14 July 2007


Highway 24 ("The 24" as CA highways are called) passes directly adjacent to the heliport of Children's Hospital. On my way home from work this week, the big red helicopter circled overhead then rocked its way down. What horror had befallen the child inside, the one that was airlifted in for emergency care? I saw the family of that child- hands cupped over mouths, nails bitten. I thought of my own mother, as I always do when I am passed by an ambulance, siren blaring. Even years after I had my own ambulance trip (age 12) Mom said she had palpitations every time she saw an ambulance in motion. She said she cut open the palm of her hand trying to unlock her car when she got the news (your daughter almost drowned, she is still unconscious).

The pulse of the landing shook my car. And then I remembered that I am the parent now, the one who chewed my lip bare at Stella’s first emergency trip (cashew allergy), my cuticles on the second (asthma). By the third visit (inhaled carrots), I was whittled smooth. After Stella was diagnosed with nut and egg allergies, every experience was suspect. Did a kid just eat a PB&J sandwich and then put his hands all over that swing? What was in that wrapper she just found? It's very sweet of your child to offer her cheerios, but our daughter can't have any.

I haven't become careless, the image of her blue lips, her vomit, her puffy red body (all but the soles of her feet)- from just the tip of one cashew- won't let me.

I read every label and ask at every new restaurant, every new meal, every friend's house. Any nuts, nut oils, or eggs? But I have relaxed with some foods that are processed in nut facilities. Foods that aren't loose like granola. Playgrounds are fun again, and I don't feel freakish saying no to a snack. We bring enough of our own to share. Stella knows her EpiPen is very important (especially after she took it from her day care bag, removed the safety cap, and then got a 2 minute time out). She knows the word allergic and stops begging for a bite when we tell her it will make her sick. That's the other way we've relaxed; we eat contraband foods in front of her- sometimes. But that's where it hurts again. The label. Allergic.

Stella: That's ok, mama? I'm not allergic?
Me: Yes, Sweetie, you can eat it.


Stella: My face is not itching. I can eat that one. I'm not allergic!

I love food. Discovering new textures, combinations. I take foolish pride in Stella's decent eating habits (yes, broccoli or apple skins or mixed vegetable pizza). As long as it isn't meat, Augusto will eat what's put in front of him without complaint or suggestion. But he lacks passion (except for ice cream and chocolate). I can turn heads moaning over a burrito or pureed parsnips. I want kids who share my gusto. But how can we dive into an exciting culinary future when every box is turned on its end, every enthusiastic offering of something homemade initially rejected? Like birthday cake.

We started feeding Otto rice cereal a week ago. He had pears yesterday. I can’t help but wonder if he has allergies. My gut tells me no. He doesn’t have any of the rashes that Stella had from 9 weeks until 15 months. As a precaution, he won’t get any nuts or shellfish until he is able to articulate a funny feeling or an itchy lip (probably at least 2½). We haven’t decided about eggs.

As a parent, the burden of caution is everywhere. Streets. Stoves. Ledges. Creepy people. Objects smaller than a toilet paper roll. So we add some common foods to the list. It’s better than worse alternatives.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Helicopters - when they told us that you would have to be transported to the university hospital I assumed it would be by air - not available in upstate at that time. I followed the ambulance - couln't keep up at speeds over 100 mph. Worrying about your children never ends