I had a playdate some time ago with a friend, whom I met while her eldest was fighting leukemia at our hospital. She'd since had another baby, who was fascinated by our wee one. While the children did their best to chew on each other, we talked about parenting the second, undiagosed child.
Near the end of the visit, she leaned in and admitted that after a while, a diagnosis gets to be comforting. At least you know what's going on with the kid, and there are medical whomevers to help you work with that. But this healthy thing? Feels like you are just waiting for the other shoe to drop, with nobody but a well-meaning general pediatrician to help you do it. I agreed: it's unnerving. And we laughed at ourselves and our inability to let go, to relax fully into the gift that is ordinariness.
Two weeks ago, I fed my child a teething biscuit while on a playdate. He gnawed happily, covering himself in a fine layer of brown goo. (Can you see where this is going? Hmmn?) Eventually, he dropped the biscuit in apparent satisfaction, and after I had disposed of the slimy object, I turned my gaze and a wet cloth on the filthy child. Under the brown goo I found pink bumps (hives), however, and I cheerily announced to the other mother that perhaps I'd better dunk him in a tub to clean him up. An allergy veteran herself, she ran the water for me while the baby, impatient with our speed, decided to enable matters by vomiting.
I popped him in the tub, said cheerful nonsense things to everybody as I scrabbled in my bag for the cell phone. Two major symptoms, involving two separate body systems in an allergic reaction qualify as anaphylaxis. I watched the baby happily splash in the tub and dialled the allergist. Give him the EpiPen Jr and call 911, the allergy fellow urged me. I bargained: 'I don't see any signs of respiratory distress and I've got the Epi-Pens right here. How about 911, ambulance to the hospital and we'll use the Epi if he shows any signs of respiratory affects?' Reluctantly, they agreed.
En route to the hospital, the baby's eyes swelled and the rash swiftly covered his entire body. He would spend the next week with an appearing and disappearing itchy rash, truly ugly eczema and open, weeping split skin around his ears and thighs - but that was the worst of it. My child was safe despite the other shoe hitting the ground.
I was impressed by all of us: our eldest's calm and cooperation, despite a bleed he had going in his knee (we treated him in the ER room, to the immense confusion of the ER staff), my husband's aplomb, the baby's cheerfulness and the playdate mom's bravery in inviting us to come back again sometime. But there we were, with over a month to wait until we could find out what had triggered that reaction, and the leaden knowledge that the next reaction would be worse. To misquote the Princess Bride, 'I khait vaiting.'
After much debate and a SIL's honest incredulity, we finally admitted that, once again, a diagnosis (or lack thereof) was going to dictate our life. We canceled a much anticipated trip and prepared to yank wheat (the most likely culprit) out of our diets. I fell apart on schedule, but once I'd scraped myself off the floor I discovered that my eldest and I were suddenly communicating in the way we'd had before the baby was born. I had rediscovered a crucial element of emotional self-control and was parenting once more in a way that made me proud. Sometimes.
So with all of that marvel coming out of the sturm and drang, my head fairly spun when, in response to our decision to stay home, my parter was subjected to a guilt trip. But my kids were looking forward to playing with your kids, Nameless told him. But my wife will be disappointed, Nameless argued. But we're willing to do whatever it takes to make you comfortable - why are you so inflexible? Nameless pressed. In vain my partner tried to explain that one cannot take safety measures against the unknown, making flexibility irrelevant. Nameless sent a few parting shots about destroying the relationship between the families and retired to brood over his wounds.
Now I ask you, what grown person dumps on the family that's just had a major crisis? Suck it up, Nameless. You may have a set of valid points, but you've lost my friendship in lacking the maturity to realize that, right now, you do not take precedence. And given the appalling self-centeredness you've displayed (and as a blogger, I do appreciate the desire to have the world seem to revolve around one's self), well, I do feel that I am playing Galileo to your Pope.
Si muove, man. And not around either of us.