I had a hard day the other day. It was the end of the Labor Day weekend that we spent with family members in a shared vacation house. Because of my 3 year old daughter’s food allergies, which include cashews, I emailed everyone ahead of time and requested that no one bring nuts to the house. Everyone complied and it was a nut-free weekend. I didn’t really worry about her allergy to eggs or her sensitivity to gluten, dairy and soy, since these are not life-threatening for her.
The last morning there were eggs for breakfast. She didn’t have any, but everyone else did, so who knows where egg ended up – on counters, on people’s hands, etc. That same morning she ate gluten-free pretzels with soy flour in them because she found them in the cupboard before I realized it.
I don’t know whether it was the eggs or the soy, but my little girl all of a sudden turned into a monster. For a while I thought she was just having a tantrum and I kept battling her, trying to win because, well, I’m the mom. She said she was cold, but didn’t want clothes on, even to go outside. She became upset because her sandwich was not cut in half. Okay, I thought, she is having some 3 year old behavior. Because there was nothing I could do to satisfy her, I decided to ignore her – or at least stop trying to please her. She then became hysterical, kicking her legs like a maniac and screaming. It turned from a tantrum to something else – it was like she became possessed and like she was trying to get out of her own body. Something was not right and I knew she needed help.
When I laid her down on the bed, I asked her if anything hurt. No, she said. I then asked her if anything itched. She nodded and pointed to her tummy. When I lifted her shirt I saw hives dotting her torso. She also had a rash on her upper chest and upper back. I quickly gave her Benadryl, gave her a kiss and she fell asleep, exhausted.
And then I cried. I cried because in that moment I felt I had failed her as a mother – I didn’t keep her safe and I didn’t respond quickly enough to spare her the agony that she felt but couldn’t explain. I hardly ever cry about my own celiac disease or my daughter’s many food allergies and intolerances. I try to stay positive because I know that despite our food sensitivities, my family is happy and healthy and enjoying life. I know that I am doing a pretty darn good job at managing all the food challenges and that I shouldn’t beat myself up about this one time. I know that, but I couldn’t help it – I cried.