This first trip back to work was good, but exhausting. Instead of trying to force my tired brain into writing, I thought I’d bring back a topic I’ve already addressed: Things I wish I’d known when we first got our food allergy diagnosis.
Reading over this list today, I’m struck with how much I still agree with what I wrote a year and a half ago. You can read the original post from October 8, 2012 here, or read on for a slightly updated version of the list.
Then leave a comment and tell me: what do you most wish you had been told when your child was diagnosed with food allergies?
The day Jed was diagnosed with MPI, I felt my world crashing around my head. If internet chatting is any indication, my experience was not unique. Most regular pediatricians are not terribly helpful in giving you good tools to cope with such a diagnosis.
Here’s what I wish someone had told me when I started this journey four years ago.
- It’s not the end of the world! It’s the end of the world as you know it, but soon you WILL learn a “new normal”. Remember that when the days are especially hard.
- The kitchen is your friend. You WILL be cooking a lot more, so invest in whatever kitchen tools you need, if you don’t already have them.
- Google is your friend. Start searching for “(insert food allergy)-free recipes” and you’ll easily find things you can safely feed your child.
- Pre-packaged foods are your enemy. There are a few brands (like Enjoy Life) that are allergy-free/friendly, but be wary of almost all pre-packaged foods until you have some experience under your belt. Cross-contamination is HIGH in processed foods.
- Learn how to read labels. Print out a list of common ingredients that contain your allergen and carry it with you when you go grocery shopping. In fact, get a sitter for your child and plan to spend at least 3-4 hours in the grocery store the first time, reading labels. You’ll get better at spotting danger and shopping won’t always take so long, but the first few times you go you will need the time and freedom to investigate everything.
- Understand that there are people who will not understand what your child’s food needs are, and even some who will directly undermine your allergy-free efforts. Accept this, plan for it, and be grateful for the people who WILL understand and help.
- If your child is school-aged, look into the laws for 504 plans in your state. Meet with your child’s school to arrange one for your child, based on their needs.
- There is no such thing as a stupid question. If you don’t understand something, don’t stop asking for an explanation until you completely understand the facts.
- No one knows your child like you do. Period. If something is wrong in your mind, then something is wrong, regardless of what the doctor or test results may say. Don’t stop pushing until you are satisfied your child is being helped properly. You WILL be the best advocate your child has.
- Learn to forgive yourself. It is inevitable that you will slip up somewhere along the way and inadvertently give your child something they are allergic to. Watching your child react is horrible, and it is worse when you know you could have avoided it if you’d paid better attention or known something about an ingredient sooner. But it happens to the best of us. Extend grace to yourself, solve the problem, and learn from it…then move on. Your child will continue to love and trust you regardless. I promise.
- BONUS! (I thought of one extra perk to share.) When you someday get the chance to eat at a restaurant again? You’ll discover the food tastes AWFUL!
Fellow food allergy Mama’s, what do YOU wish you had known when your child was first diagnosed?