Living with food allergies but counting our blessings…

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I want to get a disclaimer out first: This post is going to be a long one. So I hope you grabbed your coffee…. Also, I am aware that everyone has their own set of life struggles…..I am just writing about mine. In no shape or form, am I undermining or even comparing my family’s challenges with anyone.

Now that’s out…..let’s get started.

Ahaan turned 5 this November, and like any mom, I say…he grew up fast, wayyyyy fast! 5 feels like such a big number. When I met a 5 year old’s parent in the past….I felt like I met a mature, wise and have their “life together” person. Now that I have a 5 year old myself, I feel like I couldn’t be furthest from all. I am still immature (at times), have a lot to learn, and I definitely don’t have my life together. And, as much as it went by with a blink of an eye, these 5 years were also a roller coaster ride.

It started early, Ahaan’s food allergy struggles. I remember sitting in the pediatrician’s office when Ahaan was about 3 months old. I was a new mom, scared and unsure but I mustered enough confidence to say what I think could be causing him pain.

The pediatrician dismissed my opinion that it could be dairy allergy, “too early to tell” she said. And asked that I take him off breast milk and try a different formula. 1 week later, I found myself back in her office, resoundingly stating that dairy is bothering my little guy’s tummy and I will be damned if she stated otherwise (…well not in those terms…but almost). She then handed me a sample non-dairy formula. Overnight, we had a different baby…happy, giggly, and satisfied.

After that visit, I started living on basic food for the longest time, just so he can take my milk. Every food I ate, became an experiment on him. I can’t recall the number of times my husband and I made the trip to urgent care with him and huddled in a corner, hoping and praying that the pain of this tiny little human would just go away! While I silently kicked myself about eating anything different….or deviating slightly from the “basic food”. I can go on and on about those days. I have cried countless number of times asking myself “why? Why MY child? Why could I eat the same food, while he cried murder after eating them?” Starting solids brought another set of challenges….he was having a reaction to every food…even tomatoes or apples.

At the end of it all, my husband and I learned to accept this as our new normal. There are lots of people suffering/fighting different kinds of battles, many far worse than ours. So, we’ve learned to count our blessings instead, and think “could have been worse”. At least his doctors believe he will eventually outgrow the allergies, so there is that glimmer of hope. Hope is ALWAYS a good thing.

Today, Ahaan has outgrown most of his allergies, and we’ve narrowed it down to dairy, eggs, nuts, and some fish.

In these 5 years, I have done plethora of research and learned about ingredients of every food like a mad scientist. I could go for a degree on allergy friendly nutrition with my eyes closed!

It is not easy though and it perhaps will never be. In the beginning, within our social circle, we probably came across as pompous, or demanding, or making some sort of statement.  Every time there was an event….I NEEDED to ask the host if there will be food my little man can have. It was extremely uncomfortable and it hurt………………it hurt BAD!!!  I have left few birthday parties and events mid-way… tears……as my little man couldn’t eat anything while other kids enjoyed simple food, like pizza. The guilt was inexplicable and we had to take ourselves out of those situations!!

Thankfully, our close knit of friends have been considerate and have gone above and beyond to accommodate Ahaan’s allergies during social gatherings or birthdays. We are forever grateful to them… we’ve been lucky to have them in our lives! Obviously, we had to let go of few but it is no one’s fault. Life is never fair. Hanging out with my child/my family comes with new commitment now, and I understand that some people would rather not deal with it. I can’t blame them, it is hard to wrap your brain around dangers of food allergies if you haven’t gone through it yourself. I remember in one case, someone laughed at me when I mentioned Ahaan’s allergies. You see, I wasn’t being funny……. I was being safe…..for my child! I needed to be as we have no other option. I wish we did! And no I wasn’t looking for pity, I don’t want that for my child, I wanted understanding and compassion.

So, my husband and I became selective of events we attend for the safety of our child. We didn’t choose to live like this, it chose us. And it doesn’t make us famous, or give us “congeniality family” award, but it keeps our little man safe, while keeping us from getting into emotionally draining situations.

Today, with food allergies being prominent, there are LOTS and LOTS of options for Ahaan that are safe. All I have to do is walk in the Nature section of Wegmanns and Whole Foods. I have cried in the middle of a grocery store aisle every time I found a food I could add to Ahaan’s list. Heck, there are even allergy friendly cheesecakes, whoopee pies, and burritos, let alone pizzas and ice creams he can eat.

Throughout this journey, I have also learned to bake/make allergy friendly version of anything Ahaan wants to eat….…from donuts to cookies, to cakes, to cupcakes……… with healthy ingredients as replacements……..think apple sauce, black beans, zucchini, prunes! What better way to feed a child than sneaking healthy items in his food?!?

In retrospect, life is not normal without some sort of struggle to keep you on your toes. Food allergy seems to be our slice of pie and we’ve come to accept it. And, since he turned 2, Ahaan has been thriving, and is happy, smart, silly, and goofy boy like any other 5 year old. He is hitting all of his milestones out of the park. I am also very proud that he is immensely mature for his age about his allergies and handles it so well!! He is the easiest child to feed, easier than kids without allergies at times….and he eats healthy. Proud mama here!

Above all, he has friends and family that understand his allergies and make accommodations for him. He sure is a lucky guy and we count our blessings for that every day!

Until I wander again…..