What I want you to know about my child’s peanut allergy

It takes a village—and this village knows how to administer epinephrine.

What I want you to know about my child’s peanut allergy

When our daughter was first diagnosed with her peanut allergy, she was 10 months old. At the time, it was scary, but it also answered a lot of questions. All of a sudden, we knew why she was such a “colicky” baby, why she seemed to mysteriously be in so much in pain while she was nursing and why she got so many rashes.

She was still a babbling baby, on the verge of walking. She sat in her high chair as she made her way through the new solid foods her baby book suggested. Her life was relatively simple, and her network of caretakers was very small. When we received the results of her allergy tests, the only people outside of our family we really needed to inform of her “Anaphylaxis Action Plan” were her three daycare teachers down the street and her one occasional babysitter.

But, as Emma likes to remind us, she isn’t a baby these days: She is now a bubbly, precocious 6-year-old on the verge of entering the first grade. She ties her own shoes and wears a ponytail every day. She can spell. And her network of loving grown-up caretakers has grown enormously.

As Emma has moved from toddlerhood to childhood, she is starting to exercise greater levels of independence. This puts a new emphasis on Emma’s ability to be thoughtful and communicative about her allergy. She is that kid on Halloween who dashes to each house with the greeting, “Trick-or-Treat! I’m Emma, and I’m allergic to peanuts!” (Which is usually greeted with a smile, which melts quickly into a look of mild horror by the now-anxious neighbor.)

But the truth is, she’s just 6 years old—so, developmentally, she has one foot firmly planted in reality and one still in fantasy. She dresses up in capes, plays with dolls and occasionally asks me if she can be a mermaid when she grows up. She is not yet what you would call a trusted source of medical information.

So where does that leave us? It places new responsibility on the growing group of adults around her, including adults I don’t always know very well.

Some may assume that my first request of her classmates’ parents is to stop packing PBJs in their child’s lunch sack, but I’ve actually never asked anyone to do that. My husband and I figure that the world is not peanut-free, and we are trying to prepare Emma for the real world. (This is not global permission extended for every child with a peanut allergy, as having peanuts in a classroom could be dangerous for kids who have an airborne allergy.)

The biggest item that stands between a safe Emma and an unsafe Emma is really the honesty of these adults.

I often have to ask them to be straight with me about what they do and do not know, so I can fill in knowledge gaps before she goes in to their care. It's easy to wave it away at a busy drop off, but would you really know what anaphylaxis looks like if it starts to unfold in a child before you? Do you know how an epinephrine injection works? Do you know how to read a label to make sure a snack is safe for Emma?

If not, that's OK. But we need to talk so I can get you up to speed.

We need to go over, in detail, what to do if Emma goes in to anaphylaxis while I’m not there. We need to talk about how to administer epinephrine, when to call 911 and to have the backup dose in hand on the way to the hospital, in case the first one isn’t enough.

I’ve learned some tricks of my own when it comes to being the parent of a child with severe allergies. I need the other adult’s full attention. I do whatever I can to ensure that I don’t have these conversations with a new teacher on the first day of school, for instance, when she has 16 new children and their parents swirling around her, asking where the bathroom is.

I need to be firm, but I also need to be approachable and matter-of-fact.

If I’m that anxious mom who intimidates her child’s new caregiver with hysterics or anxiety, they may not be open with me about what they don’t know. When an adult tells me that they don’t fully understand what anaphylaxis is or how the syringe works, I’m grateful. Then I can help show them what to look for and what to do. At the end of the day, the directions are actually pretty simple.

I’m like any other parent: I want my child to learn new things, make new friends, eat new foods and dream of being a mermaid, if she wants to. I just know I have a special compact with the adults around me, so my kid can do those things safely when she’s in their care.

As they say, it takes a village, and this village knows a thing or two how to administer epinephrine.

10 must-have registry items that will change your life, mama

The baby gear heavy hitters that should be top of your list

Calling all mamas-to-be! It's a fundamental truth of (impending) motherhood that your prepping-for-baby To Do list can feel a mile long, but really the best way to feel organized is to sort out the most important item at the top of your list: your registry. Sure the items you choose to include will end up running the gamut from nice-to-haves to absolutely essential game-changers, but mamas in the know quickly learn one thing: Not all baby gear is created equal.

So while you can and should pepper your registry with adorable inclusions that aren't necessarily can't-live-withouts (go ahead, add 'em!), you should make sure you're ticking the boxes on those pieces of baby gear that can be absolute life savers once you're in full-blown mama mode. From car seats to bouncers and playmats, your play and travel gear will be some of the most obvious important items on your list, but so can unexpected things, like a super comfy baby carrier and a snooze-inducing white noise machine. So to help you sort through the must-have options, we turned to the holy grail of motherhood that is buybuy BABY and handpicked 10 of the very best essential pieces that will change your life, we promise.

Keep reading Show less
Our Partners

Every week, we stock the Motherly Shop with innovative and fresh products from brands we feel good about. We want to be certain you don't miss anything, so to keep you in the loop, we're providing a cheat sheet.

So, what's new this week?

Earth Mama: Effective, natural herbal care for mamas and babies

Founded and grown in her own garage in 2002, Earth Mama started as an operation of one, creating salves, tinctures, teas and soaps with homegrown herbs. With a deep desire to bring the healing powers of nature that have been relied on for thousands of years to as many mamas as possible, Melinda Olson's formulas quickly grew into Earth Mama Organics. Since then, the brand has remained committed to manufacturing clean, safe and effective herbal solutions for the entire journey of motherhood, including pregnancy, breastfeeding and baby care, and even the loss of a baby.

Bravado Designs: Soothing sounds for a good night's sleep

With 28 years of serving pregnant and postpartum mamas under their belt, Bravado Designs is a true authority on the needs of changing bodies. It's true that we have them to thank for rescuing us from the uncomfortable and frumpy designs our own moms had to live with. Launched in Canada by two young mamas, they designed the first prototypes with extra leopard print fabric certain that a better bra was possible. Throughout the years they've maintained their commitment to ethical manufacturing while creating long-lasting products that truly work.

The Sill: Instagram-ready potted plants

We've long admired this female-founded brand and the brilliant mind behind it, Eliza Blank. (She even joined Motherly co-founder Liz Tenety on and episode of The Motherly Podcast!) The mission behind the business was simple: To make the process of bringing plants into your home as easy as possible, and as wonderful as the plant themselves. With their in-house, exclusively designed minimalist planters, the end result makes plant parenthood just a few clicks away.

Not sure where to start? Here's what we're adding to our cart:

Keep reading Show less

The 6 biggest lies I believed before having kids

Just about all of us had set assumptions about raising kids before we became parents ourselves.

Just about all of us had set assumptions about raising kids before we became parents ourselves. Some of these ideas might have been based on our own ideas of how we would absolutely do things differently than everyone else. Others, we believed what everyone else told us would happen would apply to our littles, too. But, that's not always the case, mama.

Below are six of the biggest lies I believed before having kids—and the reality of what actually happened for me.

1. Put your baby down drowsy, but awake

Keep reading Show less