Life After Food Allergies

Your entire family comes to a halt when your son is diagnosed with food allergies. It’s hard on your son. Hard on you and your husband. Hard on your older son. You micromanage meals. You read every single ingredient on packages. You hesitate before parties. Who is bringing what? “Don’t feed him anything without asking me first.” You want to vomit when you send him off to school, alone. Your new normal causes a cosmic shift at home. You settle into the uncomfortable new normal. The allergy years rage on.

The day comes, the moment you dreamed about. Oral Food Challenge Day. You don’t sleep the night before, tossing, turning, worrying. Certain he will react. Heart races. Sweat oozes. Vomit feeling returns.

You sit in the hospital while hours inch by. You talk to doctors and nurses. You smile. Its fake. A thin façade one wrong tap away from crumbling. Mamas wear this veil often.

You restrain your hysterical son as they put the IV in. He bites you. He hits you. He yells “NO MOMMY, DON’T DO THIS!” The child psychologist they brought in to “keep him calm and talk him through this” is useless, slumped against the wall. You wonder how much it cost you to pay for her slump. You cling to your brave facade. You watch every second of the procedure, needle piercing that perfect skin you love to kiss so much.

When you walk out of Lurie Children’s Hospital, you are in a state of shock. He passed. He is done. You are done. Your family is done! It doesn’t feel real. Dreamlike trip down the hospital elevator. It was a long stressful day. You tried explaining to a three year old why he had to eat the food you swore makes him sick. He doesn’t understand any of this. You had to train him to be his own advocate. The cost of safety frightened him, maybe forever.

You buy the offenders. Banana. Avocado. Kiwi. Bring them home. House is stocked with forbidden foods. Old forbidden foods. He won’t eat even one bite of banana. Still insisting it makes him sick, that he doesn’t like that, that he hates them.

You offer to make banana cookies. Let’s make this fun! He helps. He smiles. Big brother helps, he is very excited, bananas are his favorite. You bake the cookies. Let them cool. Hand him one cookie. He takes a nibble, yuck! “They are gross mama,” he says.

You sigh, and let it go. Big brother likes the cookies. You like them even more and end up eating most of them. They taste like banana bread. You offer banana with breakfast. “No.” Banana with lunch? “No.” You let it go for a day, a week, “banana?” “No! Bananas make me sick, mama.” You smile. “Not anymore sweetheart, but we can try again later.”

You peel a banana. You don’t scrub your hands and handle his food at the same time. You wipe your hands on a towel, not panicking that he might have a reaction. You feel free. The burden of reactions no longer dragging you into the abyss.

You bring avocado back to Taco Tuesday. The whole family likes this. You never really stressed the avocado allergy, because toddlers and babies don’t have much time to get their hands on one of those. He tries that. “Too spicy” Normal three year old reaction. You feel a wave of relief.

You go to the closet to grab something. Your eyes linger on the epi-pens. “I should toss those.” You don’t You close the door. Turn off the light. Walk away. Maybe later.

You sneak a banana into your smoothie. He loves your smoothies. He drinks that. He doesn’t know. You feel sneaky but victorious.

School tells you they had banana with lunch. He wouldn’t eat it. “I no eat the banana mama.” “It’s ok. Maybe when you’re six!” “Yeah when I’m six!”

You thought the other side of food allergies meant life going back to the first normal. You were wrong. It laid way for another new normal. You slipped on a new worry: that you caused permanent damage.

You look in the mirror, shake your head. You fought for him. You took the punches and bites. You cleaned up the vomit. You rushed him to the ER. You demanded answers from doctors. You made lists. You made documents. You had a medical binder. You HAD to teach him to be safe. It was life or death after all. You are strong. The other side of food allergies is your next journey. He outgrew the offenders. He will outgrow the fear.