Have you ever had that sick feeling in your stomach, not because of illness, but because you were doing something that you felt was wrong but was expected of you?
That is exactly how I felt every single morning when I dropped my son off at preschool.
I struggled with trusting anyone to protect him. I endured a battle within myself every morning when I dropped my sweet, kind, innocent little boy off at school. It wasn’t the normal feelings that most moms went through when parting from their child for the first time. This was different, he was different.
My little boy’s immune system is different than most. His body will attack itself, produce abnormally high amounts of mucous, swell, and cut off oxygen to the brain and other vital parts of the body with the even the smallest sip of milk, taste of cheese, or ingestion of yogurt. Without the proper medicine he could fall into a coma or possibly even die.
My son has had two anaphylactic reactions to dairy. Two. Under my watch. If I couldn’t keep him safe, how was I ever going to be able to trust others to do so?
I had a hard time determining if I was overreacting or if I had a valid reason for my fears. I wanted so badly for my son to be “normal” and have the same experiences that other little boys his age have, but something inside of me just wouldn’t let that happen. After a few months of him attending preschool, he had his annual allergy testing completed. The results showed that his allergy to milk had doubled. It didn’t matter to me anymore if my fears were valid or not. My memories of his previous reactions, his allergy test results, and my inability to feel comfortable having others care for him were enough for me to pull him out of school. I have been homeschooling him ever since.
I understand all too well that homeschooling isn’t for everyone. I also realize that some people might think that I was raising him in a bubble and protecting him from the world. I can assure you that even though he has been by my side since birth, I have done everything I possibly can to educate him to be his own advocate, to self-carry his epinephrine, to self-inject, to read ingredients, and to keep himself safe, which is why I can now feel comfortable with my decision to put him in school.
My son will be starting second grade in school this fall and this time I feel confident in his ability to keep himself safe. I will meet with the teachers and faculty to discuss his allergies, EoE, and emergency action plan. I will also continue to educate him, at home, so that he has the tools and confidence needed to continue to live a healthy life with life-threatening food allergies. In turn, I will recognize my fears of letting him go, of trusting him and others, and keep an open communication with those closest to us to ensure that it is a good experience for us all. I know it’s not going to be easy, but I can now say with confidence that we are prepared.
ELIZABETH DIBURRO, EBL FOOD ALLERGIES