My son’s name is Owen. He loves his family, sports, music, his friends and is the happiest kid you will ever meet. He is also going to forever be your classmate with a severe peanut and tree nut allergy.
This does not define him. This is not who he is. It has, however, shaped him. At his young age, he his cautious, responsible and his own best advocate.
It has, however, redefined me — his mom (his other biggest advocate).
Just to quickly clear a few things up. Peanut butter was my favorite food, my craving and my food of choice throughout my pregnancy with both of my children. I also ate peanut and treenut butter while nursing Owen for 15 months. His sister, who received the same diet while in utero and nursing IS NOT allergic to ANYTHING! Whoa, wild, I know! I didn’t underexpose, I didn’t overexpose, I didn’t take antibiotics while pregnant, processed foods — not my jam. So why is he allergic?
Now that we’ve cleared that up. Yes, I have read that study. Oh, the new one….yup, I’ve read that too! Will I do exposure? Do I want 12-hour office visits with the risk of anaphylaxis 24 hours a day every day? No.
Do we know the long-term affects of exposing a child to a food that his immune system rejects? Not yet.
Do I completely 100% support parents who are trying this? YES! Unequivocally.
Will my child decide to do this when he’s old enough? I don’t know. That’s up to him. I will not make this decision for him.
For reference, not a day goes by that this life-threatening allergy doesn’t affect us. Reading every label, re-reading, triple checking…processed with, packed in a facility with, may contain. Every.single.food.item.we.buy. Left out of most birthday celebrations, Halloween, Easter, Christmas cookies. But, that’s life for us.
My husband and I went on a rare date night last night. Mediterranean. Before my son returned home from his grandparents’ house, we washed our hands until they were raw, brushed our teeth, washed our lips and scrubbed our faces so we could kiss him after eating a cashew-based hummus. All worth it for that precious goodnight kiss.
Before dinner, we stopped at a spice store to buy the kids hot chocolate. “Do you know if this is safe for children with nut allergies?” I asked. “Yes, the only thing we sell is pink peppercorn which is in the cashew family.” WHAT!? How did I not know this? Why had no allergist told us? What if he’s had pink peppercorn? What’s our safety plan? Why am I such a failure!? I should have known this could kill my own child.
I know, super fun date.
But the truth is, it was. This is our life. It could be much worse and we are so blessed to have our son. It is his life. So please, for me, for all allergy parents (you know what, all parents who have a child with any struggle) know that we’ve read that study and 100 more. We saw that news clip and then researched it for 3 hours after it aired for 3 minutes. We know the statistics, we know about early exposure; it’s not our fault and it’s sure as hell is not our child’s fault. We didn’t under-/over-expose. We’ve thought of their first kiss, going away to college, sharing their first beer, summer camps, sleep overs — each with a possible fatal outcome. We are our child’s fiercest advocates. Sometimes our treatment choices look different, but we all have the same goal here: keeping our children safe.