This month, I've actually faced one the biggest health challenges of my life. And it had nothing to do with my own body. My littlest girl, who just turned 5 at the end of October, was experiencing chronic stomach pains, so the doctor suggested -- in light of my own wheat allergy -- that we try her on a gluten-free diet.
It's one thing to deny yourself all the "normal" foods and goodies that other people enjoy, but quite another to have to force this kind of restriction on a small child. Arguably, this month has been harder on me than it has on her.
First off, let me say that she was actually begging me to take her to the doctor. How many 5-year-olds do that? So we can gauge the level of her discomfort. When we left the pediatrician's office at the end of last month, I tried to make her new diet sound like a special adventure.
"You get to eat Mommy's special foods now."
"Mommy's foods? Wheat-free muffins? Yay!"
It didn't take long for that "Yay" to melt into "When can I eat wheat again?" and later, in a much more imploring tone: "When I can eat wheat again, can I have XXX??"
The bittersweet news is that her stomach pains have subsided. I keep reminding her of how much better she feels, but all she can think of is Frosted Mini-Wheats and flour tortillas.
In a few days, we'll start slowly reintroducing wheat into her diet. I am bracing myself for the results. If she still feels well, great! But then we have to start from Ground Zero figuring out what's wrong if and when the stomach pains return. If she starts having symptoms again, then we've nailed the problem -- which means facing a lifetime of living without wheat. (I'm managing OK, but for me it's just an inconvenience with the added benefit of keeping my carb intake down)
Think for a moment, if you will, about what this means for a child: NO regular pasta whatsoever; NO regular baked goods, including muffins, bagels, donuts, cookies, crackers, etc.; NO breaded items, like fish sticks and chicken nuggets; NO pizza crust or cous-cous or regular waffles or pancakes. This means always being the weird kid with food allergies. Always having to bring your strange special foods from home. Never being able to eat birthday cake. It's killing me.