On October 27th, 2006 our little surprise, Xander, was born. It was a healthy pregnancy and delivery, and since he was our third child, I felt as though this was going to be a “walk in the park." Little did I know that our world was fixing to change even more!
When Xander was only weeks old, his little body was covered in a rash from his face to this feet. It was recommended to routinely give him oatmeal baths and apply special creams to calm his eczema and make it more tolerable for him, but it never helped. Those first 2 months must have been miserable for him with itchy skin, leading to the addition of a constantly stuffy nose, being constipated all the time, and spitting up with feedings. Although it didn’t seem normal for my once healthy, happy little boy to be going through this, his pediatrician wasn’t concerned. That was until the day he started vomiting after his bottle.
Since Xander was only 2mo at the time, no allergy tests were done. We were simply told he may need to avoid dairy and switch his formula to soy. This brought about some much needed improvement to his skin and overall well-being. Avoiding dairy didn’t seem too difficult, until the time came for us to start adding more foods into his diet. Since most of the jarred foods contained dairy, I started making his from scratch. This was something I was more than willing to do, especially if it would keep him happy and healthy, but with the exposure to different proteins, his past symptoms started to show again. In fact, they became magnified! On two different episodes, he was covered in hives, his eyes swelled shut and his lips became so puffy they looked like they turned inside out. THIS was not normal and THIS was not from dairy!
We needed more answers!
Even though our son was only 10mo, our doctor immediately got us in with an allergist. The results were clear and Xander was diagnosed with food allergies to Dairy, Eggs, Peanuts, Soy, Gluten, Wheat, Tree Nuts, Garlic, and Shell Fish. His results were so high on the first three, that simply coming into contact with any of those could send him into Anaphylaxis. How could that be? How can food affect his breathing or blood pressure? Hives, maybe, but respiratory distress, and possible death?
It was at that moment, with the doctor’s diagnosis, everything changed!
I didn’t cry just then but secretly I cried an entire month after, especially in the kitchen! My thoughts went from immediate worries (Where do I start? What will I feed him? Will he be able to eat a cake for his 1st birthday? How do I keep him safe?) to worrying about the future (What about school? Will he have any friends? Will he be excluded from parties and events? What about holidays and Halloween? What if a girl kisses him?). It was all an overwhelming flood of emotions and fear. However sadness and fear eventually lead to education and action.
Educating ourselves and our 3 children on food allergies was a start and there were so many things to address. What to avoid, how to read labels, how to politely refuse food being offered from someone other than Myself and most importantly, what to do in an emergency if there was contact with an allergen and how to use an eli-pen.
We also chose to make our entire home “Allergy-Free”. Juggling “our food” and “his food” using separate utensils and bakeware, lead to a near fatal switch up of milks one hurried morning. This caused us to rethink how we were doing things and we decided that our family would stick together and all eat the same way in order to keep our home a safe place.
It was then, I decided to seriously experiment in the kitchen and tweak our family recipes to make them “Xander-friendly”. We were able to have a wonderful 1st birthday celebration with an allergy free cake and over the years, many more tasty treats have been made. The room in our home that once brought the tears, now brings laughter, creativity and joy, especially when chocolate chip cookies are involved!
I can’t say this has been an easy journey, but 8 years into this, through much trial and error, some things have become much easier. My hope is that through this blog and sharing our stories, you too can have a sense of peace and comfort knowing that you are not alone. Others have gone this way before you, and you CAN do this!
Next month, I’ll be writing about our experience with Xander starting public school. Talk about stressful!