Oh, How Things Have Changed
Allergy moms then and now, as told by a former child
My morning routine is very important to me. I need at least an hour and fifteen minutes before I leave the house to get ready for the day, only 10 minutes of which is actually spent putting on clothes and makeup. I make my bed right away (I can't do anything at all until my bed is made), heat up some coconut milk for my coffee, settle in with breakfast and my hot beverage on the couch, and watch 45 blissful minutes of TV. I also scroll No Nuts Moms Group on Facebook and try to read everything that's been posted since the night before.
These moms amaze me; I'm always interested in what they have to say. They openly share stories about their kids allergy tests; congratulating each other on passes or sending kind words when things don't pan out. They talk about shared lines and allergy labelling, taking time to type out or send a screenshot of what the company responded with. On Thanksgiving weekend there were many (peanut oil) turkey fry stories that others related to, and whenever there's a loss in the community you can tell that everyone feels it.
I often think about the support group my mom had when I was a kid and our family was just learning the ropes. I'm 26 now, so the internet was just coming to be and there was no Google or Facebook to look to for answers. My mom used to go to the library and make photocopies of published studies. I remember her calling customer service lines and waiting on hold, talking to our allergist for information, and having to deduce on her own whether I was having a reaction or just scratching for no reason. There was a support group but you had to attend in person, a difficult task for a busy mom. I often wish she had a community like this to turn to.
Recently Jo and I met up with Kortney from Allergy Girl Eats. We got to talking about the things our parents did when we were kids that moms today would never do. For example, my mom used to squish bread in the grocery store to determine if it felt "milky". I always ate bread from the open, unlabelled bins in the grocery store and I never had a reaction from it. We ate out a lot more, and very often bought things that were coincidentally allergen-free because lines like Enjoy Life weren't around yet! It's so funny to look at these things in hindsight because we were all just doing our best to learn this new way of life.
We didn't have a nut, dairy, or legume-free house despite my brother's and my allergies (I am anaphylactic to dairy, nuts, peanuts, and legumes. My brother is anaphylactic to nuts, peanuts, and mollusks, and mildly allergic to cantaloupe) but our mom somehow managed to keep everything separated. Honestly if you saw our fridge you'd think she scrubbed it daily - not a single thing out of place and all the dairy products confined to a drawer. My dad frequently ate chestnuts and lupini beans, not because he doubted the severity of our allergies but because Italians just really like chestnuts and lupini beans. My brother ate cheese and drank milk sparingly, just enough to get his calcium intake. We didn't have butter in the house due to a once almost-mixup that scared the crap out of us, so we all ate Fleischmann's margarine which at that time was dairy-free.
I did have more reactions than I think the average allergy kids of today have. I had to use an Epi Pen 5 times by the time I was 13, and I had countless small reactions that just required Benadryl. These experiences made us more cautious as time went on and we learned because of them. After a reaction we didn't really have anyone to talk to or share experiences with which would have been so beneficial; there was no accessible community.
While perhaps we were a little riskier back then, we were the guinea pigs of our generation. My reaction experiences taught my family and I how to respond and what to do. We're able to give advice and share our expertise because of it, and fortunately my brother and I did not suffer any permanent physical damage. When my baby nephew was born I happily gave advice to his parents and knew that there were reputable (and respectful) forums and online support resources I could refer them to.
I learn cool hacks and tips from the new generation of allergy moms every week. And whenever a mom whose child is recently diagnosed joins the group, I watch the positive comments flow in as they are welcomed to the group.
One day I might be an allergy mom myself, and boy am I glad things have changed.