I never wanted a child with an allergy. C’mon, who does? I was horrified when I found out my nephew has a peanut allergy, and I really felt sorry for my sister-in-law.
My first ‘proper’ job after finishing university, was working in corporate communications for a very popular Australian food brand. In my first year there, FSANZ brought in new relguations around how food companies must list allergens on food packs. The reason? Because allergies have become such a big issue, especially anaphylactic shock caused by, among other things, the tiniest traces of peanuts and fish products.
So, I’m very aware of allergies, what they do to people, how difficult they can make life become, and how just a sniff of peanut can cause a kid to almost die.
That’s why I really really didn’t want a kid with an allergy.
Earlier this year, back in Brisbane, I was enjoying some time with family friends. Le Sprog had been on solids for a while and everyone was keen to give her something to nibble on. A peice of bread, a stick of carrot, a chicken bone… Of course, this freaked me out, as I’m convinced she’s going to choke. (Notice I wrote the last part of that sentence in present tense. This is because I’m still convinced).
I’d come to the lunch well stocked with some ‘safe’ foods – mashed pumpkin and spinach and mashed apple. After she’d eaten these, I was sure no one would try any other silly food bizzo. I handed her over to my mum and started on my own lunch.
Now Mr Moi tells me I’m turning into my mum, and he tells ME that I’m stubborn, so I guess that means mum is too. So when Nana Moi was eating her lemon meringue pie dessert and decided to give Le Sprog a taste, I yelled at her. “MUM. NO. NO EGGS YOLKS UNTIL THEY’RE NINE MONTHS. NO EGG WHITES UNTIL THEY’RE ONE.”
Now, I love my mum to bits, but I guess this is where the stubborness kicked in. “Ohhhhh, she’ll be right. I fed you kids a three course meal starting with steak tartare and finishing with eggs cracked straight from the shell by the time you were eight months old,” she said.
It was futile anyway, because by the time this exchange had taken place, Le Sproglette had launched herself on the spoon and happily ate the teeny, tiny, sugar-filled scraping of barely cooked eggwhite and egg yolk.
The situation rattled me, so I took control and put the baby to bed. Except she wouldn’t go to sleep. And when she finally did, she only slept for 30 minutes before waking up. And on waking up, she couldn’t stop rubbing her eyes. And after about 15 minutes of her doing that, her nose started dripping and her eyes started running. And we realised that perhaps she wasn’t rubbing her eyes because she was still tired. So I looked at her belly and she was covered in red welts.
An hour later, we were at the hospital. Her face was red, her ears were swollen to the point they no longer had any definition, her body was one huge big red lump. She was given an antihistamine and a steroid, and we stayed at the hospital for four hours under observation. Thankfully, it wasn’t an anaphylactic reaction. And thankfully, she calmed down after the initial outbreak. She was positively beaming at the hospital. The nurses loved her.
I felt terrible. Like a bad mum. Annoyed that we now have an allergy to deal with. And I really felt sorry for this tiny little human being that was swollen to almost twice her size, all because of something we were silly enough to put in her mouth.
And, of course, I felt completely, 100 per cent guilty.
When the clock hit 9pm, the doctor was happy for us to leave. So we walked past the front desk, waved goodbye. We walked past the full waiting room.
And as we were walking out the door, the triage nurse leaned out of her room and yelled, “And no more lemon meringue pie!”
Every parent in the waiting room turned to stare at stupid mother who feeds her baby evil foods.