Whenever I tell people Sam has severe allergies to milk, egg, and peanut, the conversation is always very similar.
Long (awkward? pensive?) pause.
“Ugh, that stinks. How old was he when you found out?”
Literally that is the exact same question every time. I have always wondered if people want to know more but can’t think of a better question, or just don’t know what to say, or what.
I’m assuming today that it is the former, and I thought I’d take the chance to share Sam’s story. It changed me, and 95% of what you’ll find on this blog is because of this story.
The story begins a few days before Sam was born, when I met a prophet in White House Black Market. I really did.
I was at a very upscale mall in our area. I was sitting on a chair, looking very pregnant, waiting for my mom, when a really well-accessorized, flashy-dressed, country-club-looking older woman sat down next to me. Since I was so obviously pregnant, that was a good conversation starter. When are you due? Is it a boy or girl? etc. etc.
“What’s his name going to be?”
This was almost four years ago, but I can still remember the markedly different tone her voice took on, and the way she looked off into the distance as she spoke.
Samuel. Like in the Bible. I’ve always loved that name. Well, may he just be a prophet to his generation. May he speak the truth to all those around him, and tell them how to serve the Lord.
She went on for a while actually, along the same lines. Then my mom returned, and I didn’t know what to say to the prophet with gold and diamonds everywhere. We left.
It was the oddest thing.
I think it’s funny how you pray differently for your children. For Ty, I always pray for his wife. I pray that God would protect him when he’s a teenager. I don’t know why.
But for Sam, her words always ringing in my head, I always pray that he would speak the truth to those around him, that God would use him to tell others how great He is, that he would be a light in his generation.
What in the world does this have to do with milk, egg, and peanut allergies, you’re wondering?
From the beginning, I knew two things. One, he was special, and two, there was something wrong with him.
Even as an anxious, inexperienced new mom, I knew very early there was something wrong. I still remember vividly the first time that Sam screamed. Not cried, screamed. I remember locking eyes with Todd, terror and helplessness clouding our faces. How could we have known that the cheese and yogurt I was eating translated via breast milk to poison for his poor little tummy?
And then there was the time I fed him a bottle of milk-based formula at church. He was about a month old. On the way home, I heard him throw up. Not only was the whole carseat soaked, but he was lethargic, drowsy, and out of it. I wanted to call 911 when I got to my mom’s, and everyone thought I was crazy. But I knew something wasn’t right.
Eventually, though, it was my mom who noticed it.
Sam wouldn’t look at her.
It might be nothing. We should probably just “get it checked.” But I knew she was right. The moments when the doctor couldn’t get Sam to look at her were some of the most awful, embarrassing, and scary of my life.
What was wrong with him? He cried. He was unsettled. He was withdrawn. He wouldn’t smile at you. He was scared and gittery. What kind of a baby was this?
You will never find “autism-like symptoms” on a checklist for allergies. It won’t say “won’t eat,” or “doesn’t like people.”
But what I want to shout from the rooftops is:
- follow your gut – there’s something to the “mothering instinct” thing
- food issues don’t only cause “digestive” symptoms
- the best thing you can do is pray for wisdom
That last one isn’t just a token, “Christian-ese” language I felt like I had to say.
For us, it was the answer.
Right in the midst of it all – first-time parents trying to calm, engage, and feed a troubled baby, people all over praying for the little guy – we discovered something silly: milk made a rash on Sam’s cheek.
Within a week of a milk-free diet, he was a different baby.
It would be nice if this were the beautiful end of the story. It sort of felt like it. A few months later we learned that his milk allergies were very high, and he also had egg and peanut. And the truth is, raising a child with severe food allergies and asthma often feels like you are living on a cliff. I am such a different person than I was three years, five months, and eighteen days ago, when Sam was born.
- I worry more.
- I make 19,651 delicious meals without a trace of milk, egg, or dairy.
- I sympathize with moms raising autistic kids or colicky babies.
- I know, I know, I know that God answers prayers.
- I feel that I have a porcelain-globe-of-a-child. Beautiful, fragile, a gift.
Whenever I am knee-deep in an asthma attack, epi-pen moment, or just worried about Sam, I wonder why in the world God gave a girl like me a porcelain-globe-child to worry about. But in a million more ways, I think it’s perfect. I’m a good mom for him. We’re good for each other. 🙂 (*Mental note: print this out and put in the refrigerator, when you need to read it in two days. 🙂 )