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Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Day 44-50: Finding a sense of community...

Raising a child is an enormous endeavor and every parent adapts to this role in a different way. I guess that is what happens when people seem to change after they have children. Some people appear to lose themselves and not be what they once were perceived as to the people around them. That is probably what people would say about me. My views of the world and the people I know in it have taken on a new, different shape. I rest on people who are unconditional and validate my family's challenges. Living in a family with a life threatening food allergy is all-consuming, very real, and transcends into all areas of our lives.  Learning how to live fully through this challenge is where the hope, love, and peace are found (along with the relationships). Focusing on what brings us together is not about the menu, or how things have always been done. It's about the actions we take on to move forward keeping everyone together as a unit without discrimination.

Every day I try to come up with a fun activity for Sophia that is aimlessly safe and I don't have to restrict her because of her extreme allergy. This is how I can give her a sense of normalcy. I don't have to remind her not to touch anything, eat anything, wear her protective leggings and sleeves, not hug someone because of what's hidden on their clothes, or touch their toys. It is usually something outdoors at the beach or park, and has no other people who become another risk factor. We've talked about swim classes but when I visited the local YMCA and fitness centers we've had to walk into the lobby's making smoothies and lattes. Sophia had an airborne reaction to one place making me completely in fear of our surroundings in both. This is why we really need to find other children in our same situation. I've been trying with no luck... there must be someone locally out there.

I recently looked into a local vegan group on FaceBook with 360 members. Although we don't share the same ideology it could be a safe environment for Sophia. 360 people value the life of ALL living creatures enough to only eat and be exposed to plants, grains, nuts, and seeds. If I could couple that with some fish sticks and chicken nuggets it would be a food allergy haven for Sophia. I appreciate that vegans value life and are willing to make lifestyle changes to honor that ideology, it is much the same as a family living with a life threatening food allergy. People are pre-wired to put things in their mouths because of a developed taste or tradition. I used to be that person but now I can see eating much differently.

After researching where Sophia can safely get nutrients from, I'm honestly disgusted at what I used to eat. I now see eating simply as nourishing. Learning how to feed a child with milk protein allergy brings you back to basics immediately. Fresh or frozen plain produce, grains, and unprocessed meats are the safest. Allergen friendly fish sticks and chicken nuggets are a bonus along with some crackers, coconut ice cream, chips, and cookies. No fast food or restaurant food because even when someone says there's no milk proteins in it, you can't trust that they know what constitutes a milk protein or about cross contamination. The lack of education in the food industry and common ignorance is unreasonable. I look at the few processed foods I do feed my daughter and feel like I'm doing something wrong, then I look at what I see everyone else is feeding their kids and I realize she's eating much healthier.

I have developed a complete aversion to milk, cheese, and butter. Just to see it makes me uneasy. It's like how every parent worries about a bad person doing something unspeakable to their child, except, for me, these three food items are an additional Boogie Man. I cannot even see them and not feel terrified. To me they represent real danger and all that is scary in our immediate lives. I see commercials and FB posts with cheesy meals and birthday cakes and I skip through them quickly as my pulse rate increases. I have adapted to my parenting role by taking on my 3 year old child's challenges as my own, and finding for her way through them. I have changed and adapted into a person with a purpose beyond just myself. My daughter gave me the title Mother and everyday I try to earn it for her.