Last year at this time, the night of her birthday party, I was sitting with Hannah with her head resting on the toilet bowl. She had had a perfect, magical night dressed as Cinderella with 15 of her little girlfriends also dressed as their favorite princess. She danced, jumped and twirled beside Sleeping Beauty, Tinkerbell, Snow White and Belle. Her smile shined for two straight hours. Until she got into the car to go home and told me she felt “funny”. She said she couldn’t wait to get home and crawl into bed. She didn’t want to open her presents. I looked worriedly at Tim as he drove us home and as soon as we walked in the house we knew something was terribly wrong.
Hannah has food allergies. We’ve known this since she was only a year old and consumed a small bite of baby food with egg in it and immediately started throwing up and becoming listless. An emergency room visit and later a visit to the allergist confirmed her severe allergy to eggs. At two years old she had a small amount of pesto on a bite of pasta and she suffered the same reaction. A blood test at the allergist was positive – allergic to all nuts and eggs.
I read a post tonight at Trains Tutus and Twizzlers where Corinne so accurately described how difficult, how devastating, it is to have a child with food allergies. Unless you have a child with severe food allergies, it’s impossible to describe the fear, the panic I live with on so many days. I’m lucky to have an extremely verbal and aware child who is petrified of getting sick and wouldn’t even consider trying a food without consulting me first. But I live in fear. I am a food label maniac. I read every ingredient of every package of food twelve times every time I buy it just to be sure. I hate going to new restaurants. I worry people don’t understand.
And last year, when I ordered Hannah’s eggless cake, the woman obviously Did Not Understand. She promised me, swore to me, that the cake was made eggless and that all utensils used had been cleaned thoroughly. She lied. Hannah happily, confidently, scarfed down a big piece of that cake and then became violently ill. We were confused. Dismayed. Petrified. And when we called the bakery the next day… she denied it. We called the pizzeria who made the pizza and the guy told us, “maybe” the pizza, may have had some egg in the dough. We blamed it on that. We had NEVER heard of pizza dough with egg but we added it to our list of things to be careful of. It wasn’t until TWO months later when Tim (who has the same egg allergy) had a piece of the frozen birthday cake and also got horrendously ill, that we found out the truth. We called the bakery again and the owner told us, “My partner, who no longer works here, lied. Yes, that cake did have eggs.” She went on with other words that I didn’t hear. I only heard that some woman who didn’t care, almost killed my daughter. Some woman, who I probably could have strangled with my own two hands was responsible for a night of misery that should have been a night of magic.
I felt so betrayed. As a mom of a child with allergies like this, all I can do is ask the right questions, stress the importance and urgency of care and Trust people hear me. What am I to do when I lose this trust? I cannot stay behind the doors of my house with Hannah for the rest of her life. I MUST learn to trust. So I do. But I hold my breath when she takes a bite of something from a restaurant. I do not show on my face my wariness, but I feel it every day. I carry Benadryl and an Epi Pen every time we leave the house and pray I won’t have to use them. And I hope. I hope that she’ll grow out of these allergies.
Tonight was Hannah’s fifth birthday party. She had that same smile on her face that she had last year during her party. But this time it lasted. It lasted through her cupcake that mommy handmade for her this year (and recall… mommy is NOT creative or artsy– but I tried). It lasted right up until her eyes shut and she drifted off into her dreams. And I’m STILL smiling tonight at the joy we all shared at her party. And that even if the memory of last year is still so clear in my mind… I’m pretty sure it’s gone from hers.