I stood there watching the kids enjoying their pizza. They were all sitting around the party table talking and laughing together. I looked around and saw the other moms making small talk with each other; happy that their children were having a good time at the party.
Then I glanced at the party table in the back and saw the birthday cake. I looked down at the cupcake holder in my hand that held a single strawberry cupcake.
And I felt alone.
As I watched my son enjoy his pizza, a knot began to grow in my stomach. I knew what was next. When the pizza was gone, the birthday girl’s mom would take out the birthday cake and all the children would enjoy it. All of them except my son. He would eat that lone strawberry cupcake with strawberry buttercream that I was holding in my hands. All because of his food allergies.
I glanced over at a fellow food allergy mom and felt jealous. Yes, her son has a nut allergy like mine, but his was not life-threatening. She was able to watch her son as he happily ate the birthday cake that all the other children were enjoying. She didn’t have to worry about him going into anaphylaxis. There wasn’t nervousness on her face or in the pit of her stomach like there was in mine.
And again, I felt alone.
I didn’t ask to be a food allergy mom. It was thrust upon me without me having an option. But it’s the life we live and it’s the life my family knows. But, it’s not easy and it definitely leaves me feeling lonely more often than not.
I have some wonderful friends who do all they can to include my son and make sure the food they provide at their house is safe for him. They don’t want to leave him out and I appreciate that more than they will ever know. But at the same time, they don’t have a child with food allergies; they can’t fully understand what our day-to-day life is like…
How do I explain the ever-present knot in the pit of my stomach as I drop him off at school each day and wonder if this is the day the nurse calls to say he was accidentally exposed to his allergen and is having a reaction? They can’t understand the effort it takes to go grocery shopping each week due to having to check the labels on every food item I put into my cart.
There are countless phone calls made to manufacturing companies to ask about their manufacturing processes. How can they understand the sad and disappointed look in my son’s eyes when we go out and I have to tell him he can’t have dessert at the restaurant? Or how he sometimes feels embarrassed when I bring his own cupcake to a birthday party because he can’t eat the cake.
They don’t understand what it’s like to have to carry an epi-pen, Benadryl, and an inhaler with you EVERYWHERE you go, 24/7.
While there are those wonderful people who are so very supportive, there are also many more people who don’t make the effort. So many people who don’t have empathy for our situation and don’t even try to understand. That’s when the loneliness really hits hard. It makes me feel as if my son and I are on an island in the middle of the ocean all alone.
So what should allergy moms do when we feel so alone?
Seek Help and Encouragement
Receiving support from others and being able to support others like you in return, is so very important. As the saying goes, “No man is an island.” We all need each other to get through this thing called life. Especially when you have a child with special needs (whether physical, emotional, dietary, etc.).
If you don’t feel like you have a strong support system, you can seek out a local support group. You can even join a virtual support group online. I am a part of multiple food allergy support groups on Facebook. It’s great being able to talk with others who understand exactly what I’m going through.
Seek Out Other Allergy Moms
We all know it’s not always easy making new friends. But when you have a child with special needs, it’s important to have those supportive relationships in your life. As I said above, online support groups can be great, but sometimes you need someone you can sit and talk with in person. We need a shoulder to cry on when days get hard. Maybe just someone to give us a hug. We need that friendship and solidarity of that person in the same situation as us.
I know for me, I like to find out if there are other food allergy students in my sons class at the start of the school year. And if there are, I try to make an effort to connect with those moms and get to know them. It has made such a difference in our school year. The other moms and I often coordinate bringing in allergy free snacks for our kids on special treat days at school. We text and talk about birthday parties and handling specific allergy-related situations. In essence, we support each other.
Being an allergy mom can leave you feeling lonely. But don’t stay that way, mama, because you are not really alone. There are thousands of us out there, just like you.