Birthdays Can be Safe and Sweet

By: Abby Spaulding (she/her)

We were singing happy birthday to my friend this summer. We were all so happy and excited. Singing “Happy Birthday” however brought back a lot of past memories, especially the rough birthdays and birthday party experiences. This time, however, was different.

My celiac story started way back in 2007, when I was feeling sick, and my family didn’t really know what was going on. So, I went to the doctor and had a biopsy. They found that I had damaged villi, so that’s how I found out I had celiac disease. My parents were very supportive and wanted to help me through my childhood with celiac disease. They would make sure going to birthday parties that I would have the same food others were having, such as cupcakes and chips, so I wouldn’t feel excluded.

As I got older, I took on the responsibility of managing birthday parties so I could participate safely. For this birthday party I started by going to our local food co-op which carries baked goods from our local gluten free bakery. I got a small chocolate cake, and I also bought some Kettle potato chips. During the afternoon, we went to the beach, and I ate my snacks while my friends ate gluten snacks. Later, we went to our neighborhood Mexican restaurant. That restaurant is not celiac-safe, so the day before, my uncle, who speaks Spanish, spoke to the owner. He asked whether it would be ok for me to bring my own food, and they said that I could. Is it a bit awkward to bring your own food to a restaurant? Sure, it can be. However, talking to the restaurant manager ahead of time can help smooth things over and make the situation easier on both sides. I brought my own food and ordered a safe drink from the server and was able to relax and enjoy a social outing with my friends.

With this experience, I learned I can get through a special occasion. The food part can be difficult, but it is important to spend time with friends who care about you. Celiac disease is challenging, but with some extra planning, research, and packing our own food, we can feel more safe and normal. With celiac disease we face lots of ups and downs, but we get to be more creative, and plan ahead. This makes us stronger.

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  1. Robert Holmes (he/his) on April 18, 2022 at 10:31 pm

    Abby is a truly remarkable young woman and role model. Her ability to power through the challenges of living with celiac at a very young age is inspiring. I particularly love her conclusion. If we plan well and are creative, celiac disease can actually make us stronger! Not just birthdays can be safe and sweet, but the rest of the year can be as well. Bravo Abby!
    And now, please tell me where you get those beautiful french fries.

  2. Sara Holmes on April 19, 2022 at 12:56 am

    Abby, you’ve written such a thoughtful and helpful article for other teenagers who are navigating a tricky time of wanting to celebrate with friends but still stay safe! Other teens with celiac will definitely learn from your blog posting! Well done👍