As a mother, there are lots of things to fear. Broken limbs, childhood illness, too many what-ifs to mention.
But the most stressful day of my life was when we discovered my son had a food allergy.
As parents, we dread those beginning stages of introducing foods to our children. Waiting with bated breath to see if there is the slightest hint of a difference in their appearance or behavior, waiting for a full blown panic to set in if there is a reaction. Then the huge sigh of relief as you check off another food in the safe column for your child and move on to the next challenge.
My son had always avoided nuts. At the time, I had no idea why but when finally summoned up the courage to bravely offer him a taste of peanut butter one day, he shook his head no and turned away. Looking back, I wonder if this is some sort of natural defense of his body warning him of the dangers of a simple taste.
Cue to one August afternoon at a family picnic on the deck, I watched from a distance as my father-in-law offered my nearly three year old son a peanut butter cookie. “Just try it,” he suggested. I sat on my hands as I tried my hardest to avoid being the helicopter mom. The type of mom I feared my husband’s family thought of me, as none of his siblings had children and I often felt judged that I was too overprotective. I wanted to swat that cookie out of my son’s pudgy hand but I kept a grip on my emotions. My son, eager to please took a tiny bite. And seconds later, my heart thudded to a stop as I heard.
“My throat is itchy. I don’t feel good.”
My chest ached as if I couldn’t quite get enough oxygen. Sounds echoed in my mind. I couldn’t make out the voices around me. I could barely get my feet to work properly as I grabbed my son and my keys, ignored everyone else as we rushed to the nearest CVS, terrified beyond belief.
As we sped down the deserted side roads, I asked him a thousand times, over and over, “Are you okay?” I prayed with every mile that passed that the itchiness would pass, that this was a fluke.
The pharmacist at CVS handed over a bottle of Benadryl. After studying my son for a few seconds, she finally gave her diagnosis. “It seems like a mild reaction. If it gets worse, get him to the ER. Follow up with your pediatrician.”
In the car, my son refused the Benadryl. I understood he was hesitant to try anything else that was foreign. As mothers, we improvise. As my worry grew, I forced the medicine down his throat and was rewarded with him vomiting all over me, himself and the car seat. The kicker? The minute after he got sick he smiled and said, “All better.”
I couldn’t help but smile as I tried to ignore the smell of my car that was sure to grow worse in the blazing summer heat.
But in that moment, nothing else mattered.
My son was okay. He was smiling once again. Everything was going to be okay. He had a nut allergy. But, how were we going to survive when nuts appear everywhere?
Yes, there are protocols in place for emergencies, the nurse is just down the hall, but children will be children and a simple share of a tiny bite of cookie at the lunchroom table or a sweet kiss from a little girl on the playground who just ate a huge peanut butter sandwich could have huge ramifications for my child.
Sometimes other moms simply do not understand the severity of a nut allergy and the fear that it brings to a mom. My nature is to be a bit of a control freak; I will freely admit I have trust issues when it comes to my child. However, now that my son’s care is in the hands of others, out in the world of nuts, it is extremely difficult not to worry. We have been on this journey for four years and my son is now in school, I wish there was relief was in sight.
But when a child’s life is at stake, it takes a village. I have to let my overprotective bubble deflate and help my son find his way in this world along with the help of others. Because he is strong, he is capable and thankfully he can sniff out a nut in a mile radius.