Living with Allergies

Before After Baby Photography

Nothing quite prepares you for what is to come when you have a baby. Before I had my children, I thought I knew the meaning of the words ‘tired’, ‘worried’, ‘love’, but I did not. At least not in the sense these words have taken for me since having my babies. I remember myself before Crevette was born and with hindsight I have to admit I was incredibly naïve. I honestly thought I would spend my maternity leave relaxing and baking cakes; enjoying my time off work drinking cups of coffee in town with a little boy old ladies would coo at. My only worries before giving birth were whether I would remember how to change a nappy and what my little baby would wear when leaving the birthing centre.

The photos above were taken about ten days apart. The first one I took on the day Jumpy was due and the second the day after she was born. She took her time, my little girl! My first few weeks with her were easier than with my first two. She was my third baby, I kind of knew what I was doing and despite the sleep deprivation, I was really enjoying spending lots of quality time with my three angels. Jumpy was the easiest baby you could imagine. She was content, peaceful, slept a lot during the day and never really cried. It all changed when the eczema and allergies came to disrupt our lives like a huge, terrifying tornado.

The word that best describes this week for me is ‘light’. I feel relieved, lighter now I have found the courage to write about Jumpy’s allergic reaction. I could almost compare the lightness in my mind to the loss of baby weight and slight imbalance you feel straight after giving birth. So here is how we started living with her allergies.

Two days after Jumpy’s trip to A&E, we saw her dermatologist and she advised removing from her diet all foods I had observed were making the eczema worse. A month after her allergic reaction, we had the results from the immunology department and it was showing we were to avoid eggs, cow’s milk, wheat and soya bean.

When you are on your own at home with a problem, you feel just like that: all on your own at home with a problem. Somehow, I could not find anything of interest online, until I stumbled upon a ‘free from’ recipe book with glowing reviews. I immediately ordered the book and you can imagine my excitement three days later when I received it… I started leafing through it only to realise all but three recipes were unsuitable for Jumpy. Yes, it was dairy, gluten and wheat free, but the recipes included nuts, eggs and soya.

I have always eaten everything I wanted without ever thinking about what it may or may not contain. I have never watched what I was eating; I have no food intolerance; have never been on any kind of restricted diet. I am not even too fussed about foods you should avoid in pregnancy. I would describe myself as a free spirit when it comes to food. My philosophy is: when you enjoy your food; you are a happier person than if you are constantly worried about what passes your mouth. I had no idea how to exclude anything from anyone’s diet, as I had never had to do it or seen it done ever before. To my knowledge, I do not know anyone who is allergic to anything.

It was a mammoth task for me to accept the fact my baby would not be able to taste all the lovely things I enjoy cooking for my family. I felt like she was going to miss out so much. My closest friend was a lot more reasonable about the whole situation and reminded me that if she had never had the stuff, she could not possibly miss it. I had never seen it that way. Friends are great at telling you obvious things you cannot see yourself because you are too involved, too wrapped up in your own thoughts and worries. They have the distance needed to be objective and logical.

Instinctively as a mother, you want to feed your child. Not being able to do so made me feel like a bad mother, a useless one. I do not want any other mum to feel like me, alone and lost. Le Coin de Mel is not just about allergies or eczema, not just about one of my babies. It is about having a great time all together and making life with allergies more manageable. Whenever anyone finds and uses one of my recipes, I feel like I have succeeded. I am connecting with other mums trying to bring normality to their child’s life. That is huge!

Two months later, at our first appointment with the allergy specialist, I was told for sure that she was allergic to wheat, cow’s milk protein and had a strong sensitisation to peanuts and eggs. Sensitisation means that the blood tests were showing a strong likelihood of allergy, but as she had not eaten those and therefore not reacted to them, it was not labelled ‘allergy’. She was given an ‘Acute allergy / Anaphylaxis treatment plan’ as well as an Adrenalin auto injector. A soya challenge in hospital a week later revealed she was intolerant to soya rather than allergic to it, so she can have it in small doses, which is great.

I was relieved to know what was causing the vomiting, sleep deprivation and considerably aggravating the eczema. I was not making any of it up! I know it probably sounds odd, but the worst of it all is not the fact she has allergies to ingredients I use every single day in my cooking. The worst bit was being in the dark about what might be wrong with my tiny, beautiful baby.

I had an ‘action plan’ on paper, a real guide with steps to follow in case of an allergic reaction. I knew everything was going to be alright. After a couple of weeks on her ‘free from’ diet, her eczema was not flaring up as much, she slept better and was scratching a lot less. A month later, my grumpy baby turned into a content little girl.   Her skin was completely clear, her cheeks looked rosy and healthy and she had put on a kilo (yes, a whole kilogram!).

I prepare a lunchbox for her when I am at work and she goes to our childminder. She has her own cups, plate, bowls and cutlery there to avoid cross-contamination. I also pack all snacks for when we are out and about. I have been teaching Crevette (5 years 7 months) and Beanie (3 years 5 months) not to give her anything to eat unless hubby or I tell them it is safe. They always eat at the table and I vacuum crumbs that have fallen on the floor after each meal. We have matter-of-fact discussions about Jumpy’s allergies so that they understand how crucial it is not to let her eat anything she could react to. She is too young to tell people at parties or playgroups, but they are not and they do a great job looking after their little sister. When she goes to school, I will refer her teachers to the blog for recipes for play dough or food they might be cooking with the children. She will not be excluded from activities because of her allergies.

I am a mum on a mission. I am determined for her not to be different or miss out because she has allergies. She did not ask for those allergies and should not be punished because of something that is out of our control. Her allergies are part of her, and we are not going to whine about them or dwell over them. We are not going to avoid talking about them either as they are not taboo. They are just part of who she is and that is fine.

I have adapted some of my staple recipes to ensure we could all eat the same thing from time to time, like my root vegetable soup. When we cannot have the same thing, I try to cook something for her that looks (and hopefully tastes) similar. Her French pancakes  were such a big success her siblings were fighting over them. When I decided to make play dough or finger paints for the children, I managed to tweak the recipes I had been using so that all three children could enjoy the same activity without worrying about her ingesting something potentially life-threatening.

If you also have a child with allergies, intolerances of Coeliac disease and would like to get my latest posts via email, you can subscribe above. You could also follow me on Blogger, Twitter @LeCoindeMel, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram or Google Plus.

Please note that I do not work in the health sector and I have no medical training or knowledge whatsoever. This is my daughter’s story and the recipes on my blog are perfect for us but they might not work for you. Always consult a doctor if in doubt. Allergy UK is another good source of information.

 The Reading Residence

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Comments

  1. A beautifully written post. I hope you are all well. x

  2. It’s great that you are continually reminding the older children not to give her any of their food, this is something that so easily happens as I keep finding out. My older children mean well but I have to keep trying to explain that some of their food makes Henry ill.
    It’s a great thing you’re doing, I’m sure many people are benefiting from your advice and recipes. Keep up the good work!

    • Thanks Alex! I have to say Beanie tends to leave food on their small table and the last time she did (custard slice – eggs, wheat, dairy…), Jumpy only touched it and was about to put her fingers to her mouth when I caught her. The eczema flared up almost immediately and about three hours later, she started being violently sick. It was scary enough to make sure Beanie gets good habits (eating it all or eating free from!) when it comes to food. x Mel

  3. Viv'Maman_Bas says:

    Beautiful pics! I love it when newborns are like little balls with their bent legs – sooooo cute. Funny, It looks like you got a tan waiting for Jumpy to arrive! xx

    • Thanks, I was quite proud of myself for managing those two shots with my camera timer I have to say. I did notice the tan as well when I put the two pictures together! It must have been a difference in the light / time of day as I was definitely not sunbathing at the end of October! x Mel

  4. What lovely photos and a lovely post x

  5. When my little one arrived we quickly realised she was allergic to cows milk. Making one change was hard enough so I can understand how hard it must have been for you.

    • It is hard enough having a new baby. You must have faced quite a few challenges finding out she was allergic to cow’s milk early on. Once you have prescribed milk they actually take, it gets so much easier. We had to try three with Jumpy, she was so fussy… and wanted to keep being breastfed I think. Mel

  6. Oh my, what a story you have to share. It must be frightening and confusing at first. A friend of mine had a very similar experience with her daughter and I was amazed when we started talking about the way she has to shop. So for example pitta breads from Waitrose are OK but not the other supermarkets, and Bourbon biscuits are OK from Sainsbury’s but not Tesco etc etc. You have my admiration and hugs for managing to cope with such an emotional experience.

    • Thanks a lot, Iona. Hubby does the ‘shop hop’ for us every week-end and he now knows where to buy various items. I pop in to the health shop every couple of weeks for some of the ingredients I need, too and to be fair, it is not that bad half of the time. I just wish she could eat everything we have as she gets incredibly frustrated when she wants to try something and I do not allow her to. She is just too young to understand. x Mel

  7. Sounds tough, especially when you have other children to look after! Well done for finding your way through it! #WotW

    • It was really tough to start with, but after the initial shock comes acceptance. I now always try to think of recipes I can adapt for her and little successes are so worth the effort! Mel

  8. Wow, I can totally relate to those initial feelings you had about all the foods she will miss out on. Like you, I have no allergies or restrictions on what I eat, and I enjoy eating a huge variety of things. Everything! My eldest son has very mild eczema. I don’t restrict his diet, as I haven’t notices a correlation between flare-ups and food. But something in the back of my mind worries me that he could develop food intolerances. I hope not. I really admire your attitude and courage facing this big change to your family lifestyle. Food is such a big deal – it is for us. What a great idea to tailor recipes for play dough etc for children with allergies!

    • Thanks! I think you are right not to restrict your son’s diet. My second (Beanie) also has mild eczema, which started when she turned three and just like you, I have not changed her diet. She loves her food and it would be so much harder changing an established diet than it was for a baby who had tried very few food items. Mel

  9. Really well explained Mel – it must be so difficult to have to always think through every meal and watch her like a hawk but I applaud you for writing this because I’m sure its helpful for others in the same situation and then for someone like me who hasn’t experienced this sometimes I see other people being super strict with their children at parties and the like and I assume they are being ‘precious’ or overprotective but you don’t always know the full story behind the situation.

    • Before Jumpy was diagnosed with that plethora of allergies, I was just like you, thinking some parents needed to just let their children be and relax. You just need to experience anaphylaxis once to then become a lot more careful! When she grows up and learns what she can and cannot have, then it will be her job to be careful but for now, she has us (her siblings are fab!). x Mel

  10. Love these photos Mel, the contrast is awesome. Living with food allergies and sensitivity can be the absolute pits, something you’ll never understand unless you have to live it. I really hope that Jumpy outgrows hers in a few years. I have a friend whose boy had severe anaphylactic allergies from birth and at five is starting to lose some. The hope is that by seven he’ll be on a fairly normal diet. You’re doing an amazing job

    • The photo idea was from Pinterest and I have to say I was really pleased with the result, considering that I took both shots on my own in my bedroom using my cheap tripod and camera timer. You are so right about not knowing what it is like until you experience it… I did not have any idea before it happened to Jumpy (probably for the best, actually!). I am sure my little lady will grow out of a couple of allergies and if she does not, well, I will just keep adapting pretty much everything for her. x Mel

  11. Another wonderful post Mel! Thank you for sharing the recipes too! Keep them coming :) the French pancakes are top of my list to make! Thomas isn’t as allergic as Jumpy- he just gets wheezing/eczema/sleeplessness/reflux- and I can’t imagine how you must have felt when you first found out. But all we can do it try to make life as normal as possible for them. Very well written post xxx

    • Lovely compliments, thank you! I have a really nice and healthy free from recipe coming very soon on the blog. Let me know when you make the French pancakes. Thomas is smaller than Jumpy and when they are so little they seem so fragile, don’t they? The wheezing must be pretty scary, too. x Mel

  12. A brilliant and helpful post, Mel. I can understand why you’d feel lighter after your first post, too. I really hope that these posts do help families out there, as you want them to. I’m sure they’ll be very grateful you’ve taken then time to share your experiences. Thanks for linking up with #WotW x

  13. Firstly, those photos are amazing! Secondly, you sound like the most incredible mother Jumpy could ask for. Well done and grasping the challenge of her allergies with both hands and running with it. Good luck on your family’s free from journey. I hope that as she gets older the allergies weaken and she can start to try some of the banned foods.

    • Thank you for such kind words, Sally! She is still very young, but she already has a strong personality… my little Jumpy will be a fighter! x Mel

  14. Thank you for sharing this, really honest blog entry. =) #WotW

  15. The Free From Fairy says:

    Hi Mel! Great follow up post to the first one you wrote about the day Jumpy had an allergic reaction. As my coeliac and dairy intolerant daughter has got older it has become increasingly difficult for her to accept that she cannot have what others have. Before now she just got on with it and accepted what she COULD have. Now she looks at all the things she can’t have and gets upset. Hopefully it is a passing phase but it is so horrible to watch. Our Saturday ‘challenge’ was a coffee shop…one we go to especially because they have quite a few gluten-free cakes (we don’t worry about the dairy so that she can actually eat out every now and again). But this time, she just looked at all the cakes she couldn’t have and said there was nothing that she could have that she wanted! I guess I would feel like that but it is strange for us because she has never reacted like that before! Hopefully Jumpy will always be ‘happy’ with the fact that she eats different food to you…but be prepared for the times when she finds it all unfair!

    • She is still very young and I can already see that she finds it unfair. The screaming when Beanie and Crevette are having something appetising (generally full of eggs, dairy, flour) might be a clue… I know it will get more and more difficult for her to accept the fact she cannot have what she wants and like you, I will try to find ‘free from’ places to take her to I suppose (where do you even find these places?). I was thinking about that just yesterday when I was having lunch with Crevette and the restaurant menu clearly stated that they could not guarantee the children’s menu was free of nuts. So far, I have been bringing food with me everywhere but one day, she will probably refuse what is in the lunchbox. I will try not to think about that for now. x Mel

  16. Ahhh hunny first off I love the picture! What a creative and awesome photo both next to each other. I love it! Secondly you know I can relate so much to your little ones allergies and while I still can’t even think about that day Buba almost died or write about it yet I have mentioned it a few times. Finding what works is hard and it’s just wrapping our heads around their new ways. I hope that my son’s allergies and now his issues with his eyes won’t have him being the middle of bullying and being made fun and treated differently. It worries me everyday. Thank you for linking this post up for Share With Me. Not that I am glad you have allergies with your lil one but it’s nice that we can talk and share this hard stuff too. #sharewithme

    • It was a lot of fun taking those photos. I was quite pleased with myself I have to say! It is probably best not to think they might be bullied one day, otherwise, you will not sleep at night, hun. Just like you, I like knowing that there are other mums out there experiencing the same thing with allergies. I still have to try making your cupcakes! x Mel

  17. aaw these photos are so cute, i dont have my little one and im a bit worried that food i may eat can make her allergic or later on she will be allergic to other different foods, its always good to be aware and sort things liek that quickly

    • It is probably best not to worry about it, really. If it happens, it happens, but it is still rather rare. I am expecting my fourth and despite baby’s allergies, I eat everything I would normally eat, including what Jumpy is allergic to. Mel

  18. Colette B says:

    Oh the pictures made me gasp. My baby girl has just turned 5 months and I miss her tinyness already. I miss my bump too! But I love watching her grow! x
    #sharewithme

    • They grow so quickly, don’t they? Jumpy is still my ‘baby’ even though she is nearly eighteen months old. I am sure she will love being a big sister in June! x Mel

  19. Thank you for sharing this post. Really informative! #sharewithme

  20. I couldn’t imagine being a mom with a kid that has food allergy. Your stories are all amazing and these children are so lucky to have you as their mom. Thank you for sharing your inspiring stories!

    • Thanks a lot for your comment. After you have adjusted, you just get used to adapting and being careful, really. I would lie if I said it was not tough when we found out about all those allergies, but we are managing well now. She is a strong little girl!

Trackbacks

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  3. […] for the first time. After her trip to A&E ten months ago, she had blood tests to assess what allergies or sensitisations she might have. She has also had a soya challenge (passed that one – she is only intolerant) and […]

  4. […] has a packed lunch for school, and because of her allergies, Jumpy also needs one to take to Maria’s (our childminder). Beanie has the same as the other […]

  5. […] definitely not French, but Jumpy can have it so we have it for parties! When you have a child with allergies, you are allowed this kind of ‘faux pas’, aren’t you? I have to say having them in baby jars […]

  6. […] rarely gets sick. Beanie has eczema. Jumpy also has the skin condition as well as a wide range of allergies. It is a coincidence? It makes you wonder, doesn’t […]

  7. […] was ridiculously excited about going. My toddler (1 year 8 months) suffers from eczema as well as a wide range of allergies (wheat, cow’s milk protein, eggs, tree nuts and seeds) and it can be tricky to feed her when we […]

  8. […] pool out. – I have been trying to develop a muffin recipe for Jumpy that excludes everything she is allergic to. I am almost there I think. – We all went to the dentist’s. – We had a fab day at my […]

  9. […] for the simple reason that I had never managed to find a recipe that catered for her range of allergies. You have to admit it is not common to find cakes with no eggs, dairy or white […]

  10. […] go to the hospital frequently because of Jumpy’s allergies and eczema. It is one of Crevette and Beanie’s favourite places to go as it has such a great […]

  11. […] increasingly stressful as her eczema seemed to be exacerbated by everything I was giving her. Diagnosis of multiple food allergies came at just over six months old after a trip to A&E triggered by a […]

  12. […] with a DS Gluten Free Ciabatta roll and Plamil mayo for Jumpy who cannot have quiche as it contains wheat, dairy and eggs. We could all have potato snacks and we were going to try Vita Coco flavoured water. Dessert would […]

  13. […] an allergic reaction and a visit to A&E, Jumpy had blood tests and a milk protein allergy (amongst others) was diagnosed and she was prescribed hydrolysed formula. The dietician gave us […]

  14. […] she should have as a healthy toddler. I started wondering whether it had something to do with her exclusion diet, but nobody wants to commit to an answer. Our dentist referred me to the dietician, who said a GP […]

Thanks for taking the time to write a little message. Comments always make me smile! x Mel

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