I’m so tired of Jesse’s egg allergy.
I’m tired of all the little practical stuff. Filling out medical authorization forms and passing her epi-pen around. Drawing blood every year for testing, in the hopeless hope that her allergy will abate (at age 9, statistics suggest she’s got maybe a 5% chance of growing out of it by her late teens). Bringing Jesse’s own treats to birthday parties and explaining to hosts that she can’t have what they’re offering, and then walking away just hoping and hoping they’ll remember. Reading labels and interrogating people about food ingredients. Asking friends and family to accommodate Jesse’s allergy in the safest way by clearing eggs out of their diet when she’s around. Writing letters to parents of Jesse’s classmates begging them to leave eggs out of the classroom, and knowing it won’t happen. Hassling teachers. Finding food when we travel. Calling restaurants to figure out if Jesse can eat safely. Cleaning surfaces in public places before we eat on them. Washing hands, washing hands, washing hands.
I’m just as tired of the emotional shit. Seeing that look on Jesse’s face — a mix of alienation and fear — when she has to be around other kids enjoying delicious-looking food that has eggs in it. Watching her eye the treats in a bakery, the way Charlie eyed Willy Wonka’s goods in the candy shop, wistful and wishful and hopeless. Trying to soothe her bitter disappointment when we can’t find anything good to eat that’s also safe, as we walk through an airport concourse’s food court. Dealing with her explosions of anxiety and anger when it overwhelms her. Dealing with my own anxiety and anger, and hiding it from her best I can.
I still cry every time I think about the day in preschool when Jesse’s class made a batter with raw eggs, without my knowledge. I knew something was wrong the second I saw Jesse at pick-up. I knelt down and looked in her face, grossly swollen, splotchy, covered in hives. I looked over at the teacher, incredulous that no one had noticed her condition. “Something’s wrong with Jesse. Were there eggs in the class today??” Ooooh… They explained that she hadn’t touched or ingested the eggs, as if that solved things. I stripped Jesse’s clothes off and washed her hands and face. I fed her antihistamines. I held her and tried to keep my cool, be all business, not panic, as we waited and watched to see if her condition would worsen or improve. It improved enough that she didn’t have to go to the ER. When she wasn’t with me later that day, I finally wept and wept and wept. I kept weeping for the next month while we dosed her with antihistamines, dealt with her follow-on eye, ear and sinus infections, gave her antibiotics, wiped her diarrhetic ass, waited for her to step out of the malaise.
Some days it feels like the world is smeared in eggs, dripping in poison waiting to fall on Jesse. Chicken egg is everywhere. I can’t avoid it. Today I took Jesse into her summer camp class at the Audubon nature center. They’re studying crystals this week. The teacher took me aside and showed me that the grow-crystal-kit powder they had used yesterday contained egg whites. She hadn’t noticed until it was too late. I wouldn’t have either. Why would I? Who would ever imagine that a kid’s inedible crystal-growing science project would contain egg whites?
The teacher told Jesse yesterday about the eggs in the powder. No one had actually touched it with their fingers, and it ended up enclosed in jars of water, on sticks. Jesse apparently stayed calm, and they just cleaned up carefully. I didn’t hear about it until today. Jesse didn’t tell me. Not a hint, and no displays of inchoate anxiety. It was weird. She seems fine.
But it was one of those things. I came home after dropping her off and wept, again. I’m tired of being afraid of eggs, and I’m only nine years into her life. Bah. I get even more grumpy when I’m in this mood, because I feel ungrateful.
I could have it so much worse. It doesn’t seem to be a life-threatening allergy, and most allergy deaths are related to nuts or dairy. So that’s good news. Jesse probably won’t die from it. I could have a child with far more serious medical conditions. The main problem Jesse contends with, severe anxiety, is actually very helpful because it renders her hyper-vigilant. Her crazies may keep her safe.
We could have friends and family who are indifferent or uncaring. Instead I’m surrounded by people who have bent like grass in the wind to accommodate Jesse. My own family has been amazing, going totally egg-free whenever we visit California and never once doing or saying a single thing to make me feel guilty. Our good friends here in the Milwaukee area always try to keep it safe for Jesse. I’m blessed. This summer we’re going to a beach house on the Outer Banks with a collection of college mates, 10 families, 30 people in all. We’ve never been able to participate in these sorts of get-togethers because it was impossible to imagine how to keep Jesse safe. This year I mentioned our situation as a sort of wishful sigh, and with hardly a ripple in the waters, the entire crew agreed to make the beach house egg-safe. Incredible. Everyone refuses to let me feel that I’m imposing. It made me weep again, but for all the right reasons.
Well shit. Maybe I just tend to go weepy. So lame. I just made myself grumpy again.