Counting Breaths

I’m at the end of the bed watching Isaiah.

He is covered in towels, laying on towels, sleeping fitfully.

I have my timer in my hand and I am counting his breaths.

At 5am this morning he woke feeling “yucky” and coughing that ugly barking cough.

I rolled over and grabbed his inhaler.

At 6am he still felt “yucky” and asked if he could just stay up and watch a show. It was at that moment that I knew today would be different.

By 9am we had inhaled all options, had a low-grade fever and were off to the doctor to have a look at this “thing” that blew in out of nowhere.

He’s talking in his sleep now. He could be saying mom, or no, or nonsense. But the mom that was so short with him yesterday for talking to her rudely is now worried and sitting close by and feeling more empathy than she ever thought possible.

I stopped writing about Isaiah’s “issues” because a wonderful comfortable complacency had set in. The complacency that is the result of many months of non-events.

Of not being able to remember the last time Uncle Nebi came to visit. (That is the name given to the nebulizer when Isaiah’s asthma was discovered at 3, it made him less scary)

I want to believe that we are done.

I don’t want to worry that Isaiah will have an asthma attack so severe that the hospital is our only choice.

When I see those yellow weeds growing outside, I want to think “How nice, it’s almost fall.” Not “Oh crap, ragweed.”

Isaiah has been throwing up every hour since 9ish? He has dark circles under his eyes, he’s thirsty, he’s taken at least 5 showers.

There are no clean towels or sheets left, although a load is about to come out of the dryer.

Asthma comes in all shapes and sizes. He wheezes a little, breathes too fast and throws up.

Today we talked about how it is impossible to talk yourself out of throwing up. He thought if he took deep breaths. It was a really smart thought, I felt badly that it didn’t work. I held the towel for him, didn’t gag or think “gross,” I was just there and we talked about the possibility of trying to make it to the bathroom next time.

I am watching him and remembering. Remembering this is part of our lives. Maybe forever, hopefully not. But August, September, these will be dangerous months for my allergy induced asthma guy.

Back-to-school brings new viruses running around town, and my homeschooled kid isn’t immune.

So I will be watching him sleep, counting his breaths, hoping for a peaceful night.


*When a child has asthma, counting breaths is a method you can use to see how severe his episode is. I remember the day I had to write this down while on the phone with his doctor. “20-30 is good, over 40 call me.” I have Isaiah instructions written on the inside of my kitchen cabinet. I never want to be so panicked that I can’t remember what the doctor said.

Also, if your child has allergy induced asthma, please consider allergy shots. Part of the reason I can be complacent is after 2 years of allergy shots we have seen much improvement. We certainly have had our share of scares, but the good far outweighs the bad.

Complacency Can Kill or Nut Allergy and Anaphylaxis are Kissing Cousins

If you’ve read my blog, you know by now, that my motto is “You are your child’s only advocate.”

You may also know, that I have done my best to not create drama around my child by over reacting, and playing the “why me?” card.

What I may not have shared, is that after 6 years of living with life threatening food allergies, Isaiah’s doctor (who I trust more than anyone) has reassured me, that if an “allergy event” were to happen, I could handle it.

Tonight I found out that he was right.

Over the past few years my doctor has encouraged me to be a little more lax. Not worry so much about “products manufactured in the same facility as” and so on. He didn’t want Isaiah to live in fear, he didn’t want me to live in fear either. He wanted Isaiah to have as normal of a life as possible, while understanding the signs to look for should he have a reaction. For the past few months we have been practicing this sentence, “I am having a reaction, I need 3 Benadryl, call my mom and call Dr. D.”

You see, although Isaiah is 8, I have only dropped him off for play dates for about 6 months. Frankly, if you don’t monitor your child’s food allergies like I do, then I’d rather have the play date at my house. But he’s getting older, and it’s time for him to have more responsibility.

Tonight I learned, he could probably handle it.

But it doesn’t mean it didn’t scare the heck out of me, and him.

He was sitting on the sofa playing our favorite iPad game, Kingdom Rush, and had just eaten a brownie we picked up from Taco Bell (don’t ask), all was well.  Then all of a sudden he began hacking. Just a really irritated throat cough. Then he came running up to me and said, “Mom, my throat feels really funny.” This sentence is every allergy parent’s nightmare.

I tried to keep my cool and said, “Okay, let’s have some Benadryl. Let me find it.”

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And that is why I’m writing this post.

When Isaiah was 3 he had an anaphylactic reaction at a restaurant. I was the most diligent mother on the planet then, had epi-pens, Benadryl and inhalers on me at all times. At home there were no less than 4 boxes of Benadryl chewables at any given time. When he started clawing at his throat that day in the restaurant, I had that Benadryl in him before anyone else at the table knew what was happening.

Tonight. Well tonight, the no longer over-protective mom, couldn’t find the Benadryl.

This was me:

But I knew we had boxes! Didn’t we? But where were the  boxes!! Okay, let me find my epi-pen bag, there’s Benadryl in there. Wait! Where is my epi-pen bag? Why isn’t it in my purse? Have I been going around without the epi-pens even on me! Okay, here’s the babysitter’s epi-pen bag, Isaiah, come here. Start chewing. I know you don’t feel good, take this one, and another. Okay, you should start feeling better now. Crap! He’s still coughing.

At this point, I have to wonder if he’s over-reacting. Isaiah is nothing if not a showman. But I also have to take it seriously because maybe he’s not.

I needed to find one more Benadryl. Just one more. In the house that always had 4 boxes, either I didn’t remember where I put them (which is distinctly possible) or we were actually out of Benadryl (which would be a nightmare).

I remembered a box I had stashed in my bathroom drawer when unpacking from South Carolina last year. I ran in there and ripped out one more Benadryl and fed it to the boy.

I began to breathe easier. He wasn’t coughing as much, but he was yawning and saying he was cold. All some of the lesser known signs of anaphylaxis, signs I wrote about in the post Would You Recognize Anaphylactic Shock.

I had him get in my bed and turn on a movie, I couldn’t rule out sheer panic as causing his symptoms either. He settled down. Drank some water. I watched him.

I watched him like a hawk.

The crisis was averted. Although maybe temporarily. Benadryl has a short life, anaphylaxis can have a longer one. So it will be a long night for me. The boy will sleep next to me as I half-sleep – listening to his breathing. Feeling his skin to make sure it doesn’t get cold.

I have to admit, it’s a little fun watching the boy, tipsy under the influence of double the normal dose of Benadryl walk around the bedroom. He says it’s like there are three me’s talking to him with a computer. But he’s feeling better, and I’m feeling better.

I learned another lesson.

I learned that with complacency comes forgetfulness. And with forgetfulness comes mistakes. Nut allergy and anaphylaxis are kissing cousins. Cross-contamination does happen. Something I am well aware of. Where my extra Benadryl is? Not so much.

This won’t happen again. I will put more Benadryl in every place I looked, since I can assume that is where my brain goes first. I will not forget my epi-pens (which I remembered were in Isaiah’s book bag from spending the day with Grandma).

As much as this is a post about a boy with severe food allergies and a mom who is still learning, after 6 years, how to live with it. It is also a post about parenting.

It is so easy to take our rhythms for granted. It is so easy to fall into a pattern of complacency. Sometimes we need to be shaken up to realize that time is going by, life is moving on. Our 2-year-olds are 4, now 6, now 8. But 8 doesn’t make them an adult any more than 4 did. And mom still needs to be the one taking care, because we are parents after all. And no matter how self-sufficient our children are, they couldn’t survive a day without us.



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I Know Why I Started, Now How Do I Stop?

I had dreams you know. Dreams of having a baby that would sleep in a crib; happily cooing at its mobile, living in the beautifully serene room I had decorated. A baby who might sleep through the night after 8 weeks (lies).

We have a first floor master, a good friend whose twins were 9 months when my son was born said: So you’re going to be down here and the baby is going to be upstairs? He laughed. He laughed the laugh of a man who was preparing the many “I told you so’s” that would come down the pike.

(My son is adopted. That’s not crucial to the story, although it explains why we spent our first two weeks in a Residence Inn in Texas.) After my son was born and they shooed us out the door without a manual, trusting us to care for this teeny tiny alien; I should have known. I had held him for 3 days straight. We would go to eat dinner at the hospital – I would barely be able to lift my silverware because my arms were so weak from being in the same position for 12 hours.

We came to Texas with all the accouterments of new parenthood. Brand new minivan, pack’n’play, stroller, car seat, 24 side snap tees (essential for those of you who go through the ritual torture of circumcision), 12 cases of diapers, 12 baby bottles (glass, ha!),  every baby outfit I had (two suitcases), baby sling, Baby Bjorn, the list goes on. The diapers were too big, the stroller never made it out of the box, we used mini-formula bottles with attachable nipples (can you say God-send?). As for the clothes, we could only use the tees because if he was un-swaddled he would scream bloody murder. And did I mention this was AUGUST in Texas? The first time I took him outside at night, I swear he stopped breathing. I think he thought he was back in the womb. Anyway, all the clothes I had for him were GIGANTIC, so there’s that.

Our plan was to use the pack’n’play bassinet for him to sleep in. We put it right next to the bed. (Not like there was any room anywhere else, it was a hotel people!) Whoa! Was I in for a rude awakening. This was a child that could not be put down. The first night I was so sure there was something wrong with him that I called my good friend in the middle of the night. She had a 6 month old at the time, I figured he must be sick because all he did was cry. Seriously, what people don’t know about having a baby. The only way he would sleep was lying on my stomach. Well, crap. There was no way I would do that in bed. My husband snores like a Mac Truck and plays tennis in his sleep. Not a good combo. I was sure my precious son would be smothered, deaf or lobbed by morning. So I sat on the sofa laid him on my stomach (which was flat then, you know, so he wouldn’t roll off) and watched TV. All night. Not that I was going to get any sleep anyway, he was eating every hour and a half and peeing through his diaper in between. When day dawned, my bright and chipper husband would take over. He would swaddle him, lay him on the bed in the 2nd bedroom surrounded by pillows and work. I would try to sleep, but my husband was afraid to feed him, so I still had to wake up every 2 hours. Two weeks of this. In Texas. No help.

Fast Forward: We are home. Somehow, I still have this idea that my child will sleep in his room. Ha! This is the scene: Child will only sleep in the bouncy seat, with the vibrator on and someones hand bouncing it. I slept on the floor in his room, on a makeshift bed next to a bouncy seat. Really? Yes really.

I had read “The Baby Book” by Dr Sears before my son was born. I don’t know why I resisted the obvious. I had been using a sling – unsuccessfully because I was sure he would suffocate. I wore him in the Baby Bjorn – once, and I was sure he was going to overheat and die of heat stroke. So why not co-sleep? All the other Attachment Parenting things had worked so well for me. We bought a co-sleeper. Cause you know – tennis, Mac Truck. This contraption attaches to your bed nice and tight so your child is at your level, but in its own encompassed area. I had worked out a system of keeping prepared bottles in the pockets of the co-sleeper. However I still had to sleep with one hand on his stomach, or he would not sleep.

See those cheeks? Ripped to shreds through a thick layer of Aquaphor. Nothing could stop that determined boy.

Fast Forward: 16 weeks, the boy has eczema. We feel like we are more competent parents (and by we,I mean I). I try everything to keep him from scratching his face to shreds. Baby mittens, socks, socks taped to his PJ’s, filing his finger nails down to nubs. Nothing worked. He would scratch himself so badly while sleeping that he would wake himself up crying every 3 hours. For all of you Ferberizers, my son woke up every 30 minutes to 3 hours until he was two. YES TWO. It got to the point where I dreaded falling asleep. After 3 or 4 weeks of this, we (and by we, I mean I) came up with a brilliant idea. The boy would sleep between us and we would each hold one arm down while we slept so he wouldn’t scratch. Call DCFS, I dare you. At 9 months we had the big aha! – when we realized through trial and error that he had severe food allergies. (And by trial and error I mean projectile vomiting after eating a baby food containing egg.) Our new journey began, doctors – firing doctors – new doctors – firing new doctors – Great Doctor! Once we found Great Doctor our lives changed forever. We medicated him (which I loathed), covered him in horrible poisonous ointments, and my child, Stopped Scratching. This is him; covered in steroid ointments, a layer of Aquaphor over that. See how shiny his face is, how his hair looks like it has Jeri Curl in it? Yeah, that was our NIGHTLY ritual, still is.

Fast Forward: At 7 years 10 months 8 days, he is still sleeping in our bed. Yup. We moved his bed into our room when he was 5. It was basically like having a sofa in our room. After about 15 minutes in his bed – he would crawl into our bed. I figured why the charade? The bed went back upstairs and we had two guest-rooms.Voila!

A year ago he was determined to move into his own room. He wanted a blue room. We painted the room blue. He slept there about 2 weeks. One of us slept there too. I would trick Mac Truck by asking him to read the boy a book. Mac Truck would fall asleep so hard, in the middle of a book, that I would be off the hook. Mac Truck’s back started to go bad and the jig was up. I told boy he had to sleep on his own because he was a big boy in his big boy room. That lasted two days. He came back to our room and never left. As far as I can tell he has no intention of leaving. Since we finished the basement and my husband got his luxurious man-cave complete with 2 Lazy Boy sofas that fully recline. The boy and I basically have the bed to ourselves. So, as long as Mac Truck falls asleep in front of the TV I’m good. If he doesn’t I either do the King Tut (sleeping in a 12″ space, arms crossed on my chest, not moving all night), or I sleep with an elbow or large cranium in my side.

The More the Merrier

Thank you Dr. Sears. Co-sleeping: Something the whole family can enjoy.