Being a mother for the first time is hard enough. Now imagine being a mother of two chronically ill babies and having no idea why. Having them scratch their faces so hard that they start to bleed and not being able to do anything to stop it. Going from doctor to doctor, given steroid cream, and being told “just give it some time, it will go away”
Helpless. This is how Tasha felt. She knew these doctors were ignoring the root cause of her children’s illness. She refused to give up until she got some answers.
FINALLY after searching and searching she found a doctor that would listen to her and dive deeper. Her babies were tested for a myriad of different conditions but sure enough just as Tasha suspected, both her children were diagnosed with severe food allergies. Mamas are always right. Her first born was diagnosed with a dairy, egg, and peanut allergy while her second had a dairy, egg, peanut, tree nut, sesame, and sunflower allergy.
While I’d love to stop here and say it was happily ever after shortly thereafter, this was definitely not the case.
While this diagnosis was relieving, it was also the start to a lifestyle that was going to be life altering.
Tasha remembers spending hours at a grocery store cross referencing lists of ingredients from online resources on the verge of a breakdown.
With over 100 different names for each allergen the thought of learning how to manage her children’s diagnosis felt like being pushed down by a wave as the tide rolled in.
Figuring out how to cook in your own home is step number one. Now picture trusting someone else with your food?
In a society where eating out is how we socialize Tasha knew she would have to raise her children to be resilient and outspoken about their needs because something as simple as a dinner with friends could be life or death for her little babies.
Tasha says “in the beginning it felt really scary to have to ask the waiter about the ingredients and how they cook things, they can only understand you at the level they are at”. With most servers not being trained on the intricacies and severity of food allergies, Tasha learned very quickly that trust had to be earned.
It took an immense amount of courage to advocate for her children despite the eye rolls and pushback from servers. She says it is draining to constantly have to push for the answers she needed to feel like her children were safe.
She typically sticks with the same 4 places that have earned that trust but going somewhere new was out of the question for them even years after their diagnosis. It is terrifying, time consuming, and exhausting.
When traveling, Tasha looks up the menu before she goes anywhere, always brings a backup meal just in case there are no options for her children, calls the restaurant beforehand, speaks to a manager or chef, and then crosses her finger and prays that she won’t have to leave the restaurant epi pen in hand on the way to the hospital. She avoids vacations far away from the home in fear that it won’t be possible for her to nourish her kids safely.
Tasha says she feels like she needs to just put her own kit together of dressings and sauces so that she can order the plainest dish on the menu and add her allergy safe items so that her kids can enjoy the experience of a meal out.
Now think about that for a second. The lengths this mom is going through to provide her children with some sense of normalcy. The buzz says“allergies aren’t real” or “it can’t be that hard to just cut out dairy”. Tasha is living proof of the accessibility challenges her and her children have to go through on a daily basis.
Although pulling things from a diet can clear entire diseases it can also bring about social and emotional adversities. It does not matter how long you’ve lived with the diagnosis or how knowledgeable you are, it only takes one bite to change your life.