The first couple of doses were simple enough. I brought organic whole milk. The nurses put the milk into tiny syringes. He sucked it down with ease. And then we waited. We watched for hives. We asked if he had any itching. We monitored for a cough. We waited for a reaction. Then, one came.
A couple of weeks ago, my son had a blood test. He weirdly appreciates lab work. For him, it means “just one poke.” That’s because allergy tests have often meant multiple skin pricks on his little back.
This blood work was a follow-up — six months after our baked milk challenge. Last year, our allergist felt it was worthwhile to have him try baked milk but didn’t believe it was safe enough to have him try milk. This latest test would tell us if anything had changed in terms of his risk.
The results are in, and our allergist wants to do a dairy challenge. That challenge — where my son will drink real milk for the first time in increasing amounts — is coming up. And I am filled with mixed feelings.
We’ve been on this allergy journey for four years. I’ve known that the odds said he’d outgrow most of his allergies by age 5. And here we are — almost three months shy of his fifth birthday. Still, dietary restrictions have become such a big part of our identities, of our lives, that it’s hard to believe there’s a future where they don’t exist.
My leading emotion is hope, but there is indeed (as usual for moms, I think) a lot on my mind.
More Freedom and Choice
My hope is he will have more choices. But I fear those choices will be less healthy than the choices he’s had so far. In a lot of ways, food allergies have forced us to make good decisions. They are decisions that perhaps we would’ve made anyway. But it’s hard to imagine that my child would be almost 5 and not have ever tasted macaroni and cheese if not for an allergy. How do I ensure that mac and cheese stays out of our regular rotation? Of course, the answer is simple … I just don’t make it. But I understand the temptation that a lot of parents deal with.
My hope is that he will be able to eat whatever he wants. My fear is that he will eat whatever he wants. While it would be great to be able to sprinkle a little cheese on some broccoli, I also don’t want to open up a lot of unhealthy dinner options. Right now, he prefers grilled chicken and black beans to almost anything you could put in front of him. And while there are days I wish he would try more new flavors, I actually feel pretty good about his diet on the whole.
My hope is that I will be able to teach him how to make homemade macaroni and cheese. That one night we’ll do a cheese tasting plate and allow him to explore the wonders of goat cheese and feta and Brie. That he and will I be able to experiment with different casseroles and we’ll make chocolate mousse and pudding and cream pies.
My fear is he will love them way too much.
Safe from Harm
My hope is we won’t have to carry the EpiPen anymore. But my fear is that he may actually be allergic to something he hasn’t had and we just don’t know it yet. My fear is that we will need that EpiPen. We’ve never needed it, thank God, but what if we do?
Above all, my hope is my husband and I won’t have to worry about whether the call from the school is about an allergic reaction and we won’t have to worry about his safety in the same way. But what I know — not just fear — is that there are an infinite number of other things I’ll worry about instead.
On Halloween night, my son had his first trick-or-treating experience. My husband and I hadn't mentioned it until it was clear he knew it was a thing — honestly, we weren't sure we really wanted him to participate. As a child with food allergies, there are very few candies he can have. Plus, we aren't wild about introducing him to more opportunities for sugar. But he was fully aware that people would give him candy if he just rang the doorbell and asked. I was trapped.
Mac and cheese. Pizza. Chicken tenders. String cheese. These are staples of childhood. And they are things my son can’t have. In fact, these foods could make him very sick — or worse.
His food allergies aren’t the end of the world, but they do make life harder — for us as parents trying to find foods he’ll eat, yes, but mostly for him. We remain hopeful that he’ll grow out of them, but we’re also keenly aware he might not. And if he doesn’t? Well, he’s going to need certain skills when he gets older.
Weddings, birthday parties, family gatherings and neighborhood picnics. These are events that should be fun, right? But for parents of children with food energies, they can be stressful — from both a safety perspective and a social graces standpoint.
Here’s what goes through my mind pre-event: Should I call and ask what they’ll be serving? Should I bring food for my son? Will they think we’re rude if we bring our own food? Would it be rude to call and ask? Will they feel like I’m pressuring them to change their menu? It doesn't matter; I just want to plan. Will they understand?
Then, at the event: Is that cheese on the floor? Is my son reaching for a doughnut? Does that bread have egg? I wonder if the host made these meatballs? Should I ask her what’s in them? Did I remember the EpiPen?
Nothing makes you feel like a crappier allergy parent than not having your EpiPen. But I’m not one for over-spending on allergy “gear.” So, here’s what I do for a case instead.