Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Living With an Allergy Kid: A Mom's Perspective

It's the middle of the night, and I still haven't fallen asleep. I can't sleep. I'm too worried about her. I drag my feet over the side of the bed, grab my phone and creep out of our bedroom. I slowly open the door to her room, sneak inside and over to the side of her bed. Quietly, I shine my phone light near her bed so I can check her breathing and see her face. I relax when I see her chest slowly moving up and down and hear her calm, steady breaths. Of course I can't be too sure, so I shine my light a little closer to check her face. All clear, no hives. I gently lift her pajama top to check her belly for hives. It's all clear. I tiptoe out of her room, shut the door and climb back in my bed. Maybe now I'll be able to sleep. That has to be the third time since she's gone to bed that I've checked on her. 
This is life with a food allergy kid. Not every night, of course, but more nights than I can count a similar scenario has taken place for me. My biggest fear is that my girl will have a reaction in her sleep and the unthinkable would happen. If she's awake, I notice the hives, I see the swelling. But if she was asleep when it hit? Well, I can't let my mind go to that place. See, my sweet girl is highly allergic to peanuts. The allergist told us when she was about a year and a half, that on a scale from 1-6, with 6 being the most severe an allergy can be, she is a 5. That was terrifying for me to hear. God has protected her. Both times she had a reaction (before we knew), I know His hand was on her. On all of us to act quickly and get help immediately. But the scary thing is that the allergist explained to us that contrary to the popular belief that a reaction can be different every time, the reaction is the same every time. With her, both times, it came on slowly. It was about 3 hours after she ingested peanuts that symptoms started showing up, which I hear is rare for a peanut allergy. It is usually immediate. Her symptoms are hives on her face, stomach, and chest, redness on her feet and pelvic area, and swelling of her eyes and lips. She also said the symptoms will always be the same. But in our case, that is where we've caught it. So we don't know what would come next. Would her throat close? Would she stop breathing? Would she go into anaphylactic shock? Likely one of those things would happen. And that's why the night time is the scariest for me. If she somehow got into something with peanuts at 6 p.m. while we were at a friend's house, her symptoms wouldn't show up until after she's gone to bed. Every night before we go to sleep, I creep into her room and check on her. I know many parents do that, and I probably would even if it weren't for this, but every night, that's one of my purposes. I have to set my mind at ease. While we are as careful as we can be about peanuts with her, things can happen. Another kid could offer her a treat while we aren't looking, or even an adult who doesn't know or forgot. 

We have been so blessed by a few families at our church who provide treats each week. Early on, they decided not to serve anything with peanut products because of my daughter. It has been such a blessing to our family. I don't have to worry about her running right out after the service and grabbing a treat from the table, because I know they are all safe. Everywhere else, I have to ask what it is, what all the ingredients are, and then specifically ask if it has any peanut products. I am happy to do it for my daughter, but it has just been a great joy to not have to worry about it at church. Because of that, I let my guard down at a small group a few months ago. I wasn't thinking about it because everyone knows about her allergy. I certainly don't expect people to cater specifically to her, but everyone has been so sweet about it, that I didn't even think to ask that time. It was about 10:00 that night when it hit me. I didn't ask if there were any peanuts in the dessert, and I didn't eat it so I don't know! My husband tried to think about what it tasted like and really didn't think it was peanut-y, but that wasn't enough for me. I texted the girl who made the dessert, but I got no response until awhile later when her husband texted back that she had already gone to bed and he wasn't sure what was in it. We immediately got her out of bed to check her, but it was probably too soon for symptoms to have shown up, so we gave her benadryl just in case. That was the night I described above. The night where I couldn't get to sleep because I was worried sick about her. The night where I got up multiple times to check on her and make sure. I try to be careful and always ask, and keep her away from anything peanut related, but sometimes I slip up. Even people who know her and love her and are well aware of her allergy just forget. It's not at the forefront of people's minds all the time and I wouldn't expect it to be. Even though someone may very well know about it, they aren't thinking about the fact that reese's pieces contain peanut butter when they offer her one. Yes, that happened, and yes it is scary because then you don't know how many she ate or what will happen. The lady at the stadium eating a bag of peanuts behind us, kindly offers one to her because she sees her big blue eyes curiously watching her crack nut after nut. It's always because of people being kind and people wanting to share with her. Of course we have never had someone purposely give her a peanut butter sandwich and then sit back and see what happens. It is always completely innocent, but that's what is scary! 
Obviously there is only so much I can do. I can't live my life in a constant state of worry that she might come in contact. (Thankfully she does not have an airborne allergy, so she would have to actually ingest the peanut product to have a reaction). I have to trust God with it. I have to trust God with her life. I can do my part, but the rest is in His hands. This is just one large way that He has drawn me closer to Him. As a mama, I want to do everything I can possibly do to protect my baby. I don't ever want any harm to come upon her, as I'm sure any mother feels. But God has taught me that I can only do so much. I can make people aware, teach her about her allergy, read labels and keep her away from it and that's about it. I can't control what other people eat or serve (and I wouldn't want to!) I'm thankful that He has taught me that much more to trust in Him. Trusting Him with your child's life is about the biggest thing you can hand over with open hands. I know He is sovereign and good. 
Do you have any experience with food allergies? If so, what are you or a loved one allergic to? Can you relate to the fears and paranoia I describe? 
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