How many of us allergy mothers have been asked ‘is your baby crying a lot?’ and almost in the same breath: ‘and how are you doing?‘ or ‘how are you coping? Babies cry.’
There seems to be an inclination of health professionals to think the mother has PND (post natal depression) or is just plain exhausted and overwrought and that this is the reason you are presenting with your baby for unexplained crying. I have seen this time and time again when I’ve spoken to others whose children have allergies. It can lead to a longer than necessary time to diagnose due to needing to ask for help over and over before being heard or before someone even believes there may be something wrong with the child and we’re not making it up. I’m not saying it happens with every GP or Public Health Nurse but it’s happened enough to me and people I know of to be an issue.
It is so disheartening. I feel like I was at my most vulnerable after my child was born. Having had a difficult labour and emergency c-section, I was plain exhausted and emotional and coupled with a history of depression I was a prime candidate for PND. When my child had colic, it was waved away as just that, and we coped and after a few months he was more settled but never completely. He became a lot worse after a stomach bug around his first birthday, I’m ashamed to say and still feel guilty about the fact that he was almost 2 before his dairy allergy was diagnosed. Could I have insisted more to the GP that this was an issue? Should I have argued more when it was suggested that my child was ‘playing me’ and this is why he was up crying every night? Luckily my son was thriving and putting on weight and was in great form during the day so his ‘secret’ hour of crying every night was hidden and it was easy for someone to dismiss it as not for a real reason, and my sleep-deprived-fuzzy-headedness made me doubt myself even more also. Ironically, if he had been losing weight or in poor form I may have been taken seriously a lot quicker.
He was like a new child when he was well and able to sleep every night, it was wonderful, it was like my boy was always meant to be, healthy and content and able to sleep and in great form as a result.
We are our children’s ambassadors in the world and their protectors and caregivers. They are the most precious gift and when tasked with the job of looking after them, it feels terrible to have failed at diagnosing something in a timely manner and left them in pain. I wish I had trusted my instinct more. I also wonder if his colic in the early months was due to dairy he was receiving through the breast milk. It is a minefield of guilt and worry if I start thinking about it, and I try not to. Reading some of the latest interviews with other allergy mammies lately has brought it back to my mind again.
Here are some tips for keeping a food and symptom diary which is an important thing to bring along when visiting a health professional if your child has a suspected food allergy. Do take notes of anything you think might be relevant and write down what you want to say before you go. Be assertive in your instinct that something is wrong with your child.
P.S. Please excuse my woeful cartoon, but you get the gist.