My cursor keeps blinking as I sit here staring at the screen. When it’s been awhile since I’ve written, I find it hard to organize all my thoughts and ideas that I’ve had over the past few months; all those moments where I’ve filed something away thinking “I’d like to write about that…”.
This past year has been a struggle. It’s been a year full of lots of laughter and wonderful moments, but a struggle in many, many aspects. There is, of course, the struggle of adjusting to having three children- I’m sorry, but for those of you that told me that going from one to two was hard but two to three was a breeze…you lie. Or perhaps it was a breeze for you and truth be told, at first I thought it was for me, but once my littlest started moving, it was all over. We have a climber. An adventurer. A daredevil. A child who at the age of 15 months has already fallen in love with the word “no” (and even though it sounds cute now I’m wary). He also happens to have a great sense of humor, a terrific laugh, and a very sweet spirit most of the time. So that helps when I feel my sanity fading.
The real struggle, though, has been in an area that was new to us- the world of food allergies. Food allergies were foreign to us and we were shocked when we discovered that they were the culprits of a horrible diaper rash that lasted from a week old to a couple of months old, congestion and slightly difficulty breathing, and major spit-up issues that required more clothing and clean-up than I ever imagined.
Because I was (and am) breastfeeding our littlest guy, those food allergies required a change in diet. When the pediatrician told me at his two month well-child visit that I was going to have to cut out dairy (one of the most common allergens in babies), I literally cried on the way home. What about pizza?!? Milk chocolate?!? What on earth am I going to eat? I’m one of those girls who loves dairy. I’m the granddaughter of a former dairy farmer! I began the journey of educating myself on what had casein in it, as simply cutting out milk isn’t sufficient. Of course yogurt, cheese, ice cream, sour cream, cream cheese and milk had to go. But the myriad of foods that have some form of milk in them is remarkable. And as I also cut out soy (due to that being a common allergen along with the dairy), I was quite overwhelmed at the number of foods now off limits (soy lecithin is in just about EVERYTHING).
After eight weeks or so of cutting out those two things, the rash finally went away, his congestion began to clear up, and the spitting up did get somewhat better. But Mr. J did not end up fully symptom free. This tormented me. As a nursing mom, I was responsible for everything he ingested, and knowing that something I was consuming was causing him to be in pain or uncomfortable was very difficult emotionally. At one point I was dairy, soy, egg, peanut, chocolate, and tomato free (only for a week or so with all of them but that week was a loooonnnnngggg one) in an attempt to narrow down possible causes. Other times I took out gluten for a month, or avoided certain other foods for specific periods of time.
Thankfully, the older he got, the easier it became (unless out to dinner, at a potluck, or at a party) and the more his symptoms cleared. Around six months, eczema became the most concerning symptom as it was more severe than I had ever seen from my kids or myself (we all have had quite minor eczema issues here and there). I read everything I could find on food allergies and eczema, and I became pretty efficient at recipe substitutions. I developed a decent taste for regular almond milk or coconut milk (still doesn’t beat dairy in my book) and rejoiced at discovering chocolate almond milk- which is pretty great and helps my need for a chocolate fix. I found alternatives for yogurt and began making even more things from scratch, like cream of chicken soup. Let me just say though, that I gave up on finding a cheese substitute that is worthwhile. I miss cheese. Anyway, as J began eating solids, I was able to pinpoint a bit better what he seemed to react to, because we had really been shooting in the dark in many ways. (We had not opted for allergy testing as one, it is SUPER expensive and we self-pay; two, the unreliability of it for a child at such a young age did not make the cost worth it; and three, his allergies didn’t appear severe enough to warrant a visit to the allergist, praise God.)
The eczema continued to be our biggest problem and was the source of many tears and much prayer. I rejoice in being able to type “was” as a few weeks ago, it just started to clear up. We hadn’t done anything different regarding food or lotions or such; I believe it was an answer to the many prayers that had been offered up. I never understood how eczema could really cause so much difficulty but I have definite empathy for those that struggle with it as well as with food allergies. Eczema can seriously interrupt a life, and serious food allergies, of course, can take a life. And many people, myself included before J was born, just don’t understand.
All that to say, it’s been a journey. A hard one honestly. I don’t need to list every difficulty it has brought as this post is quite long enough already and this is a condensed version of our story, but I did want to share in case anyone comes across this that is facing something similar. I’m hopeful that he will outgrow his allergies (dairy and peanut are definitely culprits). And on the positive side, my formerly food-picky self is now eating things I never would have thought I would consume before, so that’s been a great part of this adventure. But… when J has weaned, I am going to inhale a large pizza all by myself with a cheesecake for dessert to celebrate.