The Anxiety of Being an Allergy Mama

I’ve been a pregnant mother, and a Hypnobirthing mama. A natural birthing mother, a new mother. I’ve been a nursing mother for the better part of the past 5 years.

I was a vegetarian mother and a bike riding mother. Can’t claim to be either of those at the moment. I’m a baby wearing mother. I try to be a mindful, intentional mama. I’m a working mother. I guess I’m a mommy blogger.

Most recently, I’ve taken on a new maternal identity. I’ve become an allergy mother. And I’ve gotta say, I’m not such a fan of this one.

The rest of my mama hats, I chose them myself. This one got thrown in for free.

Little A has always been sensitive. As a newborn she’d scratch at her face until it bled, and she had all sorts of gastric upsets from the get go. Blood in her stools and constipation. She’d react to foods that I ate through my breast milk, to various soaps, and fabrics. To dry weather and to heat. I went on an extreme diet, we consulted with various doctors and practitioners – Western and Eastern alike.

More recently, over the past year or so, we’ve found out that she’s allergic to eggs, walnuts and pecans. A couple of months ago she spent a week covered in scary-looking hives with swollen hands and feet – and we still have no idea why.

This week she has an ear infection in both ears, a raging fever, not eating. The usual kid stuff, really, but with her it hits me harder. I worry more. My mind blows everything out of proportion.

My anxiety levels are… yeh. Palpable.

I’ve dealt with anxiety at various times in my life, both situational and during general drawn out rough patches. I have various tools for dealing with it. But this feels different. Like the danger is more imminent. Like if I let my guard down for even a minute, it could have serious consequences. And the problem is, it’s true – it’s not just in my head. Not like the panic attacks in my 20s when I’d be sure I was having a heart attack. If Little A eats something that she’s allergic to, there’s no telling what the reaction could be. Most likely it would be along the lines of rashes, hives and swelling like we’ve seen before, but allergies are unpredictable and it could affect her breathing next time.

And it scares the shit out of me.

In my rational mind, I know there’s always danger out there. That something could happen to either of my kids – to any of us – at any time. That I only have so much control. I know all that. I even have some level of peace with it. But this dynamic with my little one just does my head in.

The weight of this allergy mama role was particularly apparent to me last month when I took a short trip to Rome with a girlfriend (more about that, here), and I realized how nice it was to have some time away from Little A. I feel horrible saying it, but it’s the truth. Every time she coughs I worry she’s having a reaction. One little red spot on her skin and in my head we’re already halfway to the hospital. I’m on edge all the time. It’s fucking exhausting.

I wish I had an uplifting way to end this post.

The best I can do right now is try to be mindful of when anxiety is present – at least call a spade a spade. So that when my mind is yelling all sorts of crazy shit about medical emergencies I can remind myself to get in a deep breath or two. Remind myself that I know the signs of an allergic reaction, and what to do for each of them. That even though it feels like everything’s spinning out of control, actually for right now, everything is fine. And more than that – the few times where Little A has actually reacted, I’ve dealt with it fine. Even if I’m alone with the two kids.

It doesn’t get rid of the anxiety, the crushing feeling in my chest and the conviction that something horrible is happening, but it can help to put a very thin film over it. A millimeter of distance between me and the fear. And I guess that’s something.

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