Motherhood // 11 things no one tells you about being an Allergy Parent
For those of you visiting Make, Do & Push! for the first time, my youngest (H-Bear) suffers from Cow’s Milk Protein Allergy (CMPA) and also has a soya allergy.
We’ve been living in the land of allergies for over two years now, and it has become the norm in our household, so I thought I’d put together a post about being an ‘Allergy Parent’ for those of you in the same boat – I’m sure you will relate, and for those of you starting your journey, I hope this helps:
1. Some people will assume you’re being difficult. Or over-protective.
I remember receiving an eye roll in the local bakers a few months ago because I dared asked whether anything was milk and soya free. To make matters worse, there was a huge sign above her head that said “Please ask us about our allergy options”!
I’m used to the looks now – although that in itself frustrates me greatly, because I shouldn’t have to get used to it! From asking for a table to be wiped in a café because it had milk on it from the previous customer, to scrutinising the backs of packets when our online grocery shop sends a replacement item. I want to scream: “I’m not being difficult! My caution will prevent my child from days of pain!”
2. Or that this is a lifestyle choice.
I mean, come on, it’s really not a lifestyle choice is it? I’d be the meanest mother in the world if one day I’d just decided that my eldest could have chocolate ice cream, cheese and ALL the milk and soya her heart desired… but my youngest wasn’t allowed any of it; purely because it’s a lifestyle choice. Hmmm… (I’ve written about this in more detail here).
3. Other kids’ birthday parties are stressful.
We went to a soft play party a couple of months ago… We ended up having to sit H-Bear on a different table to the other children, as the food was all within grabbing reach and he still doesn’t understand why he can’t eat certain things. He spent most of the time watching his sister happily eat with everyone else, and I felt so mean.
This is also true at other people’s houses – which is why we mostly have playdates at our house.
4. You find yourself turning into a helicopter parent.
H-Bear is something of a scavenger, so he will actively seek out food wherever we are… which makes me panic in playgrounds. He’s also started to become fiercely independent now he’s hit two, so I’m trying my hardest not to smother him too much when we’re out.
5. You get asked a whole barrage of questions about why you think your child has that particular allergy.
“Did you eat lots of dairy in your pregnancy?”, “Does it run in the family?”, “Will he grow out of it?” I have to admit that I haven’t a clue really, and answer as such!
6. And then comes the ‘helpful’ advice and the anecdotes.
“Well, my friend’s sister’s aunt just gave her child a bowl of ice cream on her third birthday, and she was FINE! Perhaps you could try that?” Um… I’m going to pass on that one. Or “Have you heard of the milk ladder?” Of course I’ve heard of the milk ladder… I’m old hat now – I know each step off by heart.
7. People assume that your child must be gluten-free too.
I honestly haven’t got a clue why this happens – perhaps because a lot of the gluten-free options are also milk and soya free? Or that it’s public consensus that everyone with an allergy must also have a gluten allergy? Very odd, and we get it A LOT!
8. Some people also assume that ‘free from’ means free from everything.
Which it doesn’t. I’ve had so many conversations with restaurant staff and online delivery drivers about this.
9. You become so well-versed in your child’s allergy that you’re better informed than the dietician.
Thank goodness for Facebook support groups!
10. It’s nothing to be ashamed of.
When H-Bear was first diagnosed with CMPA and soya allergy I felt like I’d let him down somehow. I felt ashamed to ask for allergy matrixes when out, to call the repeat prescription line for his allergy formula. But then I realised that his allergies are just part of who he is, and I really shouldn’t be ashamed; it was nothing that I did in pregnancy, or labour, it’s just who he is.
11. It gets easier.
When H-Bear was first diagnosed, I felt so overwhelmed: What would he eat? How would I cook for both children at the same time? WHAT would I cook? But thanks to the rise of Veganism, companies such as Oatly are bringing more products out every few months, cafés are starting to stock oat milk as an alternative to cow and soya milk, and there are definitely more options on the market than there were two years ago.
Also, once you know what you’re looking for, it becomes second nature to scan the ingredients and ‘May Contains’.
Would you add anything to this list?