“What lovely ingredients for a cake!” I hear you say as you are looking at the photo I chose to illustrate this post. I wish I was writing about baking. Some posts are easier to write than others. Music, reading to children, bread, a fun week, pregnancy: easy peasy! Eczema and allergies: not so much… Jumpy cannot have any of these ingredients. Reflecting on issues that are close to my heart, agonising over them dare I say, is incredibly difficult but once it is all on paper (or in this case online!), lightness prevails and relief, giddiness almost, fills me up. As I am about to start, I cannot wait for the daunting task of writing this post to be over.
A week ago, I decided to stop putting it off. I would write about Jumpy’s allergies. Unfortunately, it is easier said than done. It has been on my mind for months. Every single time I have closed my eyes and drifted off to sleep this week, I have seen the word ‘allergies’ in my mind, heard the word, almost felt it nudging me. It has been haunting me all week, simply because I have been avoiding it.
As I was weaning Jumpy, I wanted to make sure her diet was varied, just like I had done with Crevette and Beanie, but it turned out that it was not such a good idea. Her eczema and highly interrupted sleep started as soon as I started giving her foods other than baby rice and I immediately thought it was odd, as my other two had not had any reaction to food.
With hindsight, I realise maybe I should have researched allergies sooner, been more pro-active. Simply sticking to a very basic diet of carrots and bananas for a couple of months might not have been the ideal solution, but to be fair, when you are in the middle of a crisis, whatever the kind of crisis, you tend not have any perspective on what is happening. All you see is your baby suffering. You feel completely helpless and a tad guilty as well, because your baby is too small to do anything and you are the one supposed to make it all better, yet you are not able to do anything that makes a difference.
Babies cannot describe what they are feeling other than by crying; you cannot pinpoint exactly what part of their body is hurting or what is making things worse. All you can do is keep a food diary and observe physical reactions such as bleeding cheeks, rashes on your baby’s little body, violent vomiting, diarrhoea, swelling or constant crying after eating something. You feel like a lousy, useless mother. At this stage, her dermatologist told me it was unlikely for food to be the cause of her worsening eczema and advised me to go back to a varied diet.
The day we found out for sure she had allergies had started really well. I took my three children to a friend’s house for a party and we all had an amazing time! When food was served, I realised I had forgotten to pack anything for Jumpy. I just gave her a finger sandwich Beanie did not fancy. She loved it! I thought I should remember to write that down later… she had had her first sandwich at only six months old, how cute!
During the whole journey home, she just screamed and screamed and screamed. I thought she was tired, or overstimulated. Hubby and I took the children upstairs for their bath and when I undressed Jumpy, I realised her whole body was covered in hives. She was still screaming at the top of her lungs.
Whilst hubby was giving her a quick bath, I called NHS direct and after explaining her symptoms to a doctor, we were given an appointment in A&E ten minutes later. I hung up and by that time, her little body had swollen so much her fingers looked like fleshy mittens, her ears were like a distorted balloon about to pop and her eyes were barely visible. That is when I started to panic.
I should have called for an ambulance but I was not thinking straight. The three minute drive to the hospital was excruciating. I kept thinking she might die; I might lose my gorgeous baby. I had witnessed an anaphylactic shock before; I knew exactly what it was. I just assumed it would never happen to one of my babies.
She was seen straight away. Her airways were not blocked, which was reassuring. She was given antihistamines and steroids within minutes of our arrival. A few hours later, she was still covered in hives but had ‘deflated’ and was well enough to go home. We still did not know what she was allergic to, but I was told to avoid all ingredients that had been in the sandwich. She was referred to a paediatrician specialising in allergies as well a dietician and blood tests were booked for the following week.
For the whole duration of my latest maternity leave, I had been toying with the idea of starting a blog, but I was undecided. I did not have any free time, no idea of what writing a blog would be like, was not sure anyone would be interested in reading it and to be honest those reasons alone were enough not to get started.
A few days after Jumpy’s allergic reaction, I looked into starting a blog a lot more seriously. Even though I was busy working from home and a week away from going back to work, I still found the time and energy to start working on what I called “my project”. It was no longer going to be just a hobby; it would be a way to find other mums with similar issues, share recipes, stories and tips. That changed my whole perspective on the blogging thing… Yes, I was going to blog about food I enjoyed eating, crafts and focus on taking pictures that would be pleasing to the eye, but what was driving me was my maternal instinct to protect my baby and any other child who might suffer from eczema or allergies, share Jumpy’s story and build a network so that no other mum would have to feel as alone as I had.
Oh my goodness, I feel exhausted and empty after this introspective writing session. I will have to finish writing about Jumpy’s allergies another day.