Kate Hardie, author of 'Can I Eat It' and mother to coeliac sufferer William and his two siblings, talks about how they discovered his diagnosis and adapted to living with live with coeliac disease.
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Life as a trio was about to change. We were about to embark on the next stage in our family life, crossing the next major junction as the arrival of our second child approached.
The balance of excitement and nerves leaned towards excitement more than apprehension this time. We felt a little more prepared for what to expect, possibly even a tad blasé I have to be honest.
The hubby and I were certainly not parents prepared for the impact of broken sleep. Believe me, I am unbearable if I don’t get a fair amount of sleep! The suitcases under my eyes, (definitely not bags) were proof of this but from 3 months old our eldest started to sleep through. Happy days! We even toyed with the idea of dusting off the alarm clock as we began to feel human again and it was refreshing not to have that feeling of looking forward to bedtime as soon as you reluctantly drag yourself out of bed.
We just assumed that the new recruit wouldn’t differ from his 14 month old sibling. STOP RIGHT THERE!….In the words of Julia Roberts from the film Pretty Woman, “Big Mistake, Huge”!
Don’t get me wrong, the first few months were beautiful but as weaning progressed, we seemed to have created a devil child. Why though? We followed the same routine as before, I love routine. But something was different this time and the same question kept surfacing. Why was William so irritable, constantly writhing around with a distended tummy, as tight as a little drum - he looked like a miniature darts player from the 70s (minus the sideburns)!
Night times were worse and the only way to pacify the constant screaming of our nocturnal mini monster was to put him in the car and drive. We’d alternate spending hours driving him around the Yorkshire countryside. We visited places we never knew existed, any time after midnight through to sunrise. Pick a time, night after night this happened. But why was it happening?
Driving around with gritted teeth to ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’, we saw the bloomin’ things alright in all their sparkling glory! The hubby and I felt half qualified for the SAS. Sleep deprivation appeared to be par for the parenting course.
It wasn’t just this though, William encountered random sickness which happened so frequently it became embarrassing and caught me out frequently. Whilst visiting a friend one day, he made his mark, projectile vomiting on their brand new carpet, reminiscent of a Jackson Pollock work of art. You can picture the horror on my face!
Play centres and ball pools became off limits. I’ll never forget the supermarket check out when a large queue of people were witness to another episode, not to mention many car journeys…and the car seat!…We won’t go there! You see, there were no warning signs. Anyone that knows me also knows my answer to dealing with sick is to shout for my hubby as I swiftly make my exit!
We were at a loss as to what to do. Months of visits to the doctor became so frustrating, every appointment was met with “its probably just something viral”, which was nondescript nonsense. As a parent, sometimes YOU just know. Instinct tells you that the diagnosis is wrong. I began to challenge their decisions, vomiting at least once a day, every day for 3 months is just not right and he was finally referred to check for Coeliac Disease.
Low and behold, this was the reason why. Finally, there was light at the end of this dark tunnel and an answer to William’s misery. The sleepless nights and pain were being caused by the introduction of gluten from wheat, barley, oats and rye in his diet.
The guilt we felt was enormous. We felt so responsible. My wholesome cooking that I had taken great pride in making every day was currently damaging his small intestine. Whilst it is an incurable auto-immune disease the good news was that he would thrive and lead a perfectly normal life as long as he followed a strict gluten-free diet for life.
From that day on, I knew I had to do more than just make sure he never ingested gluten, I wanted to go above and beyond this and provide him with inspiring meals, tasty snacks, let him enjoy birthday parties without the feeling that he was different or missing out.
This led me to create a wide range of recipes for all occasions, so I decided to stage the food, photograph the recipes and eventually I published an e-book called ‘Can I Eat It?’ A whole new experience but one I felt and will always feel passionate about.
The title of the book stems from the question William has asked on a daily basis from the moment he could talk, I wanted to be able to answer “yes” every time.
William is now nearly 5 and a happy and healthy little boy. His sleeping pattern is much better, but still not where we would like it to be - I fear those early days set him in a routine that he has not yet shaken.
We still haven’t yet had to set an alarm clock.