Until about three years ago, I knew NOTHING about them. What the signs are. How serious they can be. How you can literally die from eating a food you’re allergic to. I was clueless. When I was growing up, food allergies weren’t really a “thing.” It’s possible they were misdiagnosed or maybe people just didn’t talk about them as much. Fast forward to this generation of kids, and they are EVERYWHERE. One in every 13 children in the United States is affected by food allergies.
Our sweet Olivia.
She is beautiful, smart, loving, kind, athletic, and she just happens to be allergic to MANY things: peanuts, every single tree nut (pecans, hazelnuts, cashews, etc), soy, dairy, eggs, every legume (peas, beans, chickpeas, lentils, gums), garlic, pitted fruits, sesame, and other seeds. She is also allergic to dogs, cats, penicillin, and has severe asthma.
Her first lick of food was hummus at 4 months old. She instantly couldn’t breathe. I didn’t know what was happening and just figured the hummus was too thick and she was having trouble swallowing. I didn’t realize she was having an anaphylactic reaction. After a few minutes, I realized something was wrong and called her pediatrician. We were very lucky that Benadryl helped her. We would not make that mistake in the future.
After that, we introduced baby food to her, and she had reaction after reaction. Her eyes swelling shut after a bite of peas, full-body rash while eating eggs, eczema covering her body from dairy. I was breastfeeding and would continue to do so for the next 15 months. I was so thankful my body was capable of doing that because there was no safe formula for her. I had NO clue how to deal with all of this and was terrified while introducing new foods. We finally went to an allergist to have testing done. We had blood work, as well as skin prick testing, done, and we pinpointed most of her allergies.
Then I started to do LOTS of research.
Day after day, week after week, month after month. Researching at all hours of the night. Looking for allergy-friendly companies, safe foods, and recipes to make sure my little girl would have yummy food options and would never feel excluded. It has been a very long and hard process educating myself as well as everyone around us. However, I feel like we finally have a grasp on everything. She goes to daycare daily. She is in dance. She goes to birthday parties, special events, and anywhere else we want to go. BUT we are always prepared.
What does this mean?? It means waking up at 3 am daily to prepare her food. To make all of her breakfast and lunch for the day, cutting up all of her fresh fruit, and having lots of snack options available for. It’s never leaving the house without her multiple EpiPen’s, AUVI-Q’s, Benadryl, and inhalers. It’s constantly washing hands, making sure she doesn’t touch or eat any foods she is allergic to, and wiping down surfaces anywhere we go. It’s recognizing her symptoms of a reaction and having our action plan in place. It’s being as organized as possible because without that my anxiety would be through the roof. Being prepared keeps my daughter alive.
But guess what? Olivia is the happiest girl in the whole world. She is healthy, strong, brave, silly, and outgoing. I believe her differences have made her a very empathetic, kind, and loving child. And having her has made me a more grateful, patient, and forgiving person. She knows she can’t eat the same meals and foods as everyone else. And so far, she is ok with it. I know someday there will be lots of challenges that will come her way, especially with her not being able to eat any food in restaurants. But I will try my hardest to make sure she always feels included and that she doesn’t miss out on the fun things in life.
We have learned to navigate this thing called life. Is it easy?? Heck no. Is it worth it? Absolutely. SHE is worth it. I am so thankful for this life and thank God every day for picking me to be Olivia’s mommy. She is perfect in every single way and she is going to do BIG things!
Guest Writer: Laura Edgell
Laura Edgell lives in Toledo with her husband Bobby and their 3-year-old Olivia. She works full-time for Evolv Plastic Surgery and Medical Aesthetics (Dr. Frank Barone and Dr. Peter Koltz) as well as part-time for Red Line Circuit Training as their Sales Manager. She also is co-leader of the Toledo Area Allergies support group and has a mission to help and give support to families that have children with food allergies. And to promote as much awareness as possible. She loves working out, networking, coffee, dry shampoo, yoga, reading, nature and the outdoors, dancing, and being with family and friends! You can find her on Instagram @lauraedgell10.