and I noted the time: 1:17pm. She smiled and said it was really good. It took her about 2 minutes to finish the whole piece and then I made her sit and wait. 1:20pm. I did a scan of her face and chest - no hives. Wait, wait, wait. She scratched behind her ear. Oh my god, why is she scratching? I checked - nothing. Wait, wait, wait. 1:23pm. Still looking good - no hives. 1:25pm. All good. 1:30pm. I let her get down and put her shirt on. 1:35pm. I check her face again. Nothing. Whew. Breathe. Relax.
I was so relieved we got through that initial taste without any reaction. I’ve given her small portions of the granola bar twice more since then, including today when I gave her half of the bar and so far she is tolerating it! That's not to say that a reaction will for sure never happen, because we know that’s not how allergies work. Many, many people have allergic reactions to things they’ve had dozens or thousands of times before.
My biggest concern though about all of this, is that I’m passing my anxiety on to her with all my fussing. Yes, I’m anxious about anxiety - go figure! She hates when I ask to look at her face or if I ask her why she’s scratching, because she knows what I’m looking for. I try really hard to not let my nerves show, but it’s tough. But like everything else with motherhood, I just have to trust that I’m doing my best.
At least this experience has given me the confidence to try chia seeds soon - stay tuned!