Just when life can't seem to get any more complicated, it throws another curve ball. At least that's how I felt a couple of weeks ago as I sat in the allergist's office watching the red welt on Emerson's arm grow larger and more ominous. He had a strange rash in an airplane that served peanuts last November and then another one broke out in January when I gave him a bit of peanut butter and jelly sandwich, so our doctor suggested an allergy skin test. There seemed to be logical explanations for both rashes, so I wasn't concerned by it at all. Then the test revealed he was allergic to peanuts - SEVERELY allergic.
We were handed a huge packet of information on everything to avoid and then given a tutorial on how to use an Epi-Pen during an anaphylaxis attack. I am grateful for modern technology, but the idea of stabbing anything into my son's leg scares the crap out of me! As we prepared to leave the office after an exhausting day, the doctor looked at me and said sincerely, "I'm so sorry."
I couldn't understand all this since no one on either of our families has a history of food allergies. We have a dog and we don't clean compulsively (as much as I wish I could), so there goes the whole "our environments are too clean so our immune systems turn against themselves" theory. We waited the proper amount of time to introduce all his foods. So why a life-threatening allergy for a little boy who already has enough to worry about and set him apart? It was the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back.
In addition to the albinism and the allergy, I was already worried about Emerson's large delays in pretty much all his milestones. The more I worried and researched possible causes, the more hysterical I became. I cried nearly constantly for a couple of days.
At the height of this emotional breakdown, I took a trip down to the local library. It's become a favorite place for us lately because there is plenty of room for Emerson to explore and other children for him to interact with. This particular day a woman was there with her daughter and a son who turned out to be a few months older than Emerson. We started talking the normal mom chit-chat, then it came out that her son had just started walking at 19 months. She went on to say that he had been born with "some issues" that affected his development. As soon as she said this, I wanted to hug her!
We talked a little more here and there as we chased the kids around, but it eventually came out that they had moved out of state and were only here to catch up with old friends. My hopes of future play dates and learning more about her and her son were dashed - although we exchanged emails. But the gift came toward the end as I was getting Emerson ready to leave. She said, "You know how people always say they would never change anything about their child? I feel that way too - I just wish I could change the way the world views him." I nodded and started to cry again - right in front of this practical stranger. It was just what I needed to hear at that moment.
Later, things did get much better. I talked with Emerson's therapists and they said they didn't see anything that would suggest another serious condition yet, so that was nice to hear. They did agree to increase his speech therapy by having home visits, which has already helped.
I also think Emerson somehow sensed my desperation and has been making more of an effort. The past couple of weeks, he suddenly started clapping and waving (things we have been working on for soooo many months), he's willing to imitate more things (like patting and stomping when we do it, or pretending to brush my hair when I brush his), and he's even experimenting a little with the sign language we've been teaching him. I can't believe this is the same child!
Our life really is the cliche rollercoaster - a steep ascent followed by a gut-wrenching drop followed by another steep ascent. And then there are the loops that turn everything upside down....but I'll save that story for a later post.