Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Food Allergy Memoir: "Feeding Eden" by Susan Weissman

"Feeding Eden," by Susan Weissman is a new memoir that speaks to the heart of what it means to parent a child with severe food allergies, everything from finding safe foods to exploring medical care, and ultimately, learning to live with your new normal.

When her young son Eden is diagnosed with multiple food allergies (peanuts, tree nuts, dairy, soy, eggs, fish, shellfish and several fruits), a new world of complications and parental fears are awakened for Weissman and her family. Ms. Weissman shares with us the terror of watching a child having anaphylaxis, the fears of what dangers he may face during "normal" activities like school and birthday parties and many other things that only food allergy parents will recognize as their own experience.

One of my favorite anecdotes was when Weissman described "cheating", not as extramarital, but as eating allergenic foods with her husband when Eden isn't around. (Show of hands for anyone else who has ever done this? I feel guilty for days if I go to a Thai restaurant on date night.)

So much in this book is validating for the food allergy parent, who is often ridiculed or taken to task for their cautious approach to what others think of as harmless activities. Says Weissman in her book, "When I break from routine, there is always a risk particular to Eden. Whether I hire a new baby-sitter, purchase a new brand of tortillas, or plan a family day trip by ferry, I chance the unforeseeable." Well said and truly understood only by another parent facing food allergies.

In a warm, humorous and engaging style, the author explores her family's struggles and ultimate triumphs in a way that really spoke to me as a parent who faces the same concerns. I appreciated Weismann's honesty about her battles, some of them quite poignant and some very humorous, such as her experiments with allergy-friendly baking (not always successful and joy-inducing). She even takes on those "surprise" classroom treats that are the bane of a food allergy parent's existence in a story that will have you laughing and maybe even crying if you've ever had to deny your child "what all the other kids are eating."

And what about food as love? When you have a child with multiple food allergies, this can seem impossible, yet Weissmman describes coming to terms with this notion, despite her son's many allergies: "Loves comes out of my hands when I food safety habits are my love."

I must share one other note about the author. A few years ago, Ms. Weissman wrote a terrific guest blog post for "The Nut-Free Mom." Here is the link: it explores the ups and downs of how she found a "safe" restaurant for her son.

Any parent of a child with life-threatening food allergies will find much to savor in "Feeding Eden." If you want more information on author Susan Weissman including how to buy her book, visit her author web site.

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