A few weeks ago, our local news station asked our family to do a news segment on FPIES. We talk about FPIES almost weekly here in an effort to raise awareness around food allergies, and I’m all about raising awareness wherever and whenever I can. So, of course we said yes.
I love the story, I love how well they captured the sweetness of my boy, his gentle, joyful spirit, and most of all his interaction with his dad. The news got about 85% of the story right, and I’m grateful for that. But they missed a few details, and one major detail that I want to express:
Echo’s illness changed everything.
From the ashes of that first year, a new life was born. I don’t mean a human life, (although we were terrified of losing our baby for the first 18 months of his life). But this. This work, this site, this whole idea was formed from the grief.
In the summer of 2014, my long-time friend, Jessica, asked me to write our story for The Leaky Boob. I was in the middle of dealing with massive PTSD, chronic mastitis from exclusively pumping milk from boobs that just wanted to quit, a crumbling marriage, and figuring out a way to keep our son alive and thriving in the midst of an illness nobody, even specialists, know much about. He had three “safe” foods at the time: TED breastmilk (wherein I was limited to 12 foods at one point in time), coconut oil, and spinach. Nightmares of feeding tubes and bankruptcy and divorce tormented my sleep, while emotional paralysis, physical pain, and extreme anxiety plagued me during the day.
I said yes to telling our story. Beyond the fear and the trauma, I knew other families were dealing with the same issues. They were dealing with the despair, discouragement, and constant barely-subdued terror that their child might not make it. And what if their kid does make it? What kind of life and wounds will this struggle indelibly imprint their little bodies and spirits with? I started three drafts, scrapped them all, and then Echo had a vomit reaction to green beans in the middle of it all. And that was it. The impetus I needed to get it all out in real time.
Our story isn’t just for FPIES families, though. It is for every family who has faced unimaginable obstacles and trauma. Maybe it looks like FPIES, maybe it looks like unknown illness, maybe it looks like a brain tumor or infant hearing loss. Maybe it looks like a massive struggle with self-care or divorce or being a terrible friend for a season.
Telling our story gave me access to the power I needed to find my way through, even though I never quite knew the next step until I took it. It gave me just enough Brave to inch ahead of my Scared, and continues to fuel the heart of this little corner of the Internet where I believe Everyone deserves a seat at this table.
Thank you for being a part of this community.
Thank you for continuing to give us, and other families, a voice.
Thank you for sharing posts that are relevant to you with people you love.
Thank you for enjoying the food and laughter and tears and gathering here to have a human experience. This doesn’t happen without you.
Carrie, Lance, and Echo
“Things falling apart is a kind of testing and also a kind of healing. We think that the point is to pass the test or to overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. They come together and they fall apart again. It’s just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.”
― Pema Chödrön