Dear Food Allergy Mom,
The Christmas holiday is upon us. Snow gently blankets the ground outside my house, which means our little fireplace and my coffee pot are in constant use.
It has been in my heart to write you a letter that hopefully brings a small bit of hope to your soul. I do not know you personally, but I can confidently say that we are kindred spirits.
Though we are separate people, each unique and strong, we share a similar bond because we are mothers raising children with food allergies. This medical journey is challenging, terrifying, and strangely beautiful.
It is not for the faint of heart. In fact, it will turn you into a formidable warrior virtually overnight.
And yet, though we share this commonality, every single one of us experiences this journey differently. No two families are the same. No two medical needs are the same.
Like a puzzle, we are all united. And yet, we are sometimes painfully isolated in our own separate spaces. Even though there are many of us, it is all too easy to feel alone.
And that pain can roll over us like a blizzard, or quietly sneak up on us like the frigid cold. Either way, it does come for us all. For me in particular, my grief simmers inside of me and often boils over during the holiday season.
The world turns on cheerful, festive music. Serene images of snow-covered greenery appear like magic on our television screens, and social media feeds. Merriment and warmth abound.
But not for me.
The holidays no longer hold childlike joy for me. Often, there is no excitement in my heart for the things to come.
Instead, I feel anxious about gatherings, people, unsolicited opinions, misunderstandings, and the constant presence of food.
I lie awake at night wondering about the millions of little nuances. How can our family participate but also keep our children safe? Will the treats and drinks be okay? What should I do if that particular person is unkind again?
How can I get a list of all the brands and ingredients being used? Will that specific company still be safe? How can I advocate for our medical needs without offending others?
It feels like endless questions circulate inside my brain.
I know for many of you, you’ve wondered the same things. You’ve figured out new recipes, tried different substitutions, navigated school parties and social gatherings, advocated needs for family gatherings, all while working tirelessly to create holiday magic for your little ones.
And if you’re feeling exhausted, it’s no wonder why.
Once those Christmas bells start jingling, it reminds me that the world has harsh and jagged edges. And I cannot help but grieve.
I grieve over unmet expectations, changes in our lives, and the sheer trauma of watching my children bear the burden of life with food allergies.
There are no Christmas miracles in our story yet. No Hollywood movie endings or fairytale solutions.
And the truth of that reality shreds my heart to pieces.
My soul cries out in both sadness and anger. Why is this a part of our family’s story?
That desperate question squeezes my insides until I feel paralyzed in an ocean of breathless tears.
I do not want this for them.
I cannot fix this for my children or make it go away. If I could have a Christmas wish, I’d ask to switch places with my kids and take on the allergies myself.
Wistfully, that remains an unrealistic desire.
Instead, I was bestowed the great honor and privilege of being their mother. That’s a priceless gift I will not waste or take for granted.
I will protect them, teach them, and empower them. In the future, when they are older, I know they will have questions. They will probably have a lot of emotions.
And I will share their grief with them.
They might question the injustice of food allergies or wonder, “why me?” I won’t have the answers, but I will be present in those moments. We will sit, embrace, and weep together.
Then we will rise. We will rise up and continue to put on our armor, build our confidence, and fight the good fight. Over and over again. Every single day.
One of the most painful things is that, at times, it truly feels like the world does not care about food allergies. The world isn’t thinking about food allergies like we do. Every day, at every snack and meal, every social gathering, it’s front of mind for us.
Most days I press on, but this time of year, it hurts.
Despite the truth that the word feels harsh and cruel sometimes, I will not add to it. Though there is pain, I will not give up trying to make the world better for my kids.
It starts with me, right now, in my own home.
This holiday season, I don’t want to emphasize fancy food, extravagant gifts, or shuttling around to different homes.
Instead, I want to focus on our family’s small blessings that will add up to immeasurable echos of love in my children’s hearts.
I want them to know deep in their souls that they are loved, cherished, enjoyed, heard, and seen. I want there to be no question of how worthy they are as individuals.
Moreover, I want my children to know that everyone has difficulties in life, everyone. This just happens to be one of theirs.
And they will never be alone in facing theirs. Hope, joy, and adventure are waiting for them in their future.
And for my children to feel that about themselves, they need to first see me model it with myself.
So here is my grown-up, realistic Christmas wish this year. For you and for me.
May we view ourselves through the same lens of devotion and grace that we give to our children. We are not just mothers, spouses, coworkers, or daughters.
We are uniquely and wonderfully made human beings.
Incredible, determined, courageous, hardworking, creative, and mighty women to be in awe of – that’s who we are. Despite our shortcomings, we will forever be precious and deserving of care.
May we never give up hope that better days are ahead of us. Though it may feel that the flaming arrows of the hard days surround us, we will not fail to continue to move forward.
One step at a time.
As I sit here and write this letter to you, I am cuddling with my two toddlers on our couch, watching a Christmas cartoon. Occasionally, one of them will giggle softly before drawing closer to me under the blanket.
Over and over, I watch their small bodies inhale and exhale. I am always listening carefully for any indication of distress or difficulty breathing. I can’t help it.
In the past, I have gently placed my hand over their hearts to check their heartbeats. “Oh wow,” I would say, “There is so much love in your heart!”
This was a simple way to check on my children without alerting them of my concerns. They did not pay much attention to this action, or so I thought.
Then, a few moments ago, my oldest gently took my hand, placed it over her heart, and whispered, “Can you feel my love for you, momma?”
Those precious words. Uttered so innocently and truthfully. They hold the weight of all things good and holy in this world. A brilliant ray of light shone confidently into the darkness.
Our children will feel our adoration. If loving our children well is the only thing we accomplish this holiday season, then we succeeded in making the world just a bit brighter.
That’s what we are holding out hope for, sweet momma.
We can grieve the difficulties, advocate constantly, read the latest studies, check labels, have hard conversations, lose sleep, and protect our children.
And we will still cling to the hope that all the effort and hardship will bear fruit of great beauty in our children’s lives.
So this Christmas, my hope for you and yours is that you will find comfort in each other. That you will see, hear, and feel unconditional love within the safety of your own home.
Furthermore, I pray that you feel no shame or condemnation in whatever hard decisions you had to make this holiday season. Whether you are traveling, hosting, or cocooning alone at home, you are worthy of finding peace.
You are not alone, beloved mother. And oh, how precious your beautiful momma heart is.
I wish you gentle, genuine joy this Christmas with every fiber of my being.