I'll Never Ignore My Gut Instincts Again

by Megan Cardwell
Originally Published: 
A person feeding a baby with food allergies
Scary Mommy and Imelda Staunton/Getty

When I had my daughter, I thought her fussiness was just a part of her personality. She seemed to always be mad about something. But the salt is so strong with this mama and so no one, myself included, was really all that surprised that I ended up with a spicy little babe.

By the time she reached one month old, I had this sinking feeling that there was more to it than we were seeing. I remember one night specifically, where she was especially fussy. We tried everything to get her to calm down. Car rides, I’m talkin’ a minimum of five of them, nursing, pacifiers, singing, dancing, vacuuming, I mean we tried it all. I had never felt more helpless or more unfit to be a mother than in that moment.

After (surprise!) none of it worked, I remember saying to my husband, “I wonder if there’s something actually wrong with her?” He had wondered the same thing, too, because babies just can’t be that pissed off all the time, can they?

I quickly brushed it off and decided that this was just the way things were for us. Being a first-time mom and being so out of my element, all. of. the. damn. time, it has been hard for me unquestioningly trust my instincts.

But I should have listened to my gut a little (see also: a lot) harder. I shouldn’t have cared so much what other people would think of me. I should have spoken up and been the voice that my daughter needed me to be.

It wasn’t until she was about two months old that we began to see just why she was so angry all the time.

It was a very typical Monday for me. I was dressed in the same poop and spit up stained sweats I had been wearing for a week and counting. I was in the middle of changing the 83rd diaper of the morning, when I noticed an unfamiliar color mixed in with that baby green diarrhea. You know the color I’m talking about… It will be imprinted in our brains forever. I can almost guarantee you we will never be able to see that color without thinking, “baby shit.”

But this was not that color. This was that color plus very red slimy specks. This was blood. In my sweet, salty little baby’s diaper.

I knew in my gut exactly what we were dealing with: food allergies.

See, my sister had gone through the same thing with her daughter not a year and a half prior. I remember all the appointments she had, specialist she visited and tests she went through for them to conclude that her daughter had a dairy, soy and egg allergy.

Nick Daly/Getty

When I saw blood in my daughter’s diaper, I immediately thought back to all the conversations I had had with my sister. My daughter’s symptoms echoed my nieces almost exactly. How could I not have thought of that sooner?

I put aside my mom guilt momentarily and called our pediatrician to make sure we could have her seen as soon as possible. And then, when I put her down for a nap, I fell apart. I cried. I cried hard and for a very long time.

I had had a gut feeling that there was something more than just fuss or colic going on with her, and instead of coming off as a “crazy first-time mom,” because that’s what I thought would have happened, I brushed it off and forged ahead. All the while, my daughter was literally bleeding from the inside out.

I felt like a big ol’ dog turd.

How could I have seen all these signs and symptoms, to just ignore them and allow my daughter to get to the point where her little tummy was torn up so badly that it was making her poop blood?

Our pediatrician wanted to be that there wasn’t something else going on that was causing her to bleed (i.e. salmonella poisoning, tummy bug, etc.), so we collected stool samples and sent them off for testing. When those all came back with no match, we decided the next course of action was to assume we were dealing with a food allergy.

The most common allergies in infants are dairy, egg and soy, so this is what we assumed she had. Because I was still breastfeeding and wasn’t ready to give that up, I went through an immediate diet change to make sure my daughter wasn’t getting any of this allergy trifecta in her diet as a result of what I ate or drank.

I will be the first to tell you, it was not easy and I was lucky (?) to have someone close to me show me the ropes. The convenience factor of the “grab and go” food goes right out the window. I had to read the label of every single thing I wanted to consume, do research on what could be an issue but not labeled simply as “soy” and meal prep like I have never done in my life, and quite honestly, hope to never have to do again.

It took about four weeks before we started to see a real change in our daughter’s demeanor. But seemingly overnight, she turned into a totally different baby. She was happy, energetic, sleeping well, eating well… Everything you could possibly want for your child.

My mommin’ heart could not be happier with where she is now. I mean, she’s still dang spicy, but she is growing and thriving and no longer angry all the time.

It took us a long time to get to where we are now. And I’m embarrassed to admit that part of why it took so long is because I didn’t follow my instincts sooner.

I have since gotten on a first-name basis with just about everyone in our pediatrician’s office because we’re there, or calling, so frequently. But you know what? I would rather look absolutely bat shit crazy to be sure my girl is good than to not be the voice she needs.

Trust your gut, mamas. Whether it’s your first, fifth or eighteenth (bless you) time around, I promise you that mommin’ instinct is strong. You just have to listen to it.

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