Updated: Dec 14, 2020
Yesterday my oldest daughter turned 14.
At the end of the day, when I was in bed, I was thinking about everything that we have already lived, learned and grown since she was born.
She was our first daughter. It was a very desired pregnancy. Being a mother was what I wanted to be... I happened to be an engineer too; but being a mother was my dream all the way. We had already been together for seven years and the idea of having a baby was a mutual desire. Even though I was only 21 and still halfway through university. Why not? We had a home, work and a stable life.
It was a kind of a calm pregnancy, sometimes my asthma was out of control and I needed assistance.
Today, when I think about my pregnancies, I realise that the only pregnancy which I had no asthma or allergies issues was Alice's pregnancy and she has no allergies.
Matilde was a 38 weeks baby, natural birth without resorting to anaesthesia or any other medication. It was a fantastic birth.
I really wanted to breastfeed but she didn’t get a good grip. We were always correcting. But after feed her I noticed that she was very red with hives all over her body, vomiting, diarrhoea and pain. The weight went down she lost almost two pounds in the first three weeks.
The paediatrician send us to the allergist. In our first appointment I was breastfeeding her and the doctor said it was best to switch to bottle. There were several attempts in which she got worse from day to day. Blood tests confirmed an allergy to cow's milk protein, to the three main proteins. The indication was to wean completely and switch to adapted soy milk. First bottle and the reaction was the same as cow's milk.
I remember the exact moment when I breastfed her the last time of what I thought and how I felt. Completely lost.
I was 22 years old and I was not prepared to have a daughter with allergies. I was a daughter with allergies myself. I remember seeing my mother desperate with me in her arms again and again during my asthma attacks. And now I was the mother and was me feeling all that pain and helplessness.
It was not long before Matilde had her first anaphylaxis which ended in an anaphylactic shock. She was six months old and I still feel her body stop fighting and her being lifted from my lap to the resuscitation room. It was many minutes before we found out she was in a coma. Those were long days when we just tried to hold on.
But she woke up and she's now 14 years old. I am the mother of a beautiful 14 year old girl. She has been a fighter. Only God knows what we've been through.
With her we learned how far a parents love goes. With her I learned to give my mother a deep and true value. It was with her that I discovered that I can do more than I ever dreamed. That all stones are stairs. For them I give my voice, that I fight and I always try to help those who cross us on this journey.
Allergies entered our home 13 years ago. When I was a child with allergies and asthma, I never worried though, it was my mother's concern. Now it has been ours, our fight our life.
I chose to raise my head and my voice. I did not choose that my children have food allergies but I chose how to deal and live with them.
Childhood is the cornerstone of a happy adult life. A good childhood full of good memories, smells and moments... Going to school and having the same rights, the same opportunities, the same possibilities. Growing up with allergies and happy is possible. With care, being informed and aware; nothing can stop a child from being happy.
Matilde is 14 years old... she still has allergies (not the same ones she had in childhood) but she grows happy. She goes to an International school, she's a scout, ex ballet dancer, has already spoken in the United Nations model for LGBTQ + rights, she camps, she has pyjama parties... she is a teenager like so many others, but she has allergies. She has a "village" that looks after her and helps us to let her go safely. It is not the allergies that define her, it is everything else that makes her what she is.
Don't lose hope, don't lose your voice. Together we will go further, for a more aware world, for my children and yours.