Thursday, April 26, 2012

Motherhood Ain't For the Faint of Heart*


That's what I felt that day, in the cab, wondering if my child was going to pass out right then and there, before we could make it to the doctor's office.

You see, about an hour earlier, she had arrived at my office and ran into my arms crying, saying "Mommy, I don't feel so good".  She had had an allergic reaction a couple days back and a cold on top of that, plus she can be somewhat of a drama queen (we mean this in the most loving way) so it wasn't surprising.  But something felt...wrong.  A person wouldn't look at her and say there's something serious going on, but we heard a little wheeze and she seemed miserable and something just felt...wrong. 

So a few minutes after calling the doctor and making an appointment for later that afternoon, I found myself hurrying to a cab and telling her father to come because something felt...awfully wrong.  Five minutes into the longest cab ride of my life she went from miserable kid with cold to child in obvious respiratory distress and I found myself doing the mental math of which would get us help faster, staying in traffic in the cab, or stopping and calling 911.  "Should I use the epipen?" I kept wondering.  Except it wasn't an obvious allergic reaction.  But something was clearly wrong.

So there I was, terrified, terrified I wasn't doing something I should, terrified I didn't go fast enough, terrified because I couldn't figure out anything to do other than sit there next to her in the cab and wait for it to get to its destination.  I knew I had to be calm for her, to allay her fears, but at that moment I just couldn't.   Apparently, I'm not the maternal rock I'm supposed to be in a crisis.  Check #317 in the slacker mom box.

On the plus side, I did learn the secret to not waiting at the pediatrician's office.  Seconds after walking in and yelling "my child's not breathing!" she was surrounded by several nurses and doctors that appeared out of nowhere.  Before you could say "drugs" we were in a room, she had a nebulizer mask on her face and they were pumping her full of steroids, and we were told we may be there for hours.  I looked at her sad wet eyes.  I felt a bit better knowing the immediate danger had passed, but now she was clearly terrified.  How I wished I could have taken that sad face away.

Fortunately, a few hours later, though still struggling to breathe, she was smiling again.  We were sent home, so long as I promised to continue the steroids, give an inhaler round the clock every few hours, and bring her back in the next day.

It took a few days for the news to really sink in.  Asthma? My mind immediately went to all the stats I'd read about food-allergic kids at higher risk for anaphylaxis if they have asthma.  What did we tell the school? If she suddenly started wheezing, did she need an epipen or an inhaler? How would you know?  The thought was overwhelming.  And a cat allergy?  What else would send her off? What about camp - could I not send her to camp? Could she not visit her school friend with a cat anymore? Did I need to worry? And if I didn't know any of this, how could I trust babysitters, teachers, counselors to know these things? Could I safely leave her with anyone anymore?

All this is just fear talking, of course, and let's hope a calmer mind will allow us to get educated and somewhat rational again.  In the meantime, I struggled with the weight of all this information.  It took a good week to even feel like I could breathe again.  It took two weeks before I could write about it, because I was just too shaken to put it into black and white.

I keep going over "what-ifs" in my head?  What could I have done differently? How did it get so bad? How did I not realize it?  The attack was set off by an allergic reaction to a cat a few days' prior.  I knew she had had a reaction, but didn't know to what.  Sure, there was a chance it could be the cat, but she'd been around the cat for over 24 hours, and the reaction was sudden. Maybe she touched a trace of food?  You never know with food allergies.  But after a few long minutes, while I had a huge debate in my head on whether or not to give her the epipen, the antihistamine kicked in and she got better.  Sure, she wheezed a few hours later, but I called a doctor and followed their instructions to give her an inhaler and Benadryl to help her sleep and prevent another reaction.  Anyone who's ever tried to give my kid Benadryl knows it's easier said than done.  After an hour of fighting, she finally took it.   When she woke up, she had a cold, and the reaction was simply a moment that had passed.  How could I have misattributed the symptoms to a cold?  How could I not have realized she needed an inhaler earlier?  And who knew cat allergies could cause anaphylaxis? I certainly didn't.

I hadn't counted on the emotional responsibility of single parenthood.  I took for granted the presence of another adult who was equally responsible for the outcome of the decision at hand, not to mention one who could actually help me get her to actually take her medicine without losing my marbles in the process.   My friends haven't really spoken to me since, and I can't say I blame them.  They didn't sign up for that drama when they invited us. 

The experience was humbling, to say the least.  We all think we'll know what to do in the moment of crisis, but the truth is we have no idea how we'll react and often all our education goes out the window.  We may know intellectually we're supposed to remain calm and not panic, but that's a heck of a lot easier said than done.

Parenting is one giant exercise in humility.  It's so easy to know what to do in hindsight, but not when it's new.  If it's not allergies, it's behavioral issues, if it's not behavioral issues, it's poop issues, if it's not poop issues, it's school issues, etc.  All of our kids have their own unique challenges that make it impossible to know how to parent by reading a book, or an article, or a checklist, or even a whole  library.  They don't tell you that when you sign up, do you?

We'd love to hear from other food allergy parents as to how they handle reactions, and how they handle the asthma vs. food allergy situation.  We'd love to hear from other single parents as to how they handle crises on their own.  Heck, while we're at it, let's invite any struggling parent to share.  Because for one day it would be nice for everyone to able to take off their "I'm perfect" "I'm a great parent" facade and admit that yes it's worth it, and yes there are wonderful moments, but sometimes....sometimes, no matter what your situation, parenting is just plain damned hard.  Oh, and to all you parents who still want to fight for your child's "right" to peanut butter in schools: you suck.

One final note: with the rise of childhood allergies, we predict a rapid increase in demand for paper bags over the next few years.  You might want to invest now.  Just sayin'.

*Or, I'm just a wussy.  Distinct possibility.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Test your ability to spot SPAM!

It's real soup! Or is it.....?
As we've stated in the past, peeps, SPAM is getting smarter.  Below is a great example of something that we initially thought was spam, then realized it wasn't.  Then we realized it wasn't.  Then we started to wonder.  See how long it takes you to figure out if this is Spam or not!

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Sunday, April 8, 2012

The Schizophrenic Jew

As we made our Kosher for Passover meatloaf in a pan previously used to prepare a very dairy and wheaty zucchini cornbread just one week ago, it occurred to us that while American Jews are offered a variety of categories to self-identify with, as a culture we are sorely lacking a category for the "Schizophrenic Jew".

The above is a perfect example of the schizophrenia which we refer to.  Generally speaking, if you're keeping Kosher for Passover to the point of switching to Temp-Tee cream cheese for a week, you'll have a separate pan for Passover cooking.  Or at the very least have separate dishes for meat and dairy.  Obviously that was not the case in this example, which we shall refer to as "Proof point number one".

If you only consume this if it's Kosher for Passover, you might be a Schizophrenic Jew 
What else makes one a Schizophrenic Jew? Many contradictions.  Perhaps you speak Hebrew but can barely read and write.  Perhaps you are currently affiliated with a Reform Synagogue despite an upbringing in a traditional Conservative one, as well as an Egalitarian Conservative one, plus stints in a Modern Orthodox shul abroad, and time spent with friends in a Reconstructionist one.*

The Schizophrenic Jew defines "Kosher" really loosely.  While it's more than just a kind of salt, it doesn't extend much further beyond avoiding pigs and shrimp.  Often it involves avoiding cheeseburgers, but waiting until the plain burger is finished and swallowed before drinking the milkshake.  This Jew may live a 100% secular life, having never observed Shabbat, yet makes a conscious effort to check work email more on Sunday vs. Saturday.

The Schizophrenic Jew may have one Seder or two, depending on how Israeli they want to declare themselves on any given year.  They may know all the "laws" in general yet pick and choose what to follow, and even within those that are chosen they can be changed when it's convenient, which brings us to "Proof point number two".  In this example, the subject in question searched all over for the cranberry sauce without corn syrup yet when eating an omelet at a diner did not ask what kind of oil it was cooked in, deciding to live in the delight of the "don't ask, don't tell" policy at that moment due to extreme hunger.

There are many other varieties of Schizophrenic Jews, but the easiest way to spot one is to ask what their religious affiliation is.  If the response you get is "I have no fucking idea," you know you've found a bona fide Schizophrenic Jew. 

Now, we've given you two double-blind randomized trials of American Jews behaving oddly in the absence of a way to identify with their Judaism.  Isn't it high time we legitimize this phenomena and give these peeps a community of their own? 

As always, you heard it here first.   Happy Passover, peeps.

*Hypothetically speaking, of course.