Suffocating with Multiple Food Allergies and Atopic Dermatitis: Catching My Breathe in Scotland

At times I feel like I am living in a bubble. In another world, outside that of the ‘real world’. I get so caught up and overwhelmed with the stresses of every day life, it feels like I am choking.

Stepping away allows me to ‘catch my breath’.

Taking My First Breath:  My Trip To Scotland

ancient macbeth family tartan

In July 1999, I met my brother in Scotland to visit my 90-year-old Grandfather and our entire Scottish clan. (my dad was the only family member to emigrate) Due to my pregnancy, I missed the trip my family took the year before to celebrate my Grandfather’s 90th birthday. It was devastating to me…I was torn apart inside…I so wanted to go…I resisted the temptation…much to my chagrin and stayed home.

The following is a list of events that led up to my trip.

A buildup of events:

– My father was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Disease, September 1996. It was just after Michael was born. My father died 18 months later.

my father and michael summer 1997

I love this picture of Michael and my father… it brings back such happy memories. They both look so deep in thought…actually, they are watching my mother struggling to put up the patio umbrella. She was not amused that I was focused on taking this picture whilst they watched on. Summer 1997.

-The week after my father died, Michael, with yet another ear infection, had tubes put in his ears and I discovered I was pregnant.

-Fall of 1996, Michael showed his first signs of atopic dermatitis on his forehead.

-I went back to work full-time (February 1997) when Michael was 6 months old. (commuting an hour or more to work every day).

-At 6 months, Michael had his first visit with an allergist: no milk, soya, wheat, potatoes, eggs,tomatoes and seafood. His formula was changed to Alimentum.

-My daily schedule included: changing Michael’s bedding every day due to the fact that his scratching in the night would produce soiled bedding, vacuuming his room and house due to the shedding of skin which would accumulate, general dirt and the fact we had a dog, preparing, cooking and storing homemade baby food, preparing daily meals in general, keeping up bathing and creaming schedule, and commuting back and forth to work an hour or more each way depending on the weather. I worked up until June 1998.

-Matthew was born in December 1998. Although he was a happy baby, he was never hungry enough for breastfeeding, so I improvised…………bought a double breast pump to use after each feeding to fool my body into thinking I had twins! I froze the extra breast milk to use later when introducing cereals.

 -Michael suffered from atopic dermatitis. (it exploded all over his body in January 1999, consequently leading to bathing and creaming 3 times a day) It breaks my heart to look at this picture of Michael at his worst. (actually, this was his atopic dermatitis clearing up!)

Michael at his worst with atopic dermatitis and Matthew, Jan. 1999

He also had multiple food allergies, food sensitivities, multiple inner ear infections (up until the tubes went in), bouts of impitego, and trouble sleeping. (I suffered sleep deprivation alongside him)

-We took a family trip to Myrtle Beach, April 1997, to get away from it all. Unfortunately, it proved to be more stressful than relaxing.

As you may suspect, the time from January 1999 up until my trip in July 1999, was a bit of a blur.

Recognizing an intervention was needed, my mother and brother devised a plan for my escape……they pooled their Airmiles’ points together…and my brother and I flew to Scotland.(separately as my mother will not allow us to fly together)

I know most people would think travelling with a 7 month old baby alone on a 9 hour flight insane. Let me tell you it was pure bliss!

I was able to use the Air Canada Lounge, courtesy of my brother. It was a quiet retreat from the hustle and bustle of  the airport lobby. I was able to have something to eat and breastfed Matthew in privacy.

I was seated at the bulk head with a bassinet for Matthew to sleep in. I took a pass on the meal and opted for as much sleep as I could possibly get. It ended up being the entire flight’s worth!  I had not had a full night’s sleep in I don’t know how long. I woke up refreshed and clear-headed………..I felt like ‘myself’ again.

I scooped up my smiling, happy baby boy, breastfed him on the descent, and walked off that plane with my head held high, my shoulders back, and my chest out.

I was ready for our adventure in Scotland!

Papa and Matthew, July 1999 in Motherwell Scotland

The above photo is of my Grandfather and Matthew. It is priceless! Notice the gold oval framed picture in the top left hand of this photo. It is of 1-year-old Michael we sent to him for Christmas 1997.

The trip gave me the experience of living as a mother of a child with no limits. I got a better sense of what I needed to adjust in my everyday life back home.

I realized I needed to accept the challenges I had been given and move forward. 

I would step up to the plate and do the best that I could for my husband, my children and myself.

By the end of the trip, I was ready for my life back home.  The fog had lifted. I now had a clear head to deal with the challenges that faced me.

This trip was a turning point in my life. It was the first time I had really stepped back and looked at my life with fresh eyes.

The trip was also filled with firsts for Matthew: his first trip in an airplane, his first time in Scotland visiting relatives, he cut his first tooth, he mastered his crawling, and his first time ‘walking’ on a golf course…the famous 18th hole at St. Andrew’s…his grandpa would be impressed!

matthew and me, july 1999, st. andrew's 18th hole, Scotland

I knew, heading back home on that flight, I needed to find the time, no matter how small, to incorporate some ‘me time’ or better yet, ‘me and hubby time!’ 

Believe me, this has not been easy to do but worth all the effort. It is an ongoing process that continues to this day. My life is an endless roller coaster ride of highs and lows with some coasting in between. (thank goodness for that!)

Having outlets gives me the strength to deal with the everyday challenges of life.

We are all faced with many challenges in our lives.  It is how one deals with those challenges that will help shape and determine the person we are and the life that we lead.

My challenges/experiences in life have made me the person I am today.  I wouldn’t change that for the world.

If I could wave my magic wand and vanquish my children’s food allergies, asthma and atopic dermatitis, I would. But life doesn’t work like that. 

The silver lining of this story……….. I believe our family leads a healthier life. 

I will never forget witnessing… one by one… the pleasures of life that my father once enjoyed… becoming too much for him to endure.

I can still hear him saying, ” If you don’t have your health………….what have you got?”

Take care.

My brother and I flew back to Scotland for my grandfather’s funeral. He passed away on August 2, 2000 at the age of 92. I feel so thankful that Matthew and I were able to see him before he died. (Michael met my grandfather the summer before my father passed away when my grandfather and my father’s sister came to Canada to visit my father. Summer 1997)

P.S. Allergic Living Summer 2011 has a fabulous article titled, “Get Your Life Back!”.

P.P.S. Allergic Girl writes about the importance of balance in ones’ life. Check out my book review.

Tip: It is articles and books, like the above mentioned, that make me realize I am not ‘crazy’… they give me the strength to focus on my family needs and deal with those who just ‘don’t get it’.

Do you ever feel life’s pressures overwhelming you so much that you feel like you are ‘choking?’ How do you ‘catch your breath?’ Please share in the comments below.

This post was written for all those living with multiple food allergies, asthma, atopic dermatitis or any affliction that leaves you feeling that you are alone in your journey…know that each of our journeys are unique…they bond us together…together we are not alone. 

I will be posting coping mechanisms that have helped me manage living with mulitiple food allergies, asthma and atopic dermatitis. Strategies that I continue to utilize every day…because life is always full of little surprises.

P.P.P.S. As always, any products I mention in these posts are my own personal recommendations. No one’s paying me to recommend them. They’re just what has worked for our family. Your own needs and preferences may be different!

14 thoughts on “Suffocating with Multiple Food Allergies and Atopic Dermatitis: Catching My Breathe in Scotland

  1. Susan, I can SO identify with your life… you have no idea. From all of your very positive posts (I LOVE seeing all of your recipes) with such an upbeat delivery as to how you want to find a way to satisfy your son’s desire to try so many foods and make this a family affair. To this recent post regarding your very real, day-to-day life that can become overwhelming at times. I feel like my approach to our life is very similar to yours. The majority of the time, despite the stress of living with our son with multiple food allergies (and other health issues), my husband, daughter, son & I try to live life with a positive approach and make the best of things. Despite this, there are days scattered here & there where, faced with another challenge I will feel the overwhelming weight and fear of another reaction. But we always get through it. I so appreciate your posts and your blog. Thank you for posting the good, the bad, and the ugly in your very real life. It helps to know there is someone else out there living the same life as us! I also continued to work until my son was nearly 3 years old (he is now 9), but the stress on our family was enormous, so the decision to stay home has made a huge difference in the quality of our life. Please continue to share your experienes, because I love to read your updates! Take care.


    • Hi Julie- Thank you so much for your support! I cannot tell you how much it means to me to know that my experiences, the good, the bad and the ugly, are appreciated. There isn’t much of a ‘directions manual’ for living with mulitple food allergies, atopic dermatitis and asthma…for each diagnosis is unique…we have just been ‘winging it’ and learning along the way. I still have my down days…knowing I am not alone in this really helps! Thanks again! ~ Susan H.

    • Hi Kelly- On the bright side of things…I don’t take our health for granted…things are finally falling into place for my boys…I am feeling more like myself, therefore, can be myself…this makes me happy…a happy mom makes for a happy household! Thank you for your kind words! ~ Susan H.

  2. So well written Susan…and such a wonderful surprise to see a picture of your dad 🙂 We are not alone…you gave me something to think about today xo

  3. I love this post. You are so positive even with so much that has happened. The photo of your father and Michael made me tear up -life looks so simple from that photo. Love your blog

    • Thank you so much for your kind words! I do have some wonderful memories of my father and Michael from that summer of ’97. To this day, Michael insists that he too remembers the short time he spent with my father…priceless!

  4. The photo of Michael’s eczema really struck a chord in my heart. My baby Marcie had very bad eczema too, but got better with a one-time oral steroid course. Been blogging about eczema and drawing cartoons to add a laughter into stressed out parents’ life ever since. xoxo

    • Hi Marcie’s Mom- Does your daughter break out in eczema any more or did the one-time steriod course do the trick? I know Michael took oral steroids when he broke out in impitego, but it never ‘cured’ him. I think humour is very much needed in our lives…thank you! ~Susan H.

      • The one time steroid helped a lot; from whole body red in few seconds for no reason, her eczema is now more localized and usually triggered by heat. O.w. it wasn’t even manageable. For instance, when we took her to a park concert, she’d scratch til bleeding before and 1month ago we did the same thing and she’s happily running around, looking at dogs, clapping with the music. My hubby and I both felt it’s a world of difference n really happy Marcie improved so much.

      • I am so happy for you and Marcie! I know how tortuous it can be watching your child suffer with eczema. Keep me updated on her condition if you can. ~Susan H.

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