Other than the occasional cold and runny nose, both of my children have been perfectly healthy. Until now, that is. Last week, my 7-month-old son had a severe reaction after eating eggs, and he’s been diagnosed with an egg allergy.
Even though I work in a world where I see sick children every day and I’m all-too-familiar with the harsh realities that many families face with the illness of child, I wasn’t prepared for this. And let’s be honest, in the world of sick children, this is nothing compared to what some families are facing. Despite all of that, it’s been really hard for me.
One of the things I’ve found most difficult is the guilt. It feels as though somehow this is my fault. I think back to that moment when I put a tiny piece of scrambled egg in his mouth, and I wish I could take it back. My husband reminds me that I didn’t do anything wrong, that he was going to have that reaction at some point whether it was me or someone else giving it to him, on that day or any other. My mind knows that is true; my heart has a hard time believing it.
As his mother, the one who grew this little person in her body and who has been responsible for taking care of him since his first breath, it is easy to believe that I am also responsible for theoutcome of everything in his life. If something goes wrong, I must have done something wrong. Without realizing it, I’ve been believing that lie.
And an even more shocking realization for me has been that, previously, when I had two perfectly healthy kids, I felt pride in that. I follow all of my doctor’s recommendations, I read parenting books, and I know all of the current safety guidelines. Without even knowing it, I took great pride in my parenting- as if my kids were healthy simply because I had done everything right.
If they were perfectly healthy because I’d been the perfect mother, no wonder I feel guilty when one of them suddenly isn’t perfect anymore. I’ve taken credit when the credit wasn’t mine, so now I’m taking on the guilt that isn’t mine as well.
Quieting the “what-ifs”
As soon as the reality of a severe food allergy sunk in, my brain went into overdrive:
My son won’t be able to eat birthday cake on his first birthday. What if he accidentally eats a muffin, a waffle, some mayonnaise? (After all, eggs seem to be in almost everything).
How can I trust a babysitter to watch him when a simple oversight in feeding him could mean life or death? How will I be able to send him to school knowing that he will likely be exposed to things that could harm him?
I even pictured the moment that I send him off to college. In my mind’s eye, I was the mom I never wanted to be- the one that was worried sick, picturing the worst outcome, convinced that my child just couldn’t handle life on his own.
Working through it
I’m beginning to get some things straight in my mind as I sort through my new reality. As a parent, I’m supposed to shepherd my two little lambs through life until they reach adulthood. But, it’s not my journey; it’s theirs. I can’t control or predict what their journey will look like or what surprises will come. I have to let go of my expectations and hopes of perfection.
I also can’t fight the battles of tomorrow. I have to do the best that I can today. Today I will make sure that my babysitter knows what my son can and cannot eat. Today, I will make sure that I am eating what I’m supposed to, since I’m still nursing. Today, I will read a little more and learn a little more about his allergy. Today, I’ll call his doctor if I have questions. And today, I’ll be honest that I’m still in this place of wishing that I could rewind and make it all go away. That’s okay; that’s the best I can do today.
And, I have faith that when tomorrow brings tomorrow’s problems, I will be able to face them, too, knowing that the outcome is not within my control. I am simply supposed to be a responsible steward of the wonderful gifts I’ve received in these two children.