Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Mommy Guilt, Or How I Caused My Child's Allergies

I caused my son's allergies.

I know I did. I just don't know how I did it yet.

Was it the peanuts I ate (or didn't eat) during pregnancy? The medication I took? The hospital birth I chose, where my child was a) exposed to horrible bugs, and b) delivered via c-section, putting him at higher risk for allergies? Was it the formula the nurses gave him while I slumbered away, oblivious, sleeping off the effects of the anesthesia and pain killers?

What about the ear infections he had? We must have given him gallons of antibiotics. Or that horrible illness he had when he was so very little and the doctor told us to alternate Tylenol and Ibuprofen until the fever finally dropped? Did I damage his gut with all the medication so those sensitizing proteins could find their way in?

Or maybe it was the vaccines. Vaccines just feel wrong and they were given right around the time of that first allergic reaction.

Or maybe it was just our yuppie lifestyle. We live in the suburbs. We painted and carpeted his first room. We exposed him to all that urban pollution.

Or what about the things we used in our house? We could have restricted all those processed foods, those kitchen cleaners, the additives in his bath soap and diaper cream. All those baby products...did they contain sensitizing proteins that caused a cutaneous sensitization, setting him up for a food reaction later?

And how SELFISH of my husband and I to conceive in the spring so he was born in the winter! A summer birth would have been so much safer.

Oh, and let's just get down to it: my choice of spouse. After all, he's the one with the environmental allergies. So yes, I caused it, but clearly my husband laid the genetic foundation.

Maybe I introduced solids too early! I was right there with that spoon and jar of applesauce the day he turned 4 months old. I loved the idea of feeding him solids. Maybe it was that simple.

Or not so simple...maybe I didn't feed him solids fast enough. After all, kids in Africa and Israel eat peanuts as babies and THEY don't have nearly as many allergies as we do in the US or Canada.

Or was it the sunscreen? I sunscreened him every day. All those chemicals on his little baby skin...maybe it was the chemicals. Or the Vitamin D! Now they're finding out that allergies and Vitamin D deficiency are tied together! Maybe I sunscreened him TOO much and his body didn't make enough Vitamin D.

Or was it the cat? Or that we didn't have a dog? Did we need barnyard animals? Should I have let him play in the dirt more? Should our house have been cleaner? Dirtier? Was it the dust mites in the pillows? Was there mold or fungus we didn't know about in the walls? Should we have lived in an older house? A newer house?


I types that entire passage in less than 3 minutes. Really. If I let it, the mommy guilt literally POURS out of me. And, every single one of those things I mentioned above has been on the table (or still is on the table) as a possible cause or contributing factor for food allergies.

I think I need a minute.

OK, I'm back. 

I love the "what causes allergies" game. I really do. I've played it for years, read all the research, listened to every crackpot theory and the not-so-crackpot ones. I've considered infecting my child with worms, searched out probiotics not grown on milk culture, considered the trip into Chinatown with the Chinese-speaking friend to hunt down huang bai and ling zhi to concoct my own FAHF-2, EVEN CONSIDERED SWAPPING POOH FOR HEAVEN'S SAKE!

I love it because I hate what I have to face if I stop playing. I hate that my kid may have to go through life with these allergies and there's nothing I can do. I'm not going to be that dad from Lorenzo's Oil who camped out in medical libraries until he figured it out and then badgered more than 100 companies to make the medicine he needed. 

I've heard for so long that "a cure is just 5 years away" that I can't undrink the Kool-Aid. He shouldn't have to be going away to college with this burden.

But he is. He is.

I wish on every star. Every penny in the well. Every dandelion. How do you ever stop wishing?

I caused it.

I should have been able to fix it.

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