Wednesday, June 07, 2006

binge and purge

Today was the official beginning of the end of the anticlimax to the baby's anaphylaxis. We went to the allergist, who did a bunch of tests and muttered some things, and we'll have precise information in about a week, yadda yadda, but truly the ending has come in with a quiet thought, rather than a medical flurry.

There's two types of fall-out from an event like this: emotional and practical. The practical is, relatively speaking, the easy part, where we toss out whatever the allergen du jour is and I spend twice our food budget in trying to figure out how to feed us. The emotional, however, depends on who is doing it. I'm an easy one: I hold it together under fire, act cool and calm, and collapse emotionally a day or two after the whole thing is over. Then, the day before and after we have clinic (the medical post-game analysis and official diagnosis because, really, what do the the ER people know, anyway?) I look for things to be grumpy about. Little things, silly things, and I'll even admit out loud that I'm doing this as a way to redirect the impossibility of having to adapt. Again.

Because initial results tell us that the baby's allergic to wheat, although he might not be allergic to dairy. But he may be sensitive also to rye, barley, oats and spelt....sigh. This is a brave new world, and I really, really want a word with the management.

We all received the news in our own ways: my partner was calm, even unmoved, allowing him to be gently surprised at my distress. He saves his outburst for his parents, while I save mine for him. Mostly. My eldest wailed about wanting to eat wheat (he misses his pretzels). I empathised, cuddled, problem solved, explained. He paused, considered, then wailed again. After some thought, I tried a different tack: You want wheat? Me, I want peanut butter. Surprised, he mulled over the idea that one could desire such a food, and was enormously entertained by the idea of his father’s secret peanut buttery life at the office. And the baby shone his delighted smile upon us all, as if to remind us that wheat or no wheat, this is but the details of who he is, and wasn’t it minor in light of the wonder of the rest?

Um, sure.

At any rate, today's 'day after' experience has been brought to you (me?) by the comment: I should’ve guessed.

For instance: I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised that this happened on a playdate: my eldest's first anaphylaxis was on a playdate, too, and his playmate went from being unnerved by the experience to excitedly telling her deeply religious grandparents about the "fire truck" that came to her house. Except that she couldn't pronounce the "tr" sound and habitually replaced it with an "f" sound. Her mother had to hide in the kitchen, weeping with laughter, when she heard her daughter telling the story. Which is one of the things about this woman that kept us coming back for playdates.

I should’ve guessed that wheat was lurking somewhere in my future. My eldest was initially nicknamed "peanut," and then we learned that he was allergic to peanuts. We then started calling him "pumpkin," and he then developed an allergy to pumpkins. And other associated gourds (must've been a slow week). My partner now calls him "potato," which frankly seems like asking for trouble. So yes, Murphy's Law is well embedded in our family's workings. So when I started using wheat and egg to defuse the pitying look and the 'but how do you manage?' You think dairy is tough, I'd ask, consider wheat! Consider egg! Those are in pretty much everything, I'd point out, and the other person would pause to consider. Ohhh, they'd say, marvelling at the limitations of those other people with wheat and egg issues. That's got to be tough, they'd tell me. I'd nod. Yup, I should’ve guessed that wheat and egg were headed my way.

I should’ve guessed that my sons were going to connect in some way. Before the baby was born, I felt mildly smug about the possibility of his having hemophilia. The genetic dice having already been cast, I knew that a second child with hemophilia would offer the boys a wonderful bond. It never occurred to me that allergies were going to offer that connection. I should’ve guessed. Of course, I think I'd have preferred the hemophilia - at least you can treat preventatively for that! I should’ve guessed that if the baby was going to have allergies, that he would pick something new and different. To go with the red hair, I suppose. Well, babes, I get the point: you are not your brother. Now, could we try a little conformity?

Actually, I have a feeling that the boys got together somewhere, sometime and sat down with a little list. Here's how I think this went:
I'll take the nuts.
Okay, then I want dairy.
Nooo, I want dairy! (muffled scuffling)
I'm taking sesame.
Hmm. Okay. I'll take eggs, then.
Oh, eggs is a big one. If you have eggs then I, um, want gourds and

Okay, but only if I can have wheat.

However it went down, here we are. The baby was wonderful at the clinic, and didn't cry over either the skin prick testing or the blood draw. I was astonished and grateful, given the older and carefully watching brother. I had no desire to see the elder sib's protectiveness challenged, nor have him disturbed by the realization that perhaps blood draws might be a cause for distress. Nope, it all went smoothly, even wonderfully - right down to the sweet kid who spoke delighted Spanish to the baby and tried to give him a little white bear.

And so we're awaiting final results, but knowing enough to begin the purge. Wheat products going cheap at my house, folks - come early for the best selection! Anything unopened will get donated, as per our babysitter's suggestion. And, to the ongoing horror of my number crunching man, our food budget will now gasp under the burden of figuring out how to live a wheat-free life... with flour at 2.50 for 2 pounds. Oy. And breads with ingredients like xantham gum and gelatin. Oy again. How did I go from living the simple life to living it with additives? Guess I should’ve guessed....


joy said...


While I know you don't want pity, I look at the snacks around me, and I sigh for you, knowing all the trouble they could cause...

mama o' the matrices said...

nah, a little pity is just fine. Just not too much - there's only a few openings left in my personal greek chorus...

Yup, this is very un-lactivist of me, but every so often I look at the kid and think, well, nine months is a good start - how much longer could he possibly want to nurse? Of course his brother cruised happily on past two years before self-weaning....but let's not go there.