“Laurence and I always knew we wanted a big family. Coming from large families ourselves, it is all we have ever known. Our great childhoods and bonds with our own siblings were something we knew we wanted to recreate in our own family. We were fortunate to fall pregnant quickly, and after a fairly eventless 9 months, Teddy was born. We both instantly fell madly in love, as you do. After a complicated delivery, we brought Teddy home after 3 days, elated and overjoyed, but the transition to parenthood wasn’t an easy one for us.
From the first day, we knew there was something wrong, something different about Teddy, and this was apparent from when he was only a few days old. It started with a rash that permanently covered his body, ‘baby acne,’ his puffy face, his explosive diapers, his sickness and reflux, his difficulty to settle, and his restless sleep. When I write it all down like this knowing what I know now, it seems obvious, but as a first-time mom, you put all your faith and trust in the professionals. They reassured me time and time again this was all typical, new baby stuff.
Teddy was born on the 91st percentile and managed to maintain this throughout the first year of his life. This contributed greatly to why the doctors did not diagnose the allergies because he was exclusively breastfed and ‘thriving’ on paper. Although it is painful to admit, when I look back on the first few months of Teddy’s life, we had a very unhappy baby. His eczema would ooze through his clothing causing garments to become fused to his skin, he rarely slept due to the constant itching, and he had around eight explosive diapers every single day. Multiple times we presented at A&E, babe in arms, in tears, and at a loss for what else we could do, as we felt we had exhausted all other options and were still struggling to care for our inconsolable baby.
The day I saw Teddy have an anaphylactic reaction changed me forever, not just as a mother, but as a wife, a friend—I changed as a person to my core, watching before my very eyes how precious and delicate life and health is, and how it can be taken away in an instant. I can remember the details of the morning I gave Teddy porridge containing cow’s milk like it was yesterday. Within seconds of giving him the very first tiny baby spoonful, I knew something wasn’t right. He started coughing and I could see a distinct look of panic in his eyes. I bent him forward and gave him a sharp pat on the back, thinking it must be a result of the new taste/texture.
I gave him another mouthful, again followed by coughing and spluttering, and at this point, he started getting upset. I got him out of the highchair and within seconds he was hysterical. I looked at his face and was worried, but I just couldn’t put my finger on what it was about him that made me feel so concerned. I took him out into the garden for some fresh air to calm him down. The next time I looked at his face, it was completely unrecognizable. I ran into the house screaming for help, to which my brother, Joe, who luckily was there, came running. He took one look at Teddy and I could see from the look on his face he was just as scared as me.
All of the information went through my head from all of the first aid courses I’d attended over the years. After treating him for choking to no avail, I decided to ring for an ambulance—thank god I did. Teddy went in and out of consciousness, was wheezing, and he looked like a baby I have never seen before. His eyes were almost completely swollen shut and his bottom lip was so swollen it just hung down on his chin. I focused on the sound of the sirens in the distance and ran out into the street crying as I heard it getting louder and louder. When the paramedics arrived, they whisked Teddy out of my arms and ran with him into the ambulance. They gave him a shot of adrenaline, a shot of steroids, placed him on oxygen, and told me we needed to leave immediately.
I got into the bed and they strapped Teddy to me, giving him another shot of adrenaline on the way. The usual 20-minute journey took 7 minutes. As we pulled up, Teddy was taken from me and ran into the hospital where a full team of medical staff was waiting. I followed behind them in a daze, feeling pins and needles from head to toe, buzzing in my ears, needing my brother to hold me up and practically carry me to the room where they had taken our baby. After amazing care in Accident and Emergency, Teddy was admitted to the children’s ward where he made a full and quick recovery. We left that day knowing our lives had permanently changed, armed with two Jext Pens, and they haven’t left his side since.
We have come a long way since Teddy’s anaphylaxis. We have had many hospital appointments, skin prick testing, blood tests, and multiple food challenges in hospitals, and we currently know Teddy has allergies to dairy, egg, sesame, tree nuts, peas, avocado, kidney beans, lentils, shellfish, celery, and apples, as well as pollen, grass, dog and animal dander, and dust mites. We have gained such a greater understanding of what will trigger a reaction, we know what to look out for and how to prevent accidental reactions, though we still battle with reactions we couldn’t predict. When Teddy was 2 years old, on his Christening day, he had his first asthma attack. He has had countless asthma attacks since then and is now diagnosed as ‘severely asthmatic.’ He has open access to the children’s ward at our local hospital, where Teddy is now well known and is made to feel like a returning celebrity at every visit.
In December of 2017, we had our second baby boy, Brodie. Upon the advice of our dietician, I ate and drank everything a pregnant person would during their pregnancy. We decided at the first sight of allergies I would exclude allergens from my diet to continue breastfeeding in the hopes of preventing Brodie from going through what our little Teddy had to endure. Teddy’s allergies had a huge impact on Laurence and me, and admittedly, it did not take much to convince us to cut out dairy. It was Christmas Eve at 9 days old, to be exact. By February, Brodie was having the all too familiar explosive diapers with a sore, itchy face and body, so I continued to exclude more food from my diet until we reached some kind of calm. Brodie has had multiple reactions where his throat and eyes have swelled and is currently free from twelve foods. We will be having more skin prick testing, blood tests, and challenges this year, and look forward to hopefully crossing some off the list.
In August of 2020, the baby train continued, and in the middle of a global pandemic, we were blessed with our third baby, a little girl named Aurora. We are slowly weaning her and exposing her to allergens over time in a controlled way. Due to the family genetics, we have been told to prepare for Aurora to have allergies too, and with experience on our side, we are prepared to face whatever reactions come our way. We are currently raising three babies with allergies, our home is their safe place where no foods are off-limits. As our children continue to grow and flourish, we strive to provide a home where our children feel safe, one where friends are always welcome, and nobody is excluded.
Allergies have become part and parcel of our life, and we have learned how to juggle them so our children never miss or go without. Before we had our boys, we were so ignorant of the life-altering impact food allergies can have, and to say allergies have changed our lives would be an understatement. As much as we do our best to not allow them to control our lives, or stop the boys from having an as ‘normal’ a life as possible, allergies are constantly at the forefront of our minds. They are considered in the everyday decisions we make and are lurking away in our darkest worries keeping us awake at night.
Laurence and I make up a dream team when it comes to managing our family and our additional needs. When I think of how far we have come together and what we continue to be faced with on a daily basis, when I think of all the reactions and attacks we have dealt with, the sleepless nights, the anxieties and fears, the difficulty in getting a diagnosis, being turned away from the doctors week after week, the hospital admissions, and juggling our family around to make it work, I know we were meant to be on this journey together.
It is learning on the job, no handbook, a no instructions kind of role. It’s not easy. We continue to make the best out of what we have. If we can overcome this, we can achieve anything! The allergy community is a loving, welcoming, and strong one, and should anyone reading this ever find themselves in need, we will welcome you with open arms.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Katie Aspinall of Manchester, England. You can follow their journey on Instagram. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
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