I think I speak for all parents of a peanut allergic (heck make that any food allergic) child when I say that the moment your child's allergy is confirmed either through a reaction or a positive test your life changes. Dramatically.
Throwing out food. Sanitizing food equipment (or throwing it out altogether). Relearning how to cook for your child (and your family). Avoiding cross contamination. Educating family. Educating school/daycare (sometimes easier than educating family). Asking servers 42 questions. Reading labels. And reading labels. And, oh, did I mention that I read labels?
But most of all, at least for me, the diagnosis came with LOTS of anxiety. For the first 6 months (at least) after Bella's diagnosis, I would be fine during the day, the responsible parent, watchdog for my daughter. Actually I took on a 'no big deal' sort of attitude, hoping folks wouldn't see that I was falling apart when I was alone.
At night, well that was a different story. I would lie awake at night, my husband sleeping soundly, worried to death each night. Nothing would calm me down. And my mind would race.
How was my little girl going to function on a daily basis? What would happen when she got to school and there weren't people really watching out for her? What if she dated a boy who ate peanut butter and then kissed her? Would she encounter bullies at school who would spike her food with nuts? Would she have any friends since she would be the girl with the peanut allergy? Could she go to summer camp? What if she was on a field trip and they fed peanuts to elephants and she stopped breathing and noone knew what to do? What if she's a teenager with an attitude and wont carry her epipen with her and she needs it?
I didn't say they were rational worries. But I would lie there, my heart racing, with tears in my eyes. So worried for my little baby girl. I can't tell you how many hours of sleep I lost.
So what did I do? Well, I wish I could tell you that I pulled myself up by my bootstraps and decided to change my attitude. Thinking back, I really should have seen a therapist to manage these thoughts.
But I didn't.
I just kept putting one foot in front of the other. Devoured posts on peanutallergy.com. Found other bloggers (check out my list at the right). Researched every clinical trial out there. Hell, I even contacted Wesley Burks at Duke and asked him questions (what a great guy by the way)!
And I thanked my lucky stars that Bella wasn't allergic to something NOT on the Top 8 list. I ultimately realized that peanuts are just ONE food. Life could be worse.
But the anxiety still rears it's ugly head now and then. There are days, that I sit at my desk and see my day care's number on caller id and I lose it before I answer the phone. In that split second I think (and this may sound horrible) that she's had a reaction and she's on the way to the hospital. But more likely they are calling to tell me that she bumped her head trying to jump off the slide (she's quite a tomboy), but I always fear the worst :) I worry so much when she's with new people, or if she's with family but they're going out somewhere. But I still let her, even at this young age, go on adventures (that I've researched already, what am I nuts?).
But I can't let my anxiety prevent her from living her life. What kind of parent would that make me? A crazy one, that's what!
When I'm feeling anxious or scared, I go online, and read other people's blogs, and rest assured that I am not alone. That we are all going through it, day by day, to ensure that our babies (however old) are safe.
I can only hope that I can ease the mind of someone out there who's feeling as scared and anxious as I was.
It does get better. Really it does. You'll be fine. So will your baby. Don't worry. Just live.
How do you cope?