I’m THAT mom. You know, the one that RSVPs to birthday parties with, “Oh, just a reminder she is allergic to peanuts, tree nuts, coconut, flax, and sunflower seeds. But, at least we’ve gotten to take eggs and milk off the list!” We are always armed with two EpiPen’s, an inhaler, Benadryl, antihistamines, and our own safe snacks and treats. EVERYONE who know us knows the littlest one can’t be around nuts of any kind. The first conversation I have at parties is about the food (and not in the fun foodie way that is so interesting). I cruise the food tables taking mental notes of what can harm my kid and how far away to keep her. I side-eye the other guests, wondering if they just finished a giant bag of trail mix and haven’t washed their hands yet. I am terrified and paranoid.
I’m also the mom that tries REALLY hard not to hover. I mean, who doesn’t want to just stand around drinking wine chatting with friends while the kids play? I am not one to stand at the bottom of the slide or referee a backyard game of soccer. I’m just not.
Reconciling these two versions of myself is the second biggest challenge of being an “Allergy Mom.” Second, of course, to keeping my three-year-old alive because her immune system thinks so many delicious things are poison. It’s difficult and frustrating – but, it’s also manageable. I know it could be worse and I know it could be much more acute. It is getting easier because it’s our family’s normal. We don’t stay home because we are scared. We don’t avoid people and parties because we don’t want to deal with the hassles. We go and have fun! I plaster a smile on my face and hide my fears so my daughter can play with her friends. But, it is HARD. Momming is hard, folks. HARD.
I’ve found talking helps. Talking about the allergies with servers, other parents, teachers, friends and coworkers. Most of all, talking with my kids and husband. My four-year-old son knows what his sister is allergic to and what will hurt her. He knows how to use an EpiPen. He knows to ask her if she is okay when she is coughing. At three, my daughter will tell you that she must ask before she eats anything. Sometimes, she does this at home because she is scared. She can recite her allergies and knows what each thing looks like. She knows what it feels like to be unable to breathe because of a reaction.
I’m sure there are many more moms out there like me. I know I’m not alone and I’ve probably seen you in the waiting room at the allergist’s office! There is a reason our preschool is nut-free. We are in this together, this giant village of people doing the best they can with what they have – kids with crappy immune systems that can’t enjoy PB&J or Snickers bars.
Theresa Birchfield is a Nevada native with a husband, two littles, a dog, and a job as a medical practice administrator. She loves reading and wine. She also loves school and is thinking of going back for another Master’s degree. You can often find her at Target. If she isn’t there, she is at home or work. She is also trying to find time to start exercising again – tips welcome!