Editor’s Note: When a fellow allergy mom shared this beautifully written post in a private online support group, I couldn’t help but tear up as I read her words. Because they could have been my words. Or your words. Suddenly, I felt like I had to share her message with the world.
Edited & republished, with permission of the author and Ethan’s mom, Lily Maxwell.
March 29, 2018 ~ This photo popped up on my Facebook today from 5 years ago. With it, came a flood of emotions.
You see, this picture here, this is the day my world was turned upside down.
This photo is of little Ethan, just 2.5 years old, eating this homemade Easter treat. He ate the Mini Eggs on top but didn’t want to eat the nest of pretzels held together by a mix of chocolate and peanut butter. When he asked for more chocolate, I encouraged him to eat the nest. Immediately after taking a bite, hives covered his face and his eye swelled up.
I ran out to the drugstore to grab some Benadryl, not realizing the severity of what was happening to Ethan. I didn’t know about anaphylaxis, and was naive to the fact that food could actually kill you.
Luckily, by the time I got back from the drug store, the hives were almost gone and his eye was back to normal. I didn’t know that the little organs inside his body could have been struggling or shutting down, or that we should have gone to the hospital. We got lucky as the reaction didn’t progress.
But this was the moment I knew Ethan was allergic to peanuts. This wasn’t actually the first time he had tried peanut butter, but this was the moment I realized why he’d never really liked it, and that those hives were more than just sensitive skin.
To me, this photo isn’t of a cute little boy eating a treat. It’s the moment our lives were forever changed. This photo represents mourning a life we had, but will never have again. The life we took for granted. The life I dreamed of, but never got to live. It hurts my heart to see this photo, and the ones before it.
It isn’t talked about often, the impact food allergies have on a parent. You see, when you have a child that is allergic to food, every outing is filled with worry. You have to plan, pack food, and always be on the lookout. A simple thing like going to the park can quickly turn into a nightmare. It’s hard to live in the moment when you are constantly scanning the ground for crumbs containing your allergen and watching other people to see what they are eating. You can’t just go out and be free. As an allergy parent, food allergies can feel like you have a ball and chain attached to you that you can never remove.
As Ethan’s mother, I bear this emotional burden. Although it affects me every single day, it is my job not to let Ethan see me struggle. I have and will continue to raise Ethan to live his life to not be afraid (despite the fact that I will always be afraid). I will raise Ethan to be stronger than I can ever be.
In this picture, I also see a little boy who will grow up to be confident, courageous and who will hopefully live a full life despite his food allergy. He is already well on his way. As he gets older, we will have many new hurdles to overcome, but we will make it through.
But as Ethan’s mom, I will never stop worrying.
Friendly. Supportive. Encouraging.
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