I'm so excited to kick off this week! Not only does today mark the start of Food Allergy Awareness Week, but it is also Mother's Day! I am really looking forward to celebrating with the food allergy community and with my mom.
I think it goes without saying that food allergy moms are incredible and strong beings. The stress, the emotions, and, most importantly, the care and protection they give their children suffering from a life-threatening disease is incredible. I give my mom a lot of credit. She became a food allergy mom during an age where food allergies were not widely popular and there was no internet to help her at a moment's notice. She learned on her own how to care for me, how to properly treat my symptoms, how to cook around my restrictions, and how to advocate for me before I was able to do it myself. Food allergy moms are a key figure to our food allergy community!
And that is why I am so excited to formally introduce you to my mom, better known as Momma Mac! After many blogs from my point of view, I thought it would be fun to sit down with my mom and ask her some questions on what it was like raising a child with food allergies in the early 90s. So, without further ado, here we go!
Amanda: How did you feel when you first found out about my food allergies? What steps did you take to get yourself prepared for our new lifestyle?
Momma Mac: Believe it or not, they started as soon as you were born. I was nursing you, so, of course, anything I was eating, you were eating, and then you were reacting. You had rashes within days and I had to get you right to the pediatrician. Back then (1991), allergies really weren't well known, so first they would suggest changing the lotion, then the bath soap, and so on. The one bottle of formula a day I was giving you, they decided could be upsetting you, so we changed to soy. No one ever said for me to watch what I ate too. It was me who had to figure that out eventually.
A: What was it like being a food allergy mom in the 90s/early 2000s? What did you do without the internet for help?
MM: Like you stated, there was no internet and, unlike today, not many understood food allergies so I ended up having a lot of arguments with people and doctors. There was so much misunderstanding with allergies and people didn't care for you the right way. From family members, friends, to teachers and even school nurses; they all thought they knew what they were talking about and doing. Or, there would be times people would see you when you were all rashed up and pull their kids away from you. I would try to explain to them that it was just eczema or a rash from an allergic reaction. Not many understood.
The biggest challenge was figuring out what foods were good for you and what wasn't. Without the internet, I had to rely on other people and who they knew. Usually, someone would refer me to someone else who has the same issues. Then, from there, I would basically read ingredients and have to learn what a lot of things meant. Of course, once I started to nail it and know what I was doing, you would develop more food allergies, or your body would change the list completely.
It was hard. Most doctors wouldn't test you because they felt you were too young. After a couple of tries, I finally found a doctor that would test you and that was a big help.
A: What measures did you take when we went places that would leave me exposed to my allergens?
MM: I tried to always bring your own foods. If there were pets, I made sure you took your medicine before and that we always had your inhaler with us.
When possible, I called ahead to see if they could accommodate you in any way possible, whether it was with food or environmental. If not, I would pack a bag of safe food or a cooler bag if I was bringing stuff like your rice milk or dairy-free butter. Some places, the staff would question me, but once I explained why I needed to do this, most understood.
A: What kind of anxiety did you face, if any? How did you overcome it?
MM: That is a very big question and the answer to that is simple; you face anxiety everyday as a mom, and moreso when there is a challenge placed in your hands. You never overcome it. I will forever worry about it.
I worry you will react to something, or get sick. I would worry if products would change an ingredient, if there was an ingredient added that was not listed, or if it was made on the same belt with something you are allergic to. You can have one hundred great days, but that one bad day can make me feel like the world just ended.
A: What advice would you give to food allergy moms?
MM: It is a challenge, but, just like with anything else in life, you have to put your mind to it, and you can achieve anything.
My best advice to give any food allergy mom is to act like you have the same problem, so you can understand and feel what your child is facing everyday. Be supportive, eat what they eat, do what they do. Let them know they aren't alone. And teach them about their allergy and how to take care of it. This way, as they get older, they learn how to prepare, look for foods and stuff they can have on their own.
A: What does being a food allergy mom mean to you?
MM: A food allergy mom means to me that I have a beautiful daughter with different challenges in life that I was able to learn from, advocate for, and be a better person for.