Wednesday, November 30, 2005


One of the many surprises about motherhood came in a surprising form. The peanut. I hadn't given it much thought before I had kids, but shortly after Grace's first birthday, that changed drastically.

We were visiting my parents in Texas while Colin was away to Scotland. My dad was helping me during church on Sunday by standing in the back with Gracie who was 13 months old. She was tired and fussy from the traveling and the time difference so he gave her a peanut butter cookie to appease her. It didn't work and she just grew more agitated. So we quickly left after the service, went home, and I put her down for a nap. She kept crying for about twenty minutes, but I thought she just needed to let out some energy, so I left her. Finally, her grandma had all she could take of hearing this, so I went in to check on her. Thanks be to God for this. If I'd been home, I might have just left her for longer. I decided to change her diaper in the dark, thinking she might be uncomfortable although only slightly wet, but didn't want to wake her too much. When I took off her dirty diaper, I noticed hives all over her tummy, back, and private parts. Startled, I turned on the light, and it was then I noticed her nose, eyes, and even ears were swollen. I went immediately to my mother who is a nurse. She thought it might be an allergic reaction to the peanut butter cookie. We immediately rushed her to the ER and they quickly took her to a room to gave her shots of epinephrine, benadryl, and steroids.

As she dozed off from the medication and exhaustion, the doctor explained to me what had happened. This was what is known as an anaphylactic reaction to the peanuts. It causes her to swell with hives, drops the blood pressure, and can restrict breathing by swelling of the airway. He said that her reaction was a particularly bad one, especially since this was her first exposure, and the reactions will usually only get worse. I was given epinephrine shots to take with me where ever we go, and a little tool to stick down her throat to keep her airways open. I quickly realized this was not just a matter of an annoying allergic reaction resulting in itching and hives. This could easily cause her to die. Faced with the fragility of my precious daughter's life I quickly felt the weight from the responsibility that I was the one that had to protect her. As a small child, she didn't understand that she just couldn't pick something off the floor and eat it. She couldn't tell people not to give her anything that had peanuts in it. She couldn't meticulously scan the labels on her food to make sure there wasn't a trace of peanuts, or that it wasn't manufactured on equipment that processed peanuts. And faced with all this, I was afraid. The thought of losing my child in such a way, was more terrifying than the thought of losing my own life.

Now, children eating peanut butter sandwhiches couldn't play with Gracie because touching her could literally cause her death. She couldn't eat food from a bakery. If someone gave us food, I had to put them through an inquisition in order to make sure they didn't put anything questionable in the food, or make it on something which they had used to make a peanut food. Going to restaurants was an exercise in faith.

Moreover, we've learned that the problem is not limited just to what is eaten. She's had reactions when she sat on furniture where people had eaten peanuts the day before. One time, she accidentally sat in some peanut butter which caused her to scratch. When she then touched her face, she immediately began to swell and we had another trip to the ER. I know that even in this God is merciful. There are plenty of foods out there that don't contain peanuts and we live in such a time that food manufacturers are required to label any possible allergens in their products. As she's gotten older, it has become slightly easier because she can speak up and be on guard for herself. However, after reading this article, I realize that there really is no time when she will be at ease over this. And these types of stories only tempt me to live my life in fear. While I still pray everytime she eats something that God will keep her safe, I've also learned to rest in God's sovereignty and goodness. I realize that Gracie can be in a room full of peanuts and be safe if God wants that. She can also be in an entire house with only one teaspoon of peanut butter and have a reaction as we've seen. It is truly God that keeps her safe, and if it were to happen that her life should be taken, it would be God that does that as well. As her mother, I have realized the importance of protecting my child from danger. However I am a fallible being, and I can err. Thankfully, our Lord who is the Great Protector, never will. I find rest in God's love shown here:

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the
ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head
are all numbered. So don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.
Matthew 10:29-31

God is the one who gave her this allergy. It has a purpose. I hope and pray it is only a tool for sanctification and that God will continue to protect her life from this threat. My peace lies in knowing that Gracie is more precious to God than she could ever be to this fallen mother. So, when we pray for her protection we do so knowing that not an atom in this universe is out of His control. Thank you, Lord, for your great love and your great power.


Moms4Psalms said...

Thanks for sharing this. My daughter is allergic to peanuts and two of my sons are severely allergic to almost every other major food group.

What great words of encouragement, Emily.

Duchess of Fife said...

I remember you saying your kids had food allergies although I didn't know which ones they were. It's always nice to know that there are others who are going through the same things. It's an encouragement to me that I'm not alone!

Heather said...

My son has a severe peanut allergy too. We found out when he was about 15 months old. Now that he is 17 it is much easier to control. God has been very merciful in his protection of PJ. After I read that article I told PJ that he would have to marry someone who also had a nut allergy or someone who would covenant to not eat nuts. ;o)
ps I found your blog through Carmon's.

Duchess of Fife said...

Thanks for stopping in Heather! I'll have to make that a requirement for any of Grace's potential suitors - no peanut eaters allowed!