It is not your fault.
Read that again and let your soul rest in that truth. It is NOT your fault.
If you are desperately searching the internet right now for information after your child’s recent food allergy diagnosis, then I hope you read this post. I want you to read it because I have been where you are.
I have felt desperation, shame, anger, disbelief, guilt and every emotion in between. Sleepless nights consumed me. Questioning what I did wrong as a mother and if I could have done anything differently became a constant obsession. Lord knows how many tears I shed while cleaning out my refrigerator and pantry in a fit of terror driven grief.
It took years for me to come to the realization that my child’s food allergy was not because of something I did or did not do.
So let me say it one more time. Your child’s food allergy is NOT your fault.
I Thought I Did Everything Right
During my first pregnancy, I obsessed about doing all the “right” things. I ate peanut butter, took my prenatal, and ate healthier than I ever had in my entire life (minus a few sheets of fudge brownies).
Medical theories at that time suggested my child had a lower risk for food allergies or other medical issues if I did X, Y, Z. So I tried my best to follow guidelines, but I honestly wasn’t worried. Food allergies and diseases didn’t really run in my family.
My daughter was 9 months old when we gave her peanut butter for the first time. I remember the pediatrician telling us to start introducing it into her diet and to watch for reactions. She had a spoonful of creamy peanut butter on a banana for her afternoon snack. Zero reaction.
I remember thinking, “Yay! We are in the clear!” And I didn’t give it a second thought.
Fast forward to my daughter’s fifth or sixth time of eating peanut butter. Literally within seconds, her face swelled up, she developed hives, and her lips started turning blue. We quickly gave her a dose of Benadryl and within fifteen minutes she was almost completely normal.
This story is to share our experience, not to provide steps on what you should do in the event of an allergic reaction.
At the time of her first allergic reaction, we did not have an emergency action plan to follow. Consult with your allergist on your emergency action plan for your child.
FARE is the trusted source of information about food allergies and they have an emergency care plan template here.
A call to our pediatrician soon resulted in us ordering a blood test, avoiding peanut butter, and getting a referral to an allergist.
It Wasn’t My Fault
Knowing what I know now, I cringe at the memory of seeing my daughter’s face swell. Truly, we should have called 9-1-1 the second we saw her lips turn blue. We were so lucky her reaction didn’t worsen.
I honestly just did not have the knowledge or the resources to understand quite what was happening to my daughter at the time. And that is okay. Forgiving myself for simply not knowing was the hardest part.
When my son came along, I again followed the pediatrician’s advice concerning timelines for introducing common food allergens. I thought I had all this allergy stuff in the bag. As far as rule followers go, I’m a champion. I knew I had done everything I could do within my power to avoid him developing food allergies.
Yet one sunny and unassuming morning, my sweet little boy reacted while eating scrambled eggs. He had eaten them so many times before that I really thought there was no issue! Sure enough, blood work soon confirmed an egg allergy. I was so angry on behalf of my son; I had eaten a ton of eggs during pregnancy! Why was this happening?
If my second child also developed food allergies, it had to be my fault somehow. I had to have done SOMETHING wrong, right? The only common denominator (in my head) was that I gave birth to them both and royally messed up somewhere down the line.
But it wasn’t. It wasn’t my fault that my children developed food allergies. It STILL isn’t my fault. After years of suffering under that lie, I now can rest in the assurance that it wasn’t my doing.
There Still Is No Definitive Cause
How do I know it wasn’t my fault? Because science still cannot concretely explain WHY food allergies happen.
We know that an allergic reaction is the body’s immune system overreacting to the food allergen protein. Here is a definition from Mayo Clinic. We know the signs of anaphylaxis and how to best avoid the allergen. Microscopic proteins can be identified and analyzed by scientists. Tons of studies have been conducted to gather more information.
But guess what? No one can prove beyond a shadow of a doubt what causes a human body to suddenly reject a food. There is some data that suggests there are correlations between family genetics, environmental factors, and personal risk factors. However, these are only working theories going off of limited data that was collected. It will be a long time before food allergies are completely understood.
What they do know is that the prevalence of food allergies is increasing. According to the CDC, the number of kiddos with food allergies increased by 18% between 1997-2007 alone.
The good news is that because of the rapid increase and number of people that food allergies are impacting, there is a lot of attention and research.
Moving Past the Guilt
The guilt we feel as mothers when we are unable to protect our children from things of this world is completely normal. But let me lovingly remind you that you are only human. Protecting our children from EVERYTHING is just not a reality.
Shaming yourself will only further damage your aching heart. Resist the urge to jump face first down the rabbit hole of pointing fingers. The pain you are feeling is real and heartbreaking and valid. I am so unbelievably sorry that you are having to go through this with your family. I truly am.
As you walk this difficult path of dealing with a food allergy, you are going to have set backs. I guarantee that there will be information or something that you find out that will completely shock you and make you question yourself. Perhaps you’ll even question if you are the best person for the job.
So let me be the first to reassure you.
You Are The Best Momma Your Little Could Ask For
You are a good, good momma. The love you feel for your child is genuine and fierce.
You are reading everything you can about your child’s allergy and you are faithful in your desire to grow your knowledge to help them. That is undeniable proof that you are a good parent.
Cast all doubt concerning your qualifications aside. In the middle of scary and self-doubting moments, when you are overwhelmed with the reality of what you are dealing with, please remember to give yourself immense grace.
In the next few weeks to months, take breaks from the information overload. It is okay to not have all the answers. I am 3 years into dealing with food allergies and I still don’t have all the answers! It is completely acceptable for you to weep and grieve over this dynamic, life-altering change.
Take deep breaths and keep pushing forward. Reach out to safe people that you know will support you and your precious family. As time goes on, the information becomes less intimidating and you will fall into a new routine of living life with severe food allergies.
Figuratively speaking, you are in the process of building your battle armor right now. It is terrifying and uncomfortable at first, but I promise it gets easier.
You are not alone in this journey, beautiful momma. Cry when you need to and kiss your little one’s cheeks and keep on pressing on. <3
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