Worst One Yet

E just got over an awful stomach flu that lasted for five days and landed us in urgent care.  Twice.

Good thing yesterday was National Donut Day because this mama is a stress eater and a boat-sized donut is just what I needed.

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So finally E has been feeling much better and acting like herself for the past three days. Her appetite is still a bit wonky–she eats like a horse but it’s all carbs, she has no interest in meat or veggies. But we’re past all the diarrhea and the vomit and the dehydration.

Then after we got home from day care yesterday she threw up while playing with a puzzle in her bedroom.  I immediately went into panic mode.  Did she get another bug? Was it the same bug rearing its ugly head yet again?  Was it something worse?  She was acting fine, so B said we shouldn’t worry.  Okay fine, I pretended not to worry.

Not too long after, I changed her diaper.  When I pulled down her pants I noticed her legs were dotted with big, angry hives.  I lifted her shirt and they were on her chest and her abdomen, too.  The pieces started to come together.  Hives.  Vomit.  She was having a reaction to something she’d ingested.

But what?  She hadn’t eaten anything new.  Allergy moms know full well though that a child can develop a food allergy at any time.  I called out to B that I needed a syringe of Benadryl stat, all the while thinking of the allergy action plan on our fridge that states full-body hives and vomiting together warrant the use of the EpiPen. Technically, according to our action plan, this was a probable anaphylactic reaction.  But she was breathing okay.  But she was also crying for no apparent reason that could also just be an indication that she was tired.  So many what-ifs.  WHAT THE HELL SHOULD I DO?!?!

actionplan

Seriously guys, if I’m going to be an allergy mom I’m going to need a truckload of Xanax.

I gave the Benadryl and watched her, all the while trying to figure out what caused the reaction.  While I was giving her a bath, it clicked.  When we left day care, the teacher handed E a pacifier.  It was the same brand we use, but from across the room it didn’t quite look familiar to me.  I got distracted and scooped E up and took her out to the car, and only later did I determine that pacifier was in fact not ours.  No big deal, right?  We were already home, it was the weekend, and the babies swap pacifiers at day care all the time.  It’s kind of hard to prevent it.  We’d just take it back on Monday. I didn’t think anything of it.

Until that vomit episode and that rash and no solid explanation for it.  I immediately jumped on to Facebook and posed the question in the allergy mom support group I’m in. Was it possible?  Could some other kid have had that pacifier in his/her mouth after eating peanut butter, and now it was causing E to react?

I’ll never know for certain but the support group seemed to think so.  All of the advice I got was to “epi,” the pseudo-verb used to describe using the EpiPen, and take E to the ER. By this time the Benadryl had kicked in and E was asleep, and I was having an anxiety attack wondering if I shouldn’t have second-guessed the Epi.

Luckily E was okay.  I watched the video monitor like a hawk until I went to bed, and I checked it the numerous times I woke during the night.  E still has pink spots where the hives had been, but the vomiting has subsided and she’s acting A-OK.

As if food allergy moms don’t have enough to worry about, now I have to worry about her grabbing the other babies’ pacifiers at day care.  The teachers can keep an eye out but this one is really hard to avoid and even I can understand that.  I suppose all I can do is ask for extra precautions to be taken, and thank my lucky stars we have the EpiPen just in case.

Adventure

Last week, my mom and I braved a road trip with a 15-month-old to see all of my family in another state.  One that would involve over 20 hours of driving in just five days.

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For weeks leading up to the trip, I fretted over the whole ordeal.  E gets bored in the car driving to the grocery store, so how on earth was I going to keep her occupied for 1500 miles?

I’ll leave you in suspense here a moment.  What I will tell you is that the driving was not the most difficult part of the journey.

The hardest part was the food.  Before we left, I mentioned to my mom I wanted to come up with a game plan for feeding E while we were there.  Feeding a toddler who can’t eat dairy, eggs, and peanuts is no easy feat, and it’s definitely not something you can accomplish without planning.  At home, we eat what E can eat.  I wasn’t going to expect my aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents to do the same; but at the same time, I didn’t want E to watch everyone eating the same thing while staring at something else on her own plate for five days straight.  There had to be a middle ground, a compromise of sorts, and that’s what I’d wanted to plan.  My mom reassured me they would all understand, and we didn’t need to plan.  It would all work out.

From the moment we arrived, everyone wanted to eat at restaurants where E could literally eat nothing.  Our first night there we went to a pizza buffet where even the one E-friendly thing there (peas at the salad bar) was contaminated with hard-boiled egg particles.  I had some snacks in the diaper bag but nothing that would constitute a meal since we had just pulled into town an hour earlier.  E immediately pulled my plate of pizza in front of her and she was devastated when I took it away.  One hour into the trip and my heart was already ripping to pieces.

I ended up making a trip to the grocery store to buy some “real” food for E.  It took away some of the stress at the times my family chose to eat at places whose menus didn’t jive with E’s allergies.  However, it was difficult not to be in my own kitchen where at any given moment I know I can throw together an entire meal for E in a pinch with all of the things I have on hand.

One night we traveled to another town to stay with a cousin from the other side of my family.  She’d invited about 20 or 30 people from our family over for a barbecue, and to my relief she asked me for a list of things E would be able to eat.  Although there was plenty of food there that was safe, there was also a lot of unsafe food.  When we arrived, I asked all of my family to not give anything to E without asking me first, and everyone seemed agreeable to my request.  Unfortunately, they didn’t realize that also meant they had to watch their kids and grandkids, who put Cheetos right into E’s mouth.  I quickly took the chip away and the girl who’d given it to her (four or five, maybe?) got extremely upset.  “But she likes it!  Why you won’t let her have it?”  I explained to her that it would make E very, very sick, but she didn’t understand and continued to try giving them to E.  From behind me, my aunt cried out, “Well, she’s just a kid, she doesn’t understand allergies!”  I bit my tongue but I desperately wanted to remind her that a child of that age knows what “sick” means and it would be nice if she would jump in and help her own granddaughter to understand she couldn’t feed that kind of food to my kid.

This is why I need help.  This is why I need other adults, especially my own family, to listen and to understand the seriousness of food allergies and how DAMN HARD it is to be the mother of someone who has them.

Our last night before heading home, my grandpa really wanted to take us out to a new fancy steakhouse that had just opened.  It was expensive, one of those “special occasion” type restaurants, and since my grandma passed away two years ago, special occasions are rare for him these days.  By then I was plain exhausted from all of the fighting and compromising I’d done just to feed E during our trip.  But it was important to my grandpa and it was one more night.  I could do it.  I spoke with the waiters, who spoke with the cooks, and they were able to grill E a chicken breast with absolutely no butter or marinade.  Paired with a side of apple slices, E had a delicious meal that was served to her in a cute little cardboard car, and I was ridiculously relieved.

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In all fairness, other than the food the trip was phenomenal.  E was in the most spectacular mood and she charmed the socks off of everyone.  She got to meet cows and horses and tiny little puppies.  For being on the road so much and away from everything familiar to her, she did great and I’m such a lucky mom for that.

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So, back to the driving portion of the trip.  E handled 23 hours on the road better than the two grown-ass women in the car did.  The secret?  Playing “The Secret Life of Pets” movie over and over and OVER AND OVER.  As long as that movie was playing, E was a happy camper.  Oh, and a continuous pile of Teddy Grahams may have contributed to our success.

All in all, I feel confident that E will be a good traveler.  I know now that next time, not planning for E’s food is not an option.  I don’t fault my family for how things went.  They don’t deal with it every day.  They don’t experience it firsthand.  They don’t understand, like many people don’t until you’re in my shoes.  It just means that we cannot successfully travel anywhere without truly planning out how we’ll feed little E.  It will never work to assume that anyone will understand our situation and adapt to it.

Scares and Steps

Let’s start with the good news first:  E took her first steps!  It was just a few–twice–and it hasn’t happened again in the past four days, but it was refreshing to see that she’s gained enough confidence to try to do it on her own.  Now she walks simply “holding” my pointer finger, and by “holding” I mean barely touching and not realizing that she’s actually walking on her own and I’m not doing a thing to help her.

The not-so-good news:  we had a major allergy scare the other night.  B was working a bit late so E and I had a makeshift breakfast for dinner: cashew butter toast with a side of hashbrowns.  It was nothing E hasn’t eaten before and there should have been zilch to worry about.  Halfway through the meal, though, a dark red rash spread across E’s face in a matter of seconds.  Hives began to pop up everywhere and then the same thing happened to her hands, and then her collarbone.  My first thought was Oh shit, somehow a peanut was ground into the batch of cashew butter.  My heart began racing and my whole body was tingling, and in the midst of a full-blown anxiety attack I completely shut down for half a minute as I tried to determine my next step.  I finally came to my senses enough to give her some Benadryl, and then I watched closely for any difficulty breathing.

Half an hour later, I finally began to calm down.  We were in the clear.  The Benadryl had started to work its magic and E was doing just fine.  Even still, I watched the monitor like a hawk after I put her to bed.  Just to be sure.

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Until recently, I had (stupidly) assumed food allergy scares would be few and far between.  We avoid purchasing any food that’s processed on the same equipment as milk or eggs.  We avoid purchasing any food that’s processed in the same facility as peanuts.  Even though the cashew butter label reads “May contain almonds” and does not have a warning about peanuts, I was utterly terrified E might have accidentally ingested a peanut via her cashew butter.  Although her recent reaction wasn’t pretty, it wasn’t because of her cashew butter.  She’s had it since without so much as a single hive appearing on her body. So how do allergy moms curb their anxiety?

I’ll circle back and answer that question later.  Six months, maybe.  A year, maybe.  Over time, I have to learn.  I have to find a way to handle allergy scares without having a paralyzing anxiety attack.

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Dramatic post aside, we’ve been finding so many things for E to eat.  Newest favorites:  vegan blueberry waffles, Triscuits (they must feel good on those gums), whole peeled apples, frozen peas, Larabars, raspberry sorbet, and banana bread.  This girl LOVES her food!

Table Food for the Allergy Baby

E’s former doctor referred to her as the “allergy baby.”  It’s true, E does have a lot of known allergies…already…and unfortunately, two of those allergies are to dairy and eggs.  E is over ten months old now which means she’s getting a couple of “meals” of solid food every day.  Recently E graduated from purees to table foods, but at times this is proving to be a challenge. A lot of my mom friends give their babies cheese cubes, cottage cheese, yogurt, and scrambled or hard-boiled eggs.  I can’t do that.  In fact, I can’t even give E a piece of bread to nibble on without first scrutinizing the label to ensure there are no “hidden” dairy ingredients.

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So, what do I give miss E when she can’t have a lot of the soft, yummy foods babies her age are typically eating?  Here are her current favorites:

  • Pasta.  This girl LOVES pasta.  She’ll eat it plain, but I like to drizzle it in a little olive oil and lightly sprinkle some salt on it for some flavor.  Eventually I’ll make some dairy-free sauces for it, but for now she’s perfectly content with the minimal-effort version.
  • Cheerios.  These are her absolute favorite.
  • English muffins.  Not all of them are dairy-free, but I did find some safe ones at Trader Joe’s and E is a big fan.
  • Almond milk yogurt.  Although E also has a peanut allergy, tree nuts aren’t a problem.  I wasn’t a fan of the almond milk yogurt, but E has a different opinion.  We buy the Almond Dream brand and she can’t get enough.
  • Olives.  I buy the pre-sliced canned olives and cut them in half.
  • Canned fruits and veggies.  For the fruit, I only buy it in 100% juice, not the syrup.  These are nice because they’re super soft and I don’t have to be peeling, slicing, and steaming things to make them soft enough for her to chew.
  • Plum Organics Super Puffs.  When I show E the bottle, she knows exactly what I’m about to give her and she dances out of excitement.  Best baby snack ever!
  • Ground turkey.  Plain.  Sounds boring but E loves it.
  • Shredded chicken.  Plain.  Sometimes this baby makes it too easy for me.
  • Watermelon.  Easy to chew and also good for the days when E is being stubborn about drinking her water.

I should probably mention that we’ve tried oatmeal…twice…and both times, E hated it so much she sobbed uncontrollably until she was positive I wouldn’t try giving her another bite.

E’s next round of allergy testing is in one month.  We’ll find out if she’s grown out of any of her allergies (FINGERS CROSSED!) and if she hasn’t, we’ll be able to do some bake tests and things to find out if she can tolerate small amounts in recipes.  Until then, we’ll keep experimenting and reading labels and growing this list!

Eight months

I’m making a promise to myself to set down the stupid Candy Crush game when E is sleeping and actually do some damn blogging.

Speaking of the word “damn,” E is starting to try forming real words, so I’ve also made a promise to myself to quit swearing in her presence.  I told my coworkers to expect me to cuss a lot more at work from now on because it’s my designated swearing time.  In all seriousness, E’s favorite word right now is “gaga” and B is convinced she’s saying “dada.”  So naturally I’m on a mission to get her to say “mama” first.  I read somewhere once that more babies say “dada” first because it’s easier for them to make the D sound than the M sound, but…B and I are very competitive.

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E turned eight months old this week.  She’s crawling now and it’s still 75% an army crawl but she’s starting to figure out she can get around on her hands and knees.  Even army crawling she’s too fast for me sometimes.  I can’t leave her in a room unattended for more than ten seconds at a time now.  I’ve found myself feeling grateful for her exersaucer because it’s the one and only place I can put her down when I’m trying to get all of our stuff ready to head out the door in the morning.

E has always been really easygoing with new people, but in the past few weeks stranger anxiety has kicked in.  It used to be that E would always light up when she met someone new but now she stares at them skeptically, frowns, and then turns to me and starts to cry.  It’s so out of character for her that it’s been a strange adjustment for me, but I know it’s just her age and that eventually it will pass.  In the meantime, I’ve started warning new people that they might make her cry and it’s nothing personal.

It’s been three months since E’s first two teeth came in on the bottom, and the top two have finally broken through her gums.  The process has been long, painful, and full of sleepless nights.  Oof.

The best news of all is that E’s eczema is almost nonexistent these days!  We switched from breastmilk to hypoallergenic formula almost two months ago, and for the past month E has not had any eczema issues.  I feel certain that the daily peanut butter I’d been eating hadn’t had time to filter out of my system when I was still pumping.  I’m so glad we had the allergy testing done!

Lastly, I’m happy to report that E is finally growing some hair!  It took seven months but I no longer have a 90% bald baby girl.  HA!

Back to square one

I started feeding E solids when she was about 4 1/2 months old.  We started with a pureed banana and she took to it immediately.  Since I tend to get excited quite easily, I went a little cray with the solids after that.  In the past month and a half, E has had:

  • Bananas
  • Sweet potato
  • Carrots
  • Squash
  • Green beans
  • Avocado
  • Applesauce
  • Grapes
  • Rice cereal
  • Oatmeal
  • Peaches (hated them)
  • Peas (hated them more)
  • Prunes (hated them more than anything on planet earth)

In the middle of introducing all of these foods, we learned about E’s allergies to peanuts, milk, and eggs.  It goes without saying then that we stayed away from giving her anything but fruits, veggies, and grains for the time being.

But recently, E endured three days of awful tummy troubles.  She grunted nonstop, she squirmed and fussed constantly, and she had quadruple the number of her usual dirty diapers, and without going into detail, they didn’t look quite normal.

B suggested that for a baby with multiple food allergies, I’ve probably been introducing new foods too quickly.  I think he’s right.  So we’ve taken a three-day break from solid foods and we’ll start up again today, but we’ll do one food at a time for several days before moving on to the next.  This way we’ll be able to tell how E’s body handles it in larger quantities, and we’ll know what’s safe and what we should avoid.

It’s intimidating to have a baby with food allergies.  It gives me anxiety to wonder if this new food she’s never eaten is going to make her break out in a rash or if it will upset her digestive system.  But that’s why we’ve taken a big step back and will take baby steps going forward.

A life without peanut butter, day 2

Yesterday was our appointment with the allergist and after going over E’s history with the doctor, we had some skin testing done.  They did a skin prick test with ten of the most common environmental allergens and ten of the most common food allergens.

After getting poked with 20 little needles in her back, we had to wait 10-15 minutes to see if any of them swelled up like mosquito bites.  In less than a minute, one of them on panel “C” began to swell and grew rapidly with each passing minute.  I watched it nervously and kept muttering to B that I wanted to know what it was.  Meanwhile, E started to break out in tiny little hives on an un-poked area of skin about two inches away from the spot that was swelling up.

By the time ten minutes passed, E had swelled up in four different places.  She had a less significant reaction in a couple of other spots, and no reaction in the rest of them. That first spot that had swelled up on panel “C” was the biggest and the baddest.  The nurse measured all of the spots that had reacted–one measurement for the hive itself, and another for the spot of redness around it–and then she pulled up the chart that showed us which allergen each hive corresponded to.

As I had suspected this whole time, milk was one of them.  Egg whites was another, and so was dog hair.  And that big one on panel “C”?

Peanuts.

The allergens E reacted to but that weren’t a big enough reaction to warrant claiming an “allergy” were dust mites and cat hair.

The doctor came back in the room and explained that as E gets a little older, she might be able to outgrow some of the food allergies–the milk and eggs, precisely.  But her reaction to the peanut was significant enough that he’s concerned we may be in for the long haul with it.  We’ve scheduled an appointment to go back in six months (when she’s almost a year old) for blood testing to determine how severe the food allergies are.  He said only 10% of babies/kids with a peanut allergy ever outgrow it.

Because of the food allergies, I have to eliminate peanuts, milk, and eggs from my diet as long as she’s getting my breastmilk.  She also has milk and soy protein intolerance, so soy is out as well. (So what do I eat, you might ask?  You can bet I’m going to post about it soon!)

Did I mention I am a peanut butter ADDICT and eat a couple of servings of it a day?  No wonder the poor girl is always itching and breaking out in rashes!  😦

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This makes it a little better.  No seriously, this softens the blow.

Since E is also allergic to dogs, we have to ban the poor pup from her room completely. We need to do a deep clean of her room this weekend and then run a HEPA filter in her room 24/7; we’ve also decided to run one in the living room as well, just for good measure.  This allergy makes me a little sad because E loves our dog so much.

It’s a lot of information to take in and I’m a bit overwhelmed.  But I’m also glad we have some answers.  I’m thankful I didn’t try feeding E a spoonful of peanut butter a few months from now, so we didn’t have to learn the hard way that she can’t have peanuts.  And between now and January, I can only hope that she outgrows some of these allergies.  If not, we’ll get creative and do what we have to do for little E!