[This AllergyEats Blog post written by AllergyEats' newest team member, Jesse Pezzullo]
I used to love ice cream – who doesn’t? No one is ever in a bad mood when they are eating ice cream and it conjures up memories of sunny days, friends and good times. After getting married and becoming pregnant, I had visions of all the fun things from my childhood, like eating ice cream on Cape Cod, that I would do with my child someday. I had never heard of food allergies and, much to my surprise, by the time my daughter was a year old, my husband and I learned that she had both an egg and a dairy allergy. When she was first diagnosed, I was so overwhelmed at what to feed her on a day-to-day basis that I didn’t think about the long-term. She was only one, so I really wasn’t thinking about her holding an ice cream cone yet.
As time went on, we figured out what to feed her, we knew how much Benadryl to give her if necessary, and we carried Epi-pens everywhere we went. We got the hang of it and life returned to normal after her food allergy diagnosis. By then, we had two children under the age of three and our family, including my parents, began a tradition of taking the ferry to Martha’s Vineyard for Father’s Day so that we could enjoy the boat ride, water, and being among the first to ride the carousel on the Vineyard before the summer crowds took over the island. That first year, my father, who loves treats and all things fun, wanted to get the kids an ice cream on the Vineyard, just like I had done with him so many times as a child. I tried – I really did – to find something safe for my daughter to order and I asked all sorts of questions about scoops, containers, and hand washing. I had a knot in my stomach, and by the time the frozen treat arrived (sorbet of some sort), I was no longer enjoying the day. Within a few minutes, I saw red splotches on her face. They could have simply been sticky toddler spots, they could have simply been sunblock causing a rash, or they could have been… an allergic reaction! My guard was up, and I declared that she needed to stop eating while I promptly gave her Benadryl. I began to hate ice cream.
My father seemed to question my reaction to her reaction, but this whole allergy thing was still relatively new, so he knew enough not to argue with me about whether she was really having an allergic reaction. We went on with our outing and had a great time, but that night as I lay in bed, I thought of all the occasions to come in her life when, for her, going out for ice cream would not be something she could do on a whim.
At first, I had thought ice cream wouldn’t be a big deal because it was more of a seasonal treat, but as we made friends in our new community, we were invited to lots of toddler and preschool birthday parties. All the menus seemed to feature pizza, cake and some sort of ice cream. An hour before each party, I would make a dairy-free pizza, bake a dozen egg- and dairy-free cupcakes, and if necessary, put a scoop of Tofutti ice cream in a cold storage container. All of this required constant planning and time, which are two things that are challenging for a mom of young kids. Truth be told, I would occasionally delight in having a conflicting commitment on the calendar just so I didn’t have to start the cycle of grocery shopping, cooking/baking, and carting food to yet another party. Even once we were there, I had to watch her like a hawk to make sure she didn’t mistakenly grab someone else’s juice box and risk a reaction by using a straw that someone’s dairy-covered lips may have touched already. She was too young to know the risk, but I knew it all too well, having seen her throw up and break out in hives so many times already from similar mistakes. My anxiety was at an all-time high and I was envious of others who didn’t have the same “stuff” to deal with as I did. I was becoming bitter - and the irony was that sweet, delicious ice cream was a big part of the cause!