They always say you’re never fully prepared to be a mom. Even after religiously reading every possible book, taking prenatal classes, and scouring all of Google - you still won’t know it all! Throw in food allergies and it’s a whole 'nother ball game. But despite the tough challenges, there has definitely been glimpses of light, and along the way I’ve learned a few a delightful things.
They Can be a Blessing in Disguise
I'd always thought of myself as fairly healthy, but since Vivienne's food allergy diagnoses, I am forced to read every single label of every single product she eats, and because of that, I've learned that many of the "clean-label", "healthy" snacks I previously enjoyed contain lots of hard to pronounce ingredients and aren't as healthy as I'd previously thought. Because Vivienne cannot eat wheat or eggs, our meals typically consist of a lean protein/seafood, fruits/vegetables, and quinoa/brown rice.
In addition, we've become a lot more aware of how our bodies feel when we are eating simple, whole foods - to the point that my husband realized some of his lifelong GI issues weren't "normal" and has been since diagnosed with Crohn's. While we weren't happy to hear that news, I think it's so much better that we found out early and can be proactive in making sure he follows a low-residue, anti-inflammatory diet. We've discovered so many delicious, allergy-friendly alternatives that are tasty, safe for Vivienne, and healthier alternatives to our classic favorites.
They Turn You (& Your Child) Into an Advocate
Before Vivienne, I was always the person who didn't want to rock the boat and said yes, even if I didn't want to. But since her food allergy diagnoses, I've become an advocate for her, which in turn, has made me much better about taking a stand for myself. When your child's life is potentially at stake, you stop worrying about being a bother and make sure your voice is heard.
In turn, I think Vivienne is also learning to advocate for herself. Even at 2 1/2, she clearly tells adults, "No, I'm allergic to that and I can't eat it", which I'm hoping will translate to her standing up for herself in other facets of her life.
Most People Really Are Compassionate
Prior to personally having to deal with food allergies in our family, I didn't think much about food allergies, so I wasn't always conscious about where I ate certain foods - i.e. I would eat peanuts in the airport and not think twice about it. I meant no harm, but I was just oblivious to how many people were affected by food allergies and how severe they could be. But I've found that when I'm vocal about Vivienne's allergies, people are willing to make a quick accommodation to make situations safe for her. We've found this on planes, at school, and in social settings, like birthday parties.
It can be quite confusing and difficult as a food allergy mom, but it's comforting to know that there is a bigger support group than we think. We just need to speak a little louder and show those outside of our community the positives of food allergies, like improving overall health, because it's not all negative.