They say we remember bad experiences better than we remember good ones.
I’m not sure who “they” are (memory scientists?), but I believe them. I remember getting scolded by my second grade teacher for speaking out of turn, but I barely remember my high school graduation. I remember my first fight with my husband like it was yesterday, but our wedding day is a complete blur. And I remember very little about the day my daughter was born, but I remember every little detail of the day she had her first food allergy reaction.
Probably because it was the scariest day of my life.
That morning, I made scrambled eggs and gave some to my 15-month-old daughter, not thinking anything of it. She’d eaten baked egg before with no problems, and we had no known allergies in our family. Less than 30-minutes later, she was covered in hives and her face was starting to swell.
I quickly gave her some Benadryl and raced her to the pediatrician’s office. I remember praying that she would keep crying the whole way there, because if she was crying, it meant that her throat hadn’t closed up. I remember glancing at the car clock and registering that it was 9:53. I remember parking in a handicap spot and apologizing profusely when I interrupted another mom’s appointment at the pediatrician’s office.
Of course, knowing what I know now about anaphylactic reactions, I would have skipped the doctor’s office all together, stuck her with an EpiPen, and called 911, but eleven months ago, I didn’t have an EpiPen (now I have 6), and I didn’t know anything about food allergies.
Now I know more than I ever wanted to know.
I know that people can be allergic to pretty much anything, including lentils and watermelon, but my daughter’s food allergies are to eggs and walnuts. I know that anaphylactic reactions don’t always cause breathing problems. I know the importance of carrying an EpiPen wherever we go and keeping it between 60 and 75 degrees at all times. I know all about food labeling laws and the importance of avoiding cross contamination. I know that a shot of epinephrine takes less than 20-seconds to work its magic. I know the heartbreak of telling your daughter she can’t have something that everyone else is having because it could make her very sick. I know that peanuts kill more people every year than sharks do. I know how it feels to stay up until midnight making eggless cupcakes so your daughter won’t feel left out at a birthday party. I know what acronyms like OIT, CC, and FA stand for, and I know how it feels to be worried for your child’s life every time you drop her off at school or introduce her to a new food.
I wish I didn’t have to know these things, but it comes with the territory when you’re a food allergy mom.
And strangely enough, there have been some blessings that have accompanied this new role, as well. If Rory didn’t have food allergies, I would never know the joy of having friends who care enough to send pictures of food labels and ask if certain foods are safe before serving. I wouldn’t know teachers who care enough to search far and wide for a Halloween treat that’s safe for everyone in the class. I wouldn’t have the opportunity to educate friends and family about dealing with a food allergy, or be able to show them how to properly use an EpiPen. I wouldn’t know where the best allergy-friendly bakeries are in Denver (The Makery and The Gluten Escape), and I wouldn’t experience that feeling of instant camaraderie when meeting other food allergy moms. Most importantly, if my daughter didn’t have a food allergy, I probably wouldn’t realize just how precious life is. After all, a simple bite of food can be a matter of life or death for my daughter.