I started Instagramming about Imelda’s allergies a little over a year ago. Both my husband and I were so shocked when we found out about Imelda’s allergies. The second time around parenting was supposed to be easier, right?! We had already spent days/nights in the hospital with our first, Malachy, so surely it was meant to be a walk in the park this time around?! With Malachy, we had so many issues with breastfeeding and reflux that it took until he was about 15weeks for things to fall into place. I was still breastfeeding Malachy during my pregnancy with Imelda (there are 17months between them both) and my biggest concern was worrying about being able to breastfeed Imelda, I had struggled so much with Malachy, so when Imelda arrived and latched on straight away, I cannot describe the relief I felt. And as the weeks passed all seemed to be going along as it should, it was the perfect bliss of having a young toddler and a newborn.
When Imelda was around 5months old she could sit up, had a few teeth and we felt it was time to try her with some ‘real foods’. Little did we know at the time, our days of perfect bliss would soon be replaced with uncontrollable scratching, screaming and the most horrific skin reactions.
We first tried Imelda with a little bit of pureed broccoli and breast milk and all was fine, great, perfect start for our little Imelda. So a few days later we moved onto baby rice and queue the beginning of the allergy reactions. Now, we were second-time parents so we knew all about teething rashes, drool rashes, baby acne and had that cool laid back attitude that comes with being a second-time-around parent. We had had our share of difficulties during the first couple of months with Malachy so we had paid our dues and being second-time round parents meant that we could easily write things off. We had soon learned that babies don’t break as easy as you think (a fair few trips to the hospital with Malachy with lumps and bumps could prove that) and a skin rash doesn’t always require endless amounts of hysterical googling, glass rolling and the ever inevitable dread that something is terribly wrong. So when Imelda’s cheeks started to become bright red after eating her new baby foods and her skin became so dry that she felt like sandpaper and she would literally shed in your hands, we, of course, knew this was teething! Of course, it was, I mean her big brother had such a similar rash when he had been teething, hadn’t he?! Yup, no doubts in our minds! So when it started to get worse and worse and worse some more and her face and her neck became purple and her back was so raised with spots we suddenly doubted our thoughts, wait, what if this was something else, what if she had some sort of condition?! Still even at this point food allergies never even entered our minds! So one night we contacted Euans aunt, who is a health visitor and she suggested we see our GP, the following day we did and we were referred to the hospital straight away, that afternoon. After Imelda had been seen we were told she had eczema and left with a referral for dermatology and a bag full of creams. Okay, eczema we could deal with this.
It was at Imelda’s appointment with the dermatologist it was suspected Imelda had food allergies and we were told to cut out dairy and eggs from her diet and mine and a referral was made for the dietician (one referral after another, again and again, always waiting) as well an appointment made for skin prick tests. A month or two later Imelda picked up a bout of bronchiolitis and ended up in hospital. As if by fate, during her stay in hospital she was cared for by her now allergy consultant, as he was the doctor on the ward that weekend. I don’t think I can put into words how I felt when he said she was going to be under his care and we would go to his clinic. Relief is not a big enough word. Whilst we were staying in the ward (Imelda was admitted for a couple of nights) she had bloods taken. (there’s a wee story about Imelda having a reaction on the ward, but that’s a different blog and I’ll upload that soon).
Sure enough, we were soon seen by Imelda’s new allergy consultant. He was (and still is) clear, assertive and caring. I was (and still am at this point) breastfeeding, I explained that I had already removed dairy and egg from my diet and this was the point I found out my diet would be losing a few more foods, in fact, every one of Imelda’s allergens, which were now sitting at about 14 food allergies. I’m will upload a post more in detail later about the change to my diet and how my body has reacted to it.
So where are we now? Well I guess you can say as Imelda has grown, she’s 2 now, we have become more aware of her food allergies, and food allergies in general. Understanding the makeup of proteins in foods, the severity of cross-contamination and the likes. There have been times where Imelda has had some pretty bad reactions, still, we are lucky that to this day her epi-pens remain the backup and piriton has always resolved everything. So that’s why I started Instagramming about Imelda and her allergies, I wanted to help raise awareness to the things I never knew existed before our allergy journey began. I also wanted to be part of a community with people who shared the same hopes and fears as me. I couldn’t ask for a better support team than the mums and dads I speak to on Instagram. From sharing recipes, advice, safe food finds, its a brilliant community and we all have the same aim – keeping our kids safe, making sure the world around them acknowledges food allergies and understands the severity of them. And equally important, becoming a voice for the sufferers who don’t have a voice.