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August 9, 2011

No Peanuts for the Peanut

It seems we’ve doubly failed in giving Jacob a nickname.


For one thing, the boy is not what you’d call tiny.  By his nine-month check up, he was just on the upper end of the mid-range height and weight percentiles, but before that he was almost off the charts.  When John and I see newborn babies now, with all those little, tiny fingers and toes, all we can think is, “We only saw Jacob that small on an ultrasound.”


For another thing, we’ve recently learned that, ironically, the little man is allergic to peanuts . . . and tree nuts . . . and dairy . . . and wheat . . . and egg whites.


Neither John nor I have any food allergies; there are few, if any, among our immediate families.  It is possible that Jacob will outgrow some or all of these sensitivities, but for now, we’re embarking on a whole new world of parenting.


The good news is that our pediatrician recommended a thus-far-excellent allergist, who was great with Jacob, very clear and easy with me, and whose office seems both gentle and thorough.  The testing didn’t bother Jacob, but part of that may be because he got to hang out in the waiting room, smiling at other patients in just his shoes and diaper for about ten minutes.  What a wild child.


The tough news is that since I’m nursing Jacob, I needed to make some pretty drastic changes in my diet, as well as his.  I consider it a blessing that the night before our visit to the allergist, John and I had a shrimp dish with a creamy barbecue sauce and buttermilk biscuits for dinner and ice cream for dessert.  That isn’t happening again any time soon!


For almost two weeks, I’ve gone without dairy or nuts, in an effort to manage Jacob’s eczema, which I didn’t realize could be caused by food allergies.  We had been using daily applications of either over-the-counter or prescription-strength cortisone, but I also didn’t realize that cortisone is a topical steroid—not something you want to rub onto your infant’s skin every night.


While it wasn’t that hard to keep dairy or nuts out of Jacob’s diet (thank goodness Cheerios are dairy-free!), it was challenging for me.  On the one hand, it turns out avocado is a delicious—and perhaps more nutritious?—alternative to cream cheese on a bagel.  But it also turns out that once you get beyond a bagel, milk or some element of milk seems to be in almost everything.


On the way home from the allergist that day, I grabbed some sesame chicken for lunch (it’s easy to avoid dairy and even nuts, if you’re careful, in Asian cuisine) and some soymilk to have in my cereal the next morning.  When I got home, I read the ingredient list on my current box of cereal, to be sure it was okay.


Did you know there is a milk product in Honey Bunches of Oats?  I did not.


I started to think about our kitchen, and realized that on a given day we have at least three kinds of cheese in the fridge and four kinds of nuts in either the pantry, the fridge, or the freezer.  If that weren’t enough, we keep two kinds of butter, plus margarine—one of the kinds made with dairy.


My initial thought at this juncture was, “Wow, I’m going to lose a few pounds this week.”


My second thought was, “Where is the chocolate going to come from?”


I went online to find myriad resources for dairy-free, nut-free, all-kinds-of-other-things-free cooking.  It’s great that there’s so much out there, but it can be overwhelming, too.  I knew I needed to take it cheese-less, butter-less meal at a time, but it was easy to get caught up.


Again, I found myself asking, “Where is the chocolate going to come from?”


So the first order of business was to make a chocolate beet cake.  Sure, there was chocolate in that cake (Ghirardelli semi-sweet chips are dairy-free), but it was by no means a chocolate cake.  I spent the next three days polishing off most of it.  John helped, but I did most of the damage.  And damage it was!  The day after it was gone, I told John I felt much better than I had the past few days.  He asked if I knew what the difference was.  I couldn’t guess.


“No beet cake,” he told me.  And he was right.


If anyone catches me trying to make a beet cake again, please do whatever you can to stop me.  Just inject chocolate directly into my mouth and hand me a glass of iced decaf coffee with a splash of soymilk.  Then show me a picture of Jacob to remind me what this is all about.


Two weeks in, I am still oscillating between thinking this isn’t that big a deal to thinking it’s almost impossible.  Earlier this week, I couldn’t see a difference in Jacob’s skin sans cortisone.  I called the doctor’s office, hoping they’d tell me to just forget it and go back to the cortisone.  It’s not ideal, but it was working, right?


Wrong.  The better (although more challenging) answer was that I should either cut to a very restricted diet—one meat, one vegetable, and rice—or cut out wheat and eggs, to see if that makes a difference. I’m taking the wheat and eggs route first, and that already has my mind spinning.


The worst part is that this means no Cheerios for Jacob.  There’s some wheat in there that I thought might be okay, but it’s got to go if we’re going to figure this thing out.  Bummer of the year.


I’ve done a great deal of cooking and baking since we got married, even more so since Jacob was born.  At first glance, it seems like God’s taking away the freedom I had to craft whatever I liked in the kitchen.  But I realize that what I need to see is that He’s prepared me for this stage of Jacob’s care with the knowledge of what ingredients are typically in the foods we eat regularly, and with the cooking confidence to go in there and make a healthy alternative for our family . . . that doesn’t involve beets.

  1. Rebecca says:

    oh my word. Good luck! I’ll most definitely be praying for you.

  2. Sara says:

    I am so sorry to hear this! When there are allergies it makes eating at friends houses, eating out, or even preparing your own meals harder. Kyla couldn’t have dairy, when she first started on solids but now does just fine with them. So hopefully it is something he will grow out of when he gets older. If I hear of any recipes or cook books I will let you know!

    • Thanks, Sara! Eating out is tough–we’re kind of just not doing it right now. But that means we’re saving some money, too, so not all bad! Glad to hear Kyla grew out of it.

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