This past weekend we learned that Snow Pea is allergic to eggs. Poor girl loves them, gobbled them up like candy, but before she had finished her meal hives began appearing around her mouth, chin and jawline. So we did what any reasonable parent would do and took them away then immediately called the on-call nurse at our pediatrician's office. She gave us instructions on what to watch for and administering ben.adryl if necessary and reassured that most kids outgrow this type of allergy but that we should stay away from eggs right now. We were nervous, checking on our breathing throughout her entire morning nap, but honestly her reaction was very mild. The bumps were gone no more than 15 minutes after they appeared and she never fussed or whined to indicate that they were bothering her in any way.
I have still had the incident on my mind though and wanted to follow up with her actual pediatrician to discuss what to expect, what to stay away from and whether we should think about allergy testing. The doctor was nice, helpful and informative and she made me feel guilty as hell. She said that her office doesn't recommend eggs at all for babies under a year, and that introducing them before a year can actually cause the allergy. She also said that this allergy can be very serious and may lead other even more dangerous allergies like peanuts and that she could be allergic for life due to early exposure. So what I heard was "your daughter is allergic to eggs and it might be very dangerous and she'll have to live with it forever and it's ALL YOUR FAULT."
I got off the phone and just felt so terrible. Like I had screwed up, made a huge mistake and jeopardized her health for life. This perfect little girl trusts me every second of every day to take care of her. To change her if she's wet, to keep her from getting hurt, to feed her when she's hungry. And in doing those things for her there are so many decisions to be made: Do I use cloth diapers or disposables? Do I rush in the second she cries or let her try to soothe herself? Should I give her a dose of ty.lenol when she's teething or stay clear of medications? What foods should I give her for lunch today? All of these little moments seem to have a huge weight behind them. And when things go well, when I choose to let her self soothe and she's asleep again in less than 5 minutes, I feel good about the choices I'm making. But when they go wrong or worse, when someone puts their opinion into the mix, that's when the mommy guilt sets in.
I can't help it sometimes. I know I'm doing my best. I know that I love my daughter more than anything and that I am being proactive about raising her but the damn guilt is always just around the corner waiting to get me. When the egg incident first happened, I felt a twinge of guilt but I reminded myself that she was fine and that now we know and prevent anything worse from occurring. But talking to the doctor poked a hole into my mommy confidence. I can still hear her saying "well we don't recommend that at all, but what's done is done". That phrase took from feeling like an involved parent looking out for my child's best interest, to a heap of guilty feelings. I felt like I had made the worst kind of mistake. I felt that when it came to caring for my child's health, I had failed.
I've since talked myself off the edge of the guilt ledge, thanks to a lot of love and support from my husband and my lovely twitter family, but I can't say I won't blame myself if it turns out she does have a lifelong food allergy. And I have to say I kind of resent the world for creating that thought in my head. Of course I know that as her parent, I have more influence on her life than just about anyone else, but I am not the only influence. There are so many variables in the universe that I have zero control over and her immune system is one of them. But somehow everything we do or don't do as parents is blamed for everything that happens to a child. If something is wrong with your baby, the first thing people jump to is what you did to cause it. Your child has reflux? You must be feeding them the wrong thing or not burping them well. Your child has colic? You must be overstimulating or understimulating them to make them cry so much. Your baby still doesn't sleep through the night? You must be spoiling them or not spoiling them enough. It's enough to drive anyone crazy!
So my kid is allergic to eggs. Did I really cause it? Do I really have that much power and influence over her body? Maybe. But do I have to feel guilty about it? Do I have to writhe in sadness, thinking I've destroyed my child's life? No. I need to let myself off the hook a little. I need to remember that no matter how hard I try, I will make mistakes. I don't have to be a perfect parent because there is no such thing. And more than that, there is no definition of a perfect parent. For every "proven" opinion out there there is one in direct opposition with the same amount of research behind it. I've heard from countless people in the past few days telling me that their pediatricians recommended starting eggs and even peanuts before a year instead of after. So who's right? I'll probably never know. But what I do know is this: I am a good mom, this probably won't be my last case of mommy guilt and it might be time to find a new pediatrician.