The beginning: a very good place to start – part 1

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It has been a while since I’ve had the opportunity to blog.  I sit down at the computer when I have a few minutes and I start to type, but I haven’t been able to make sense of the past couple of months. So I’m going to break it down into several parts to better explain and, hopefully, understand and come to terms with it myself.

My three year old, DR, has been diagnosed with both egg and peanuts allergies.  He also has some pretty severe eczema.  However, over the past year we have worked to maintain a healthy and safe environment for him, so his skin was clearing up and he hadn’t had a reaction in months.  We were going out more, had found some great sitters who understood his needs, and our daycare was on board and on top of all of his food intake while he was in their care.  We were feeling pretty good about our allergy-restricted life.

The second weekend of July, I took a trip with DR and his one-year-old brother JN from Savannah, GA to Burnsville, NC.  Because of other medical issues, it had been months since we had seen my family, and that weekend was much needed.  We enjoyed the fresh mountain air, took a dip in a local river, played outside in the breezy summer heat, and ate to our hearts content of my grandmothers amazing food.

We stuck to our food guidelines the entire time, even when my grandpa made himself a peanut butter sandwich.  He is on a diet, so peanut butter is one of the few nutritionally valuable items he can eat.  Because of this, his contact with DR was limited for about 8 hours after the sandwich, all surfaces were cleaned several times, and he ate it outside in an area where DR would/could not go.  The plate and other utensils were disposed of in a trash can outside and isolated from the rest of the house. This was two days before we left, and all seemed fine.  I had prepared for instances like this, and we came through it without any issue.

As we got ready to leave on Monday we noticed DR had a small rash.  We assumed that it was the difference in weather and the fact that he had been in the river the evening before.  Little did we know that the rash was just the tip of the iceberg and far from over.

From that moment on the next 4 weeks would include 5 scary hives outbreaks, an anaphylactic reaction, an ambulance ride and hospital stay, a unexpected but necessary allergist change, a new allergy diagnosis, and a potentially delightful surprise.

~Lacey

 

“MH” Part II: NICU

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The first 24 hours after MH was born was miserable. I felt like I couldn’t breathe I was hurting so bad. Not from the pain of just having gone through 18 1/2 hours of labor or the fact that I had been cut open from hip to hip, but because I didn’t have my baby in my arms. My heart felt like it had been ripped out. I’m the mom who doesn’t let anyone take my babies out of the room without me or my husband going with them during our hospital stay after our babies are born. Now, I was having to trust strangers, very amazing and capable strangers, to care for my fighting baby girl. My husband was the first to hold our sweet baby. He went up to the NICU as often as he could while I wasn’t able to. I was a very sick mess for the first 24 hours after her birth. I finally made it up to the NICU to hold her and she was stable but fighting. She had transitioned from a c-pap to regular oxygen but still wasn’t doing the best. I honestly can’t remember all of the terms they used to describe what all was wrong, I just knew she was fighting. After my first visit with her they gave me fluids and a blood transfusion then unhooked me from my IV. I was able to shower, change clothes and blow dry my hair. I felt like a completely new person. During my second visit with her I was able to stay a lot longer and I was able to do kangaroo care with her. It was good for the both of us. She was beautiful. She had a million wires and IV’s hooked to her but she was beautiful. Each time I had to leave was gut wrenching. J went up there very often and I went as often as possible. My sole mission at that point was to provide as much of my milk to her as possible. I became a pumping machine! We got to feed her for the first time when she was a little over two days old. Tiny little drops through a syringe. 1cc of liquid gold. She slowly improved each day and on the Sunday after the Thursday that she was born I was discharged. Those few weeks before, during and after her birth were filled with days that seemed to be the worse days of my life.
I’d do it all over in a heartbeat to have my sweet girl.
Leaving her was hard. One of the hardest moments of my life. I was thrilled to see my kiddos at home though!! I had missed them so so bad!!! That Monday was bittersweet and miserable. I had desperately missed my kids so I was happy to spend time with them but I was honestly really worried and stressed because I couldn’t take care of MH. My parents came to sit with our kids so that we could go visit her around 3pm. We live an hour away from the hospital. That morning when we had called to check on her the nurses told us she was stable but had not improved. I had prayed all. day. long.

Prayer is a powerful thing.
When we got to her on the main NICU floor we were met by a nurse who asked if we were ready to take her to a transition room!!! We had NO IDEA that she was doing so well!!! Her oxygen was gone, she was down to only one IV line and she was very stable! After only a second she was being wheeled into her own room and I was told that either I or my husband could stay with her 24 hours a day if we chose to!!
I was staying. No one could have pulled me away. My husband was instantaneous in his decision. He knew I needed to stay with her, I needed it with every fiber of my being. It was the best news I could have ever heard.

We left for an hour to go get a few things at a local store because I hadn’t packed anything. I was planning on staying with her as long as she had to be there and I needed necessities and comfortable clothes to keep myself clean, comfortable and keep my milk supply strong for her. A couple of bags of toiletries, food, yoga pants, t-shirts and a giant mason jar water bottle later I was set. When we got back J was able to feed her her very first bottle!! He stayed as long as he could and then left to care for our other sweet kiddos. Then, it was just Mommy and MH. That was the first time I had been able to be alone with my sweet tiny girl.

It. Was. Blissful.

~Hope

“MH” Part I: Birth Story

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Throughout my four pregnancies before MH I never had any serious issues. My blood pressure was always good, so was everything else. I always had amazingly easy deliveries even through a couple of small complications during the birth of two of my sons. When I went in for a routine checkup at 19 weeks during my pregnancy with MH my blood pressure was very high. My doctor admitted me to the hospital for an overnight observation to check for more signs of pre-eclampsia. All of my tests came back fine, my blood pressure was normal for the full 24 hours after and we found out that day that we were having a girl! I went home with high hopes and thankful that it seemed to be just my nerves that caused the issue. Everything was fine for the next few weeks. Then at another routine appointment at 36 weeks my blood pressure spiked again and I was admitted again. This time the tests weren’t great. I had pre-eclampsia. I had to stay in the hospital under observation. My amazing husband stayed by my side the entire time. Our kiddos are very blessed to have awesome grandparents and close family friends that they stayed with during this time. I was induced at 37 weeks. The day before the ultrasound tech told me that MH should be perfectly healthy and she measured over 6lbs. My labor was 18 1/2 hours long. Sometime during the morning I remember feeling a huge movement that felt like she flipped but I didn’t give it much thought in the moment. When I finally reached 10cm my water still hadn’t broke. As the doctors and nurse checked my progress my nurse noticed that she wasn’t feeling the baby’s head, she was feeling the umbilical cord. I was immediately rushed to surgery for an emergency c-section. The big flip I felt was just that. MH was breach and I had a prolapsed cord. I lost a lot of blood during the procedure and felt myself going in and out the whole time. Once they got her out something was very wrong. I couldn’t her her crying and they didn’t immediately let me see her like they normally do. I honestly was so out of sorts that I didn’t fully understand everything that was going on. I became very sick and my blood pressure wouldn’t stabilize. My husband came to my side and I remember my anesthesiologist telling him to stay because he was making me stable. He is my rock. I finally heard MH crying and I knew there were a lot of people in the room. I didn’t know what was wrong. In recovery J, my husband, told me that MH had to be taken to the NICU. She was very small and had breathing problems among other medical issues. I was able to see her for a minute after recovery but I didn’t get to hold her. I know this isn’t food allergy related but it is MH related. To tell her story without explaining everything she went through, fought through, before her diagnosis would not give her the credit she deserves. She is my fighter.

~Hope

“D”

imageAfter Z grew out of his milk protein allergy and his allergy induced asthma we put him on lactose free milk to keep his digestion running smooth. We thought that things were FINALLY normal for us!!! After four years of craziness our lives calmed down for the most part. We still have to keep him away from horses and cats but he’s totally normal now.
During this calm normal food period my kids enjoyed peanut butter and jelly for lunch often without a single thought. We enjoyed eggs for breakfast and sometimes for a quick dinner when my husband was working. I baked with eggs every single day. I have always loved to bake. I still love it!
I never had to put any thought into what I was feeding them other than making sure they had proper nutrition. I’m a meal planner, it saves my family a lot of money and aside from making the menu itself and cooking the food that was all that I had to do. Yes, it was a pretty big job for me as a ( then ) mom of three but it was enjoyable. Then I had “D” right before MB turned 2. His birth was scary. He had distress towards the end and the doctors thought he had swallowed some meconium. We had to wait on a team of specialists only to have them walk out the door as soon as they heard the very loud cry he was belting out of his perfectly clear lungs. Up to that point all of my labors and deliveries were very nice experiences with only one small cord issue during Z’s delivery. After he came his life was simple and sweet. We enjoyed having our wild and stubborn little man! I waited until after he was one to feed him any nut or egg products and after he had them he was fine. No issues! Then one day when he was about 15 months old during a snacky lunch when we had veggies, nuts and popcorn, D started breaking out in hives. At this point aside from my own grape allergy as a kid I had never dealt with a food causing this type of reaction. I did know what it was right away because of Z’s animal allergies though, so we gave him Benadryl and he was fine. Cashews were the culprit. A few months later pecans caused another reaction. Peanuts never bothered him. So we still had peanut products in the house. His allergy to tree nuts is a hives only reaction at this point but we always stay away from them to be safe. When D was 8 months old we found out we were expecting baby number 5!!! She was born when D was 17months old. She is our whirlwind baby. With her, things have always been crazy, scary and fast. Her story will take more than one post. MH turned 2 on the 22nd of May. Her short two years have been more eventful than most people ten times her age. She is my fighter.

~Hope

“Z”

I am not new to allergies. When I was little I had a few severe reactions to grapes, a few small reactions to popular antibiotics and I am still very allergic to cats. I grew out of my other allergies. It was never a big deal when I was a kid so I was not prepared for how my life was about to change after I became a mother. My journey as an allergy mom did not start with only food allergies. My journey started with my second oldest son, Z.
I have five amazing kiddos, three of which have or have had food allergies of different severities and very different reactions. Z is my sweet, slow and steady boy. He was the easiest of all of my babies and instantly took breastfeeding by storm. My first son had a lot of complications with breastfeeding and wasn’t able to. I was thrilled to have Z take to me so easily. Then we noticed instead of having normal movements that he would go 3-4 days without having even one poopy diaper. The first many rounds of doctors appointments didn’t help. After four months with no answers and him going up to nine days without having a dirty diaper I was told to stop breastfeeding and to try soy formula. It worked! I was so happy to have a baby that could poop regularly and go an entire day without terrible gas! Then three weeks later he started having the exact same issues as before. After three more months of trying EVERYTHING we finally got our answer!!!

Milk protein allergy.

His body could not digest milk proteins. So he had to be put on a very special formula until he was 18months old and couldn’t have any dairy until after he was 3. In the middle of all of that he also had very severe environmental allergies. He would break out in hives and have horrible asthma attacks any time he came into contact with cats, cat hair, horses, certain plants, dust, and so on. The list is very long. So my first four years of motherhood were a whirlwind! It was spent getting answers for Z and keeping him away from things and foods that would harm him, enjoying having two sweet boys who were only 17 months apart and best friends and having my sweet daughter MB come along. After Z turned 3 his milk protein allergy vanished and I no longer had to worry about ingredient lists for him. Little did I know that this part of my life was really easy compared to what was to come.

~Hope

Before and After

Food allergies are life altering.  I should know as I developed an allergy to tree nuts as a teenager.  I have had many types of reactions from rashes/hives, upset stomach, swollen body parts, and the dreaded anaphylaxis requiring epi-pen injection, an ambulance ride, and a visit to the ER.  This post isn’t about my allergies, though.  It is about my son’s.

I only mention my own brief history to point out that this wasn’t always the norm.  Just like with my son DR, we had a period where food allergies did not affect us, were non-existent.

I hated to cook, and my husband, Justin, worked long sporadic hours, so it was easy to just order out:  our options only limited by who was open or willing to deliver.  I complained when we couldn’t agree on food or when an item I wanted was out.

Our diets were that of the typical American.  I never looked at fat, triglyceride, sugar, or caloric values.  Ingredients (other than my tree-nut avoidance) didn’t matter as long as we enjoyed the flavor.  We did try to adhere to a healthy diet for DR, attempting to avoid sugary foods and things that could rot his teeth or lead to obesity.  Grandparents would call us uptight for limiting him to only three cookies or bags of gummies.

Holidays and family get-togethers were plagued with vast amounts of foods. Christmas was my favorite time of year.   From Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day, we ate until we were sick.  My grandmother’s holiday baking was beyond compare.  Homemade cheesecakes, reese cups, cookies, brownies, fudge, and puff balls (different types of snack mixes dipped in melted chocolate, caramel, and peanut butter.  She would call me weeks in advance to ask what my heart desired and would spend hours baking.

I look back on all of this now with mixed emotions: sadness, frustration, acceptance, relief…the list goes on.  Our life is completely different, our food choices carefully examined and deliberated.  We eat out very little and cook much more.  Processed foods are a thing of the past, and fresh ingredients line our cabinets and refrigerator.  Holidays are a nightmare, and I am now a baker.

~ Lacey