Published On: Thu, Jul 9th, 2015

Your Stories: Milk Free Mummy & Me, a pictorial journey with Ali Harper

ali

Free-From Heaven reader and Marketing Director of Can I Eat There? Ali Harper shares her free-from story as a mum of a child with food allergies, her work with Can I Eat There?, and the creation of her pictorial journey ‘Milk Free Mummy & Me’.

 

Hello community, I’m Ali. I have, over the last five years been blessed with 3 wonderful and for the most part, healthy children. When starting our parenting journey my husband and I had agreed to have our planned ‘3’ as quickly as possible, so they could grow up sharing as many wonderful childhood memories as possible.

We were incredibly fortunate with my first two children, they were so healthy. So when number 3, baby Freddie, came along it took me some time to realise things weren’t quite right.

I had been breastfeeding Freddie for 6 months and began introducing new foods and a little formula. At first I noticed poor little Freddie was a bit clogged-up, but thought nothing of it. Constipation is so common in little babies, especially with the constant introduction of news foods. Very soon though things began to move down hill, fast.

A brief pause in my journey. An ironic moment in time, just 2 months before I began weaning, my good friend Nicky Granger popped over for a coffee. During our catch up she told me of a new venture she was launching, Can I Eat There? It was to be a new restaurant directory, which would help people with food allergies, eat out safely. ‘Like no other directory’, she explained, the site would help people search for restaurants filtered by food allergy, read the restaurants allergy policy and read their customisable (to individual allergy) menu. Brilliant! I said to Nicky ‘’I’m in’’. This was a chance to use my years of marketing and advertising experience to help people like Nicky, who’s child has 9 severe food allergies, eat out safely.

And there the allergy journey began, although for me I didn’t realise how real it was about to become. At 6 months old little spots began to appear all over Freddie’s arms, down his legs and then often hot, aggressive welts would often appear on his neck. His bowel movements became further and fewer between. He was on daily laxatives and a heck of a lot prune juice, though nothing seemed to help. It took three occasions for him to vomit after eating yoghurt that I knew something was seriously wrong.

I look back now and wonder why it had taken me so long to figure out what was happening. And still to this day I don’t know. For two months I had been working with the Can I Eat There? team, surrounded by people with food allergies. I was so absorbed in Can I Eat There?, so close to so many people with life threatening afflictions, I perhaps thought it to coincidental my own son would be affected, but he was.

They say knowledge is power and for me that couldn’t be more true. I know of many people who have waited so long, often years for a diagnosis from their doctor. For me, I already had the fortunate opportunity to work with Allergy UK. A quick call to their helpline armed me with enough confidence to visit my doctor demanding help.

Although I was advised not to see a specialist at that time, Freddie was immediately put onto prescription formula, Nutramigen. Within days the angry welts on his neck had disappeared, within two weeks his bowels began to return to normal and within 6 his skin was perfect.

A journey doesn’t really ever end. Only recently I have began introducing soy into Freddie’s diet to replace the yoghurt and dessert snacks that I often give my other children. Since eating the soy, the bumps on his arms have returned. This time, I won’t wait so long. I have a doctor’s appointment scheduled next week where I will request a referral to a paediatric allergist appointment for an allergy test.

It is true as they say a picture can say a thousand words. But what’s more important for me is those words are often so hard to express when the subject is so raw, the health of your child. They capture in a nano-second a moment of sadness, a fleeting feeling of desperation, a highlight of joy. All these personal moments amplified in colour.

I recently created Milk Free Mummy and Me Memes http://www.canieatthere.co.uk/category/milk-free-mummy-me-memes/ to showcase these moments of my journey with baby Freddie. They explore the life of a mum very new to the scary world of allergies. They show collision crash failures, triumphs of success and more often too much doubt, captured in an image. At first they were an attempt to avoid talking about Freddie’s allergies. Who am I to talk on such subjects I know so little about? But as they evolve they become somewhat therapeutic, enabling me to express the tears and the fears and share the wonders that come from being Freddie’s mummy.

You can view all of my memes at http://www.canieatthere.co.uk/category/milk-free-mummy-me-memes/ or sign up to our newsletter to receive them via email.

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View more of our previous Your Story articles here.

 

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