The relief of diagnosis and finally understanding what’s wrong with your reflux, allergy baby is a huge step for any family, whether you’re facing an IGE or non-IGE allergy. The day after our son received his initial diagnosis of Cows Milk Protein Allergy, I was surprised at how many people thought this was the first step of a gruelling battle. They made ‘helpful’ remarks like:
“Hope your marriage is strong enough for this.”
“What a b@tch, eh! Don’t worry, you’ll forget that you liked going out.”
“Oh, I’m so sorry. That will be such a strain on your family.”
I won’t lie. My eyebrow must have looked like it was trying to climb off my face.
“But we’re home free! We know what’s wrong now. He’ll just eat dairy free. Like you know? Duh! We don’t actually need bovine booby juice!”
And while the truth of the matter is somewhere between the two reactions, there are definitely things we can do to make the more difficult days a little bit easier. The days where we’re still trying to find the right milk or exclude the right foods from our diets. The days where we’re waiting to see if the baby has reflux as well or the vomiting was caused by the non-IGE allergy.
Firstly, use alarms and timers. I’m not kidding. As a person with generally adequate to good time keeping, the shock of non-IGE allergy baby exhaustion hit me like a metal bar in the knees. 6 months of burnt meals, cold coffees, and a baby screaming because I forgot to warm and then cool the elemental formula, led me to the (less than timely!) conclusion that every, forking thing needs an alarm or a timer. If the bags under your eyes are as big as the peepers themselves, then I strongly suggest you get timing!
Lay the clothes for the next day at the foot of your bed the night before. This may sound old school ma’am-ish and certainly lacks a spontaneity I’d come to take for granted, I know. But when the Health Visitor, MIL or even the friendly neighbour who you arranged to have over for coffee and baby cuddles, show up when you have forgotten they’re coming (don’t scoff! When you’re rocking out on 4 1/2 hours sleep or less, these sorts of things genuinely do start happening to you!), you will thank me. After all, a backwards jumper and slightly tousled hair will feel so much more dignified than your crusty vomjamas (allergy Mama slang for the pyjamas your baby stealth vomited on during the night).
Shower. Every day. Whether you want to or not. Whether you think you need to or not. Think vomjamas but all day long. Sadly, babies don’t just stealth vomit at night. And non-IGE allergy babies certainly don’t. You’re unlikely to succeed at smelling completely vom-free, no one expects you to. But stale vom…? Now come on. Only the very best of friends will tell you about that smell and even then, don’t bank on it! The chances are, that not even they will want to prod the beast that didn’t sleep.
Try to let your stress out in different ways. This situation is ridiculous and hard. It’s not you. But hiding your head in the biscuit cupboard and shovelling for dear life, slugging wine in the bathroom or repeatedly blowing your top will take their toll on you later. So if you have to stand in your living room howl like a hyena at the insanity for a moment, do it and don’t apologise. If you need to dance away your exhaustion and anger like a demented puppet on speed, do it! And sometimes crying will be unavoidable, but most times it feels way more empowering to laugh away your stress like a loon than let it out in tears.
And last but not least, be kind to yourself. Is the baby alive? Are you alive? And is the father under the porch? Then seriously, you really are doing great.
Xx Allergy Mama