As many of you may have realized, I've taken a break for a few months from writing here on the blog. Based on the title to this blog, you probably think that it was because I was sick from being a celiac.
I was, in fact, pregnant with our first child for much of last year. I gave birth to a healthy baby boy shortly after the New Year. I took a few months off from practicing law as a solo attorney in order to focus on my new, expanded family. For much of last year--and really even still now--I was the pregnant mom pictured in the video who wonders if her child is going to have a serious autoimmune disease. At this point, I won't know until I subject my poor infant to the gluten-full diet when he is older. Frankly, I'm inclined to wait until he is old enough to tell me if he is having symptoms, and even then it will only be introduced with close supervision by his pediatrician. So, to help raise awareness for this issue, I wanted to send a quick shout out here about Celiac Disease.
For me, Celiac Disease is something that I have obviously struggled with my whole life, but my diagnosis didn't come until about a decade ago, when I met my husband who recognized the symptoms were being caused by food. Leave it to him--Mr. Lactose Intolerant--to diagnose a Celiac! Or as our friends say, "The Peanut Kids." All of these things take on a whole new level of importance when you're a new mom, though. And yesterday we started introducing our infant to solid foods! Talk about risky when he could be a) Celiac, b) Lactose Intolerant (he doesn't like milk protein, already!), or c) even a Peanut Allergy kiddo! If I've learned anything in the last ten years, it's how to read food labels, though, and his rice cereal is totally gluten free!
One of the most powerful things I saw while researching this "quick" post was the information about the psychosocial impacts of Celiac Disease. From not being able to partake in work BBQ's back when I had coworkers, to being so starving after a so-called "lunch meeting" that I'm hangry enough to contemplate how to get away with murder, Celiac Disease changes your life. My recent experience earlier this month just goes to illustrate this fact...
I went to a networking function for a section of the Colorado Bar that focused on women lawyers, and specifically mom lawyers. I specifically state on my registration materials every time that I have a food allergy and that I can bring my own food if they cannot accommodate. The last time I had an event with this group, accommodation was easy since it was a breakfast, and I'd done a few other smaller events without a problem. Lo and behold, though, when I get there--a little late because I had like a three month old spit up on me on the way to daycare--I am left with a boxed sandwich-type lunch, cookie and all. When I asked where the gluten free ones were, since I had seen a few boxes labeled as such being consumed by others at the event, I was told that they "were all gone." Later, an organizer went out of her way to come and talk to me about how I could just take the turkey sandwich box and remove the bread. I had to explain that's not the way Celiac works, and I proceeded to spend the next few hours nursing my ginger ale. Because the chips were in the same boxes and not in their own sealed bags, I couldn't even trust those! I believe this type of experience is a direct result of the "fad diet" that is gluten-free. I'm so tired of saying it's an allergy and NOT A PREFERENCE. But hey, at least more people now know what it is!
My other, more recent experience was at a long-standing lunch meeting that I go to every week. Normally, the caterer is amazing, even going so far as to prepare separate gluten free lasagna and double-confirming the salad dressings are gluten free. But then... fajitas happened. You're thinking how can fajitas have wheat, rye, or barley?! You're not alone. The staffer was actually rude to me when I asked if they had a separate, uncontaminated pan of fajitas for those with food allergies in the back. After about ten attempts at explaining cross-contamination on the tongs from those folks using flour tortillas and dipping back into the pan afterwards, I finally had to walk her through the process. I suppose food service is not a highly trained field, but come on! In Allergies can't be new to these folks. In the end, I handed her my plate with my unused corn tortillas and said that I would not risk it. I haven't been that upset in a long time. Perhaps it's because I'm a new mom, and feeding my infant son, I can't get sick or I will get him sick. Perhaps it's because I'm hungry all the time right now. Perhaps it's because I expect more of people and had gotten used to leaving my sack lunch at home. Whatever the reason, I was left shaking and with a small plate of salad for lunch.
What means the most is when friends and family try to accommodate me. Sometimes it fails, yes. But other times, I feel almost normal again! To those that try, thank you. To those that try, don't be upset if it doesn't go right 100% of the time and I step back because of the possibility of gluten contamination. It's not personal. It's the effort that matters!