They say there’s nothing like a mother’s love. I came to truly understand that saying when one of my two children, who had just turned three, was fighting for his life battling a deadly strain of bacteria. When it happened, I realized the lengths we will go to in order to care for our children both physically and emotionally. Feeling like I was losing my son was my wake-up call. Before that, I had felt in control when it came to my kids. After all, up until they were toddlers I had been the one in charge of what they were eating and wearing, what time they went to bed, and whom they had playdates with. I made sure they washed their hands and took their baths. Nothing bad was going to happen to them because I was on top of it all. Or so I thought! For example, I nursed both my children, Arianna and Addison, for what I considered to be a substantial amount of time—twelve months and thirteen months, respectively. Because I had heard about all the research showing the health benefits of nursing, I thought they were never going to get sick—well, at least not at a young age.
Unfortunately, that was not the case. Yes, we did avoid the common cold, but not the ear infection or other, more serious things, as I will share with you in this book. The truly unexpected can happen. It happened to us. It was my wake‑up call, an experience that taught me I am not as in control as I thought I was. It also taught me that putting my passion and energy into what I can control will help me raise children who are strong and healthy, both physically and emotionally. It will also help me become more aware as a mother and a human being.
It was my intuition that saved my son, Addison, when he was sick. (You’ll hear more about that experience in chapter 2.) That inner voice now guides me in other areas of mothering beyond health, such as in disciplining my children and nurturing their self- esteem. I believe that mothers and fathers have to listen, really listen, to that voice, that insight and innate knowledge we all possess, to follow what we intuitively feel in our hearts. I want mothers and fathers everywhere to learn, as I did, to trust their intuition and stand up for their children. This will help them live healthier, richer, more productive lives—because no matter where you live, what you have, or what you do, no
matter your race, class, religion, or beliefs, we all have one thing in common: we desire the best for our children.
In the following pages, I will share the unexpected journey I went on after Addison’s illness, and the years of work it took to get where I am today. During that journey I read, I listened, I experimented— and I saw results. (And the journey is not over. Even today, I continue to research and gather information.) As the journey progressed, my passion became deeper and deeper. Will what I learned and what I’ve done work for everyone? No. And not all of it worked for my own children. But what I do know from having lived it is you can’t find out what works until you try. I gained so much insight from my son’s horrible emergency situation. But why wait until you have a life-threatening emergency to change your own life?
I’m not saying it was easy or quick, either— it wasn’t—but in time it was rewarding, because many of the small steps I took reaped beneficial results, whether it was changing my children’s diets, making my home a little greener, or being vocal at their schools. The changes in both my kids, and in me, were huge.
Mothers I knew—and even those I barely knew— who had seen or heard about the changes in my children came up to me at my kids’ school and asked for advice about their own children. Others phoned or e‑mailed me. It is so fulfilling to help, to have women I barely know call me to say thank you or to tell me excitedly about the changes they saw in their own children after doing just one small thing we’d discussed. Though each person had different concerns, most of them wound up saying, “You should write a book.” I laughed this off, thinking, “Yeah, right. Me, of all people, write a book?”
But then my grandfather got sick. I went to visit him in the hospital, not knowing it would be the last time we saw each other. While I was sitting by his bedside he said, “Erica, I’m so proud of you. You have so much in you to give. I know you do.” He died just a few days later. Something about his death turned a switch on inside of me. His words sparked a desire in me to share the information I had— information I had spent so much time and energy gathering. I realized that there were many kids in the world who could benefit from all I’d learned. I couldn’t have all this information and selfishly keep it only for my two children when so many other kids could be helped, too. So I pulled out my computer and started writing. Mind you, I had no clue what I was doing, but that last conversation with my grandfather had gone somewhere deep within me. Maybe it was me grieving. Maybe it was a form of release. Maybe it was that someone as special as he was had had faith in me and had seen my passion. Or maybe I wanted to make him proud of me.
I didn’t always know what that passion was. I’d always loved children, but that love became much more apparent once I had children of my own. Before I was a mom, I was a bit of a gypsy, traveling often, and always wondering what my purpose in life was. I was never serious about anything other than having fun, enjoying life, and seeing the world. It wasn’t until I became a mother that I felt a sense of purpose in my life and realized that my passion was helping children— all children, not just my own. My kids taught me what real passion was just by being there for me to care for and nurture them.
I believe that the biggest reward we can receive as human beings is the blessing of a child, whether that child comes from the core of our bodies or from the love of our hearts. But we have to make sacrifices, and those sacrifices go beyond providing the basic necessities of food, shelter, and clothing. We have a role and a responsibility. We have to become aware and recognize the gift we’ve been given. Yes, it’s a sacrifice, but it comes with the job. And the results can be amazing. Our outlook is the key.
I’ve always thought that things happen for a reason. Whether it is good or bad, I eventually figure out what that reason is. But when my son was sick, I seriously questioned this “things happen for a reason” theory. Today I think maybe the reason for that emergency situation was for me to share all this information with others.
As moms, as dads, as people, we all have so much power within us—each and every one of us. It wasn’t given only to me. I’m not doing anything that the woman or man next door can’t do. I’m the first person to say that I am no expert. I’m not a doctor. I don’t have a degree in anything related to health. I do not know it all. And I certainly don’t have all the answers. I’ve been trained only through firsthand experience and by the information I’ve gathered while raising children with allergies. I guess you could say I’m an expert in my own life and in what I’ve done for my own children— and that is the information I want to share.
Because I am not an expert or a doctor, I’ve included experts and doctors in this book. I’ve talked to highly respected professionals in various fields, many of whom helped me transform my life and the health of my children. You’ll also hear from some celebrities, not because they are famous but because they are moms like us— wonderful, caring moms who, I think, have valuable insight to share. The truth is it doesn’t matter if you have a TV show, Grammy- winning albums, or a number one movie at the box office, a mom is a mom. It doesn’t matter how glitzy or glamorous your life is, when your children are sick or you have issues at their school, the red carpet and limo rides are yesterday’s news.
The first half of this book talks about raising healthy children in a world full of allergens. Its primary focus is on health and nutrition. The second half of the book talks about how to create an emotionally thriving child, and by this I mean how to focus on the other areas that help a child thrive, such as teaching discipline, respect, and responsibilities; encouraging creativity in your kids; and teaching them to open their hearts. You don’t have to focus on all these areas to reap results. Any changes you make will help, because taking one step is better than not taking any steps at all. This is a process, a work in progress, and it doesn’t have to be difficult or radical. It is what you make it. Whatever advice or suggestions you take from this book, I hope they are as helpful to you as they have been to me and both my children. I’ve done some of your homework for you. Think of my children and me as your guinea pigs.
So get ready to change your life and your child’s life for the better. Get excited. You can do it. I know you can. And I’m here to help.
Disclaimer: I cannot make promises. I am not guaranteeing that everything I write about, discuss, or advise in this book will give you the same experience or results I received for myself and my children. All I can do is share my experiences— the same things I’ve shared with friends, relatives, and other moms and dads at my kids’ school—and explain what worked for us. I recommend that you use this book as a guide. I am no doctor of any sort. I am no expert of any sort. Nor am I perfect or trying to advise you as if I am. The experts I have selected to be part of this project are also speaking only from their own personal experiences and knowledge. I highly recommend that you seek professional help and answers from your go‑to person, especially if you are dealing with certain health- related issues.
Whichever route you desire to take to care for yourself and your children, I wish you only great health—mentally, spiritually, and physically. Here’s to your great health.