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The Allergy Blogs • Sam's Story

Traveling Without the Kids

Samantha Yaffe’s frank take on motherhood with allergies.

It’s February, the dead of winter. The gloom is in full effect and I’m desperate for something to keep my spirits afloat. Then it dawns on me: Honey is turning 40 in less than a year. This is the perfect excuse to book a fabulous trip we can’t afford, take off time we don’t have and capitalize on my mother’s generous offer to give us one week a year to go away, without the kids.And so, Amsterdam and London it is. The clouds have parted and I’m over the moon (and the gloom).

Of course with nine months until takeoff, the stress of leaving my two babies so far behind has yet to sink in. It won’t be until the final stretch that I even let my mind go to that place that tells me I should never be more than a mile away from Lucas, my 4-year-old wunderkind who could go into anaphylactic shock from the most minute exposure to a peanut, tree nut or, worse, to the unknown trigger that caused a life-threatening reaction last year.

So I have bought myself several months of excitement to fantasize about the trip. Amid lingering thoughts of cobblestone alleys, quaint coffee shops and my big fat euro shopping spree, up pop sneaky images of peanut butter sandwiches, peanut butter cookies, Pad Thai drowning in peanuts and all the rest of the forbidden fruits we dare not even utter the names of in real life.

But as the months pass, anxiety supplants fantasy; it occurs to me that autumn’s arrival means that JK soon begins, not to mention a whole new slew of drop-off programs.

Then, with the trip just 12 days away, it hits me: Lucas is starting two of his fall programs the week we leave town. This means that The Mama will have to do the initial allergy tutorial with his new instructors and disseminate all my literature (including his allergy action plan, my safe snack document, my how-to-read ingredients page and my letter to the parents imploring them not to feed their children nuts or peanuts before class). I also like to stick around before and after class to make face-to-face contact with parents and caregivers to drive the point home. The Mama will have to do that, too.

To make matters more daunting, I give my mother an allergy management refresher only to find out that she thought the EpiPen was administered cap down (OY!) and that the vital ‘click’ comes when the epinephrine is finished (OY, OY OY!). As it also turns out, the nanny, despite repeated training, forgot about removing the cap altogether. Somehow she also believed the first thing she’s to do after administering the EpiPen is to lay Lucas down on a hard, flat surface and not let him move (AHHHHHH!). What ever happened to 911? I retrain them on everything, but still.

“Maybe I should just start his new programs when I get back,” I think as I lie awake night after night. Of course, if I were a good mother, I would have already taking care of least half these tasks in advance. In fact, if I were a good mother, I’d never be leaving in the first place.

Guilt, insecurities and second-guessing take hold of my entire being.

The next thing I know, I’m boarding the plane: Honey, magazines and pillow in tow. What a liberating moment. We’re directed to our seats and for the first time in as long as I can remember, I don’t have to hang back to compel the head purser to make an announcement about Lucas’s allergies, I don’t have to comb the aisles looking for suspicious treats, I’m not concerned about sanitizing the arm rests and tray tables, and I’m not carrying a 30-pound carry-on filled with six EpiPens, antihistamines, puffers and snacks for a year. I don’t have a care in the world.

Then, once the novelty of traveling weightlessly wears off, it happens. The ‘what ifs’ return in full force and the guilt comes back like a secondary infection. This begs the question: Is traveling without Lucas as stressful as traveling with him?

I’m still undecided. But one thing’s for sure, leaving home with or without our anaphylactic children will always feel like an insane, anxiety-riddled, guilt-laden gamble, worth every second of the ride.

Europe, naturally, was amazing. Honey and I got some much needed away time. The Mama decided of her own accord not to take Lucas to those programs and everything was fine on the home front. Next stop: Florida with the kids.

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