That’s how I feel sometimes: deprived. All the things I once enjoyed – ice cream, milk shakes, pizza – are now forbidden foods. And my baking urges? Those have to be channeled the way of the vegan: no milk, no eggs, no fun. Do you know how hard it is to explain to a four-year old why he can’t eat those goldfish? Or to your husband that it isn’t just teasing when he waves Tin Roof Blue Bell ice cream under your nose, and then enjoys it overly-much? How do you handle church nursery, where other babies have formula and drool and spit up, but your child can’t be near any of it? How do you explain to well-meaning friends and family that, yes, it is necessary to continue breast feeding because it’s much cheaper to not eat dairy myself than to fork over buku bucks for dairy-free formula? (Yes, soy formula has some dairy aspects. And it stinks.)
Before you all offer me your well-meaning pearls of wisdom, please know that this isn’t an every day occurrence. I don’t always feel deprived. There are days when I’m thankful for #2’s food allergies, even though they’re difficult. It’s helping us eat healthier, and it’s broadening my culinary skills. And yes, I am infinitely grateful to even have #2. I wouldn’t trade food allergy-free anything for the little boy I have.
And then there’s days like today, where I just want to toss in the towel. Milk is in everything. Everything! Oats, his other food allergy, are relatively easy to avoid. But milk? It’s not just cheese and milk and butter and cream. No…. It’s the cheese powder that covers Doritos. It’s the whey buried under 15 other ingredients in margarine butter. It’s the kiss a grandmother can give after having eaten yogurt, and the oily fingers of a friend who ate pizza thirty minutes ago. It’s the cream snuck into tomato soup, and the Parmesan that the chef forgot he added. It’s the ice cream shop innocently using the same scoop to scoop sorbet as they did the ice cream. And it’s the mom who’s not actually allergic who feels terrible when the baby has a reaction.
Food allergies are hard. We’ve had food intolerances before, both #1 and I. Both were also to dairy. The difference, though, is that we were fine as long as we didn’t eat it. Cheese still existed in our house. Ice cream was had by all. Cake wasn’t terrifying, and chocolate candy was just a sad temptation. Now… Cheese is banned. Ice cream is my nightmare. Cake makes me depressed, and chocolate candy – Let’s just not go there. (Easter, anyone? Birthdays? Oy…)
So forgive me if I wallow every few days. It’s hard! People hear “milk allergy,” and their mind goes to “lactose intolerance.” I wish… Honestly, I do. If only it were so easy as switching regular milk for extra pasteurized milk. And they don’t understand that it’s not only a tummy reaction (if that at all). His worst foe right now is contact. Anything dairy has him breaking out in hives. And God forbid he should get a hold of anything dairy, like that used ice cream spoon left in its bowl, or the Reese’s cup wrapper left by an unsuspecting child (or parent). Please don’t pity me, or think I’m being dramatic when I ask you to make sure your family has washed their hands before holding my baby. Please don’t be offended if I turn down those amazing looking cupcakes you slaved over, or if I mention how much I miss ice cream. And please, please, please don’t point out how much I’m whining. I’m doing my best, honestly, not to. Just pretend like it’s some new, strange diet plan. Everyone else seems ok if a dieter complains about missing carbs or sugar. Mine’s just permanent, unlike yours. I think I’m entitled to a few wistful looks and a comment or two. Trust me, I’m not trying to get your pity. It just needs to be said every once and a while.
What you can do, though, is offer up your own experiences with food allergies. I welcome the camaraderie of those who know the struggle of cutting out a major food group. Even better? Recipes. Lots and lots of recipes. Or name-brand food suggestions that I can make on the fly. Do you know how hard it is to make dinner from scratch every day? Even 30 minutes is tough. I’m in love with spaghetti. My family doesn’t enjoy eating it every week, though.
And finally, know that I don’t expect the world to revolve around my little man. Whether you have a food allergy or not, I don’t expect you to scrub down your house or hide all the goldfish during Sunday School. I’m not that crazy. Just be willing to work with my. This is tough to tackle, but I know it can be done. Having a friend at my shoulder just makes it easier.