A new normal...
I have utilized the phrase "a new normal" various times in my life to describe change or a transition. I find myself describing these moments in this way as a means of calming my nerves, freeing myself from the challenges that proceeded this time and setting my gaze to the future as a way to preserver. It's true that when we transition in life whether that be to college, or marriage, the addition of a child or a pet, these shifts can be tricky, they take time to adjust and require patience and grace. These transitions can be exciting, but some change comes with a heavy cloud, one that you can't escape and when that happens you have to view life with a twist or it will consume you. You have to believe that this is the path that is being written for you and find a way to embrace the journey.
Five years ago, we were knee deep in change; we had just moved into our new home that we built, my husband was transitioning into the role of principal at a new school in the district, I was shifting back into a teaching role at the building where I started my career and we had two boys who kept us very busy - Parker (3) and Weston (1). Right after we moved into our new home, just days prior to the school year starting, Weston became very sick. We spent the first week being told it was just a "bug," but Weston was throwing up six, seven, eight times a day, he was lethargic, and his weight was melting off of him, he looked awful. After a second week of this sickness we started pushing the doctors, I knew in my heart there was something more and so did my husband. We wanted to know what was wrong, how can we help him, and at the same time frightened and completely helpless. Frightened because we didn't know if we could survive the answer. I try not to be this way, but I'm the type of person who's mind can spin, the "what ifs" in life can be overwhelming and I was completely frozen with fear.
I vividly remember as we entered the third week of this journey, my husband very sternly saying to our pediatrician, "do every test you have to...something is wrong... what is it...cancer...find out now." I remember feeling so lost and so afraid. Here was my beautiful red-headed boy who was just starting to explore the world at 18 months of age and it's like we were all frozen in time, just waiting for answers, for direction. I can't even remember how many days of school I missed right at the start of the year, but it was a lot and I'm so very thankful for the village that kept me a float at work and at home as I carried my very sick boy from one appointment to the next, holding my breath.
We are lucky, after another week of blood work and further tests, even an endoscopy, Weston was given a diagnosis that wasn't life threatening, there was a plan, and sometimes just knowing can make the entire situation feel more manageable. I'll be honest though my heart sank for Weston and for us when we were given the results - Celiac Disease - not something that can be fixed with medicine, not something that he will grow out of, something that he will have to deal with his entire life and something that will alter how he eats and how we all approach food for this moment on.
Providing Weston with a gluten free lifestyle, became our new normal. Every restaurant we choose we think about what options he has, every family gathering we have we consider what will be there and whether or not something is really gluten free when made by someone else. Every birthday party he is invited to we send supplements for treats, school parties there is a box of gluten free cookies in the room just in case nothing else works for him, Halloween the traditional "trick or treat" is followed with "is that gluten free" at every door, and ice cream stops even require a second thought, he can't just "do."
At first it was overwhelming, it still can be, but I've navigated the grocery store so it doesn't take us forever to find the right things, we have now mastered the events mentioned earlier, but it took time, and it took me coming to the understanding that this was our new normal. Our life now consisted of purchasing two different loaves of bread each week, asking for the burger to come prepared with no bun, and sending a bag of gluten free cookies with my son to a birthday party in case the treat isn't something he can have.
A new normal means embracing change, even if it is abrupt, scary, and overwhelming. Once you accept the change it becomes a part of who you are or in our case our family and how we operate. This is us and I'm thankful for it. I'm thankful because I appreciate the fact that it's not a life threatening allergy, I'm thankful that it wasn't cancer. I'm thankful because I'm more thoughtful about food allergies in others that without this experience I would have continued to be ignorant towards and unappreciative of those who walk this world having to think about food, the way that you do when an allergy is involved.
Weston is now six years old and thriving. He is actually a giant! The doctors at Nationwide Children's Hospital were so impressed with his rapid progress and shocked by his growth (they are estimating he will be 6' 10'' one day). I was most impressed with how quickly he accepted this challenge. At age two, Weston would ask "is this gluten free?" when given food and he instantly became his own advocate. Children are resilient and as an adult we sometimes need to just follow their lead and accept our new normal.