Have you ever cried over the mere thought of having to make a meal for your family? I have. Getting handed 5 pages with dietary restrictions of what your newly diagnosed son can and cannot eat will do that to a mom.
When K was first diagnosed as being dairy intolerant, that meant a new world that didn’t include milk, whey products, yogurt, or the thing he misses most, cheese. In addition to being dairy intolerant, we were also given guidelines to follow to ‘keep sugars separate.’ What this means is he cannot have a fruit sugar or anything derived from a fruit sugar within 4 hours of having a cane/refined sugar or anything derived from a cane/refined sugar. Do you have any idea how many things fall into those two categories, and how few foods don’t already contain both?!? Even foods that seem sugar-neutral, like honey, can be tainted to fall into the fruit category if the bees pollinated off of fruit to make the honey… when is the last time you asked where your honey came from?
After getting his diagnosis and visiting with the doctor, I was handed a several-page-list of guidelines to follow to help his body heal. When we got home that day and I started reading through the list, I was instantly overwhelmed. I struggled to digest the information in front of me. More than half of the words I couldn’t pronounce, let alone make sense of it enough to make a meal or grocery list. And eventually my son came up to me and told me he was hungry, and I began to emotionally fall apart.
More than half of the words I couldn’t pronounce, let alone make sense of it enough to make a meal or grocery list.
I found myself breaking down emotionally because of being overwhelmed by his new diagnosis, by his dietary guidelines, by these ingredients I couldn’t make sense of, by my child’s hunger and my fear of feeding him something he should no longer have or of mixing sugars. I felt scared for us, and I felt alone.
The truth is, I wasn’t alone. Even though in that exact moment I felt alone, I know I wasn’t, in more sense than one. I know that I am not the only parent out there to be completely overwhelmed with their child’s medical needs and dietary restrictions. And for me, it actually wasn’t the first time I have been overwhelmed with newly diagnosed medical conditions for one of my children.
Not only was it true that I wasn’t alone in being the only parent struggling with new medical needs and dietary restrictions, I am also blessed with supportive friends and family who are always only a phone call away. This day it took one phone call to a good friend who brought me back to reality with one simple statement and a question. She said to me “That’s a lot… Take it one meal at a time. What’s for dinner?”
It’s amazing to me that one simple question can bring overwhelmed me back to reality, back to neutral, back to the place where my brain actually works again instead of feeling all heavy and fuzzy.
There are still times in our journey where I feel alone. When I go to the grocery store and no one can help me because they have never had to ask their vendor if their bees pollinate off of fruit or not; when school starts again and I have to explain why my son can’t have food or treats brought by anyone but me; when we get invited to get together’s where there will be food and I have to pack food for him to eat because I don’t expect others to know his dietary restrictions; when I go to the natural grocery store and we discuss the guidelines and they tell me that they’ve seen where sugars had to be separated out before but never along with being dairy intolerant.
There are still times when I feel overwhelmed, like when my son begs to go to summer bible camp, and while my heart swells with love and pride, the preparer-of-all-foods in me cringes and wonders how in the world I am going keep him on his ‘diet’ while he is away for 4 days at camp. (You can read about how I managed to do that here!) Or when my son tells me he is tired of eating one of the few foods he can have that packs well for school lunches and I have to find another food so he isn’t eating the same thing every day every week.
But through all the stressful times, there are also amazing times that I am so grateful for, that hold me together, that remind me that I am not alone. Like when a friend sends me a photo of an ingredient list for a food that she thinks might work for K. Or when my husband organizes a sleepover for the kids at grandma’s house so that I can get a mental break and don’t have to think about food for 8+ solid hours. Or when I’m told that someone finds my blog helpful, and feels like they aren’t alone in their own journey of dietary restrictions for their kids.
I pray that if you are struggling with being overwhelmed, or feeling alone, that you’ve read this post and realize that you aren’t alone. There are others, like myself, who understand, and who are praying for you and know that you can do this! Reach out to your spouse, reach out to a friend you trust, or please email me or comment on this post!
You were chosen for this role, and you can do this, and you are enough!