It’s been about six months since the food allergy bomb was dropped on our house and so many little things have happened since then. I keep thinking that I’ll sit down and write them out for the benefit of other (future) allergy moms, but they tend to get lost in the general chaos of life. So here is a quick round-up of thoughts:
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There is nothing more terrifying than the callous remarks of other non-allergy parents. It trumps salad bars, daycare snacks, and birthday parties on my list of things I lose sleep over. We’ve been lucky enough to never have anyone even hint at being insensitive about Eva, but the comments that people leave on the Internet are enough to scare the living hell out of me.
For example, when I was doing research about food allergies and how they’re handled in Utah schools, I came across an article about a local elementary school that has gone completely nut-free. I was shocked at how angry most of the comments were and it made me realize that there are plenty of people who don’t want to be accommodating of the small percentage of kids who have allergies. Some of the comments included these gems:
- “If they are that sensitive to the slightest trace of peanut dust, then how did they survive this long? What if Mr. Wind blows some onto them at recess? Put them into a bubble where they will feel sooooooo special…”
- “It is ridiculous not to allow the majority of people to eat what they want to eat at a PUBLIC school where their tax dollars are being spent to educate their child. If you have a problem — it’s YOUR problem.”
- “You don’t like nuts? Fine, don’t eat them. I don’t like spinach, but I don’t begrudge you eating all you want. Nuts make you break out? Fine! Stay away from them. But why do liberal nutcakes consider it so socially advanced to punish me for your problem with nuts?”
These, and other comments like them, really show how common it is for people to assume that the nut-allergy problem is one that affects kids with crazy overprotective parents who are from high-income families and who feel the need to control everyone else’s children. It’s frustrating and, as we get closer to the days when Eva will go to school full-time, it really makes me nervous. It’s one thing to have to put up with whining from parents, but it’s going to be another if parents are teaching their kids that classmates with food allergies are a pain and you don’t really have to be as careful as they say you do. Also, these comments could come from teachers. They might be coming from people who make decisions for the schools in our neighborhood. I don’t know…but I lose sleep over it.
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We’ll be able to test Eva for allergies again in about a year. It’s hard not to already be discouraged about it, based on the severity of her reactions so far. Kyle pointed out that we have better odds of her growing out of them than we do of winning the lottery, but we still buy lottery tickets sometimes. When he said that, I realized that between the two, I would rather she grow out of her allergies than win a million dollars, even if we won so much money that we could build her a nut-free palace. I feel like being able to just not worry about her would be worth more to us.
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We’ve been eating out more. The list of potential nut allergens at local restaurants is really intimidating, but we’ve worked on being brave and now Eva can eat at a handful of the places in our neighborhood. One of the best was Subway, although our last trip involved a run-in with a woman who has temporarily halted our desire to eat there. We like Subway because most of their food is healthy and free of nut warnings and Eva really loves sandwiches, but there is a problem with contamination from their cookies. When Kyle went to order Eva a kid’s meal, he noticed that the woman behind the counter was putting the cookies out and he asked her to change her gloves before making the sandwich. She resisted, gave him a hard time, and ended up making Eva’s sandwich with no cheese, two slices of meat, and only two of the six toppings we’d requested, all while being nasty. Eva didn’t want to eat it and we were sad enough about it that we haven’t been back since.
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We keep running into things in our house that we didn’t know were bad for Eva. The worst have been lotions and soaps. It turns out that a large number are made with sunflower oil (a major allergen for her) and Cetaphil, which used to be our go-to for her sensitive skin, turns out to use both almond oil and macadamia nut oil. The worst offenders have been the expensive, all-natural baby care products that we got when she was born. It turns out that “all-natural” is really just another way of saying that these are made almost entirely from nuts and sunflowers. It’s Vaseline for us and let’s all pray that that stuff stays as chemical and fake as possible.
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I still miss our cats, which surprises me since they were a bit of a pain in the butt most of the time. It’s hard to know that they’re living somewhere else now. We recently had our first really warm day and I went around the house opening all the windows, only to be sad because that used to be the most exciting thing that happened to them all year. I’m really crossing my fingers that Eva’s allergies for pets fade a little bit, because it would be great for her to have some more furry friends, even if we can’t get Charlie and Scout back.
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It’s too hard to predict when Eva will suddenly get hungry, so we’ve had to get creative with the snacks we can keep with us at all time. They include bags of pretzels (certain brands), pouches of applesauce, saltine crackers, bananas, juice boxes, and string cheese. In addition to keeping her happy when she’s munchy, we pull these out to compensate for the fact that she can no longer have snacks at friends’ houses, samples at the grocery store, or purchased treats at things like community and sporting events. We’ve also started potty training, which means I need to take two extra outfits whenever we leave the house. This, combined with her allergy pack and the large stash of safe snacks I keep with me means that I’m carrying about 20 lbs of diaper bag at any given time, along with the toddler. Thank god baby #2 is still in my stomach because I don’t know how I’m going to carry it around as well.
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At her two-year wellness exam, we found out that Eva is underweight. In fact, she’s so underweight that she’s on the border of being diagnosed with “failure to thrive”. It’s horrifying and embarrassing because it seems like we just aren’t feeding her enough and we must be pretty bad parents. Realistically, we just have the hardest time getting her to eat anything but fresh fruit and we think that might be because she’s bored with her limited diet. We’ve been on a mission to find more things, but so far she hasn’t really fattened up. I really wish I could just give her peanut butter sandwiches in the mornings, chocolate cake on the weekends, and join the ranks of moms who complain about having to come up with creative nut-free school lunches because someone else’s kid is ruining it for all of us. Then I’d kiss my fat little toddler goodbye and she could spend the day at school free to touch any surface, use any soap, and trade snacks with any friend.
Seriously. Like winning the lottery.