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Adventures in Allergies


The Ups, Downs and Sideways of Working Motherhood

Adventures in Allergies

Alex Steinman

There's nothing worse than taking your kid to the emergency room. On Tuesday, we felt helpless, we second-guessed every decision, and it was the first time we ever thought about losing #gingerbaby. A short week and impending Sunday business travel, made two days in the office feel like a month. I was in between meetings when a weird phone number called. I answered guessing correctly that it was daycare. Why haven't you programmed their number into your phone yet, Mom of the Year?

A frantic center director explained that Cooper's lips were swollen after eating his lunch. I always wait for daycare to tell me what to do when they call you want me to come get him? Do you think he's ok? I know they can't answer these questions. The tug-of-war between staying at work or picking him up sucks, and I always feel like someone else should make that decision.

I hung up and thought about what I needed to finish before I left. My phone rang again 5 minutes later. His lips were getting worse by the minute.


We had a run-in with peanut butter a week ago that prompted a blood draw and allergy test. We hadn't gotten the results yet when I got the call from daycare. The center is supposedly nut-free, and he'd had that same lunch before without any reaction, so we weren't sure what caused the problem.

I grabbed my keys and wallet and headed for the door, texting a few people that I might miss a meeting. I sped down the highway, calling our pediatrician nurse adviser line to see if the allergy tests had come back.

"Hello, I'm Alex and my Cooper's name is son. Shit, sorry I'm very flustered. 10/10/14 was the birth. OK can I be done talking now? You give me questions, and I will maybe answer them."

The test results had come back last week, but our doctor has been out of, aren't these kind of important to know, so we don't kill our baby? Apparently, Cooper is allergic to everything at varying degrees. The nurse adviser read them off, "Wheat, eggs, milk, soy, peanuts, walnuts, almonds" the list went on. It didn't make sense because he'd eaten most of these things before without issues.

The nurse adviser stayed on the phone with me as I walked into daycare to hear my explanation of how he looked. I froze when I saw him.

He looked like ginger Joan Rivers or Kim Kardashian. He kept saying, "Mama?" between his thick lips. He thought his mouth was hilarious, playing with his lips, giggling and drooling. I told the nurse adviser that Cooper looked like Meg Ryan, and she told me to get to Children's Hospital ER immediately.

As I drove across town to Children's, I listened closely to his breathing. He started to cough about halfway there, and I almost dialed 911. Should I have called an ambulance at daycare? What if they can't get him in right away? WHY ARE YOU DRIVING SO SLOW, PRIUS?!

Children's Hospital in Minneapolis is incredible. We got in right away, the doctors were calm with us as we talked in hyper-speed, and the nurses were great with Cooper.

He got an Epipen shot (which Cooper did not enjoy), and they monitored him for 4 hours to make sure the drugs worked and just in case he developed any breathing issues. Cooper was pleased with the amount of toys and Sesame Street DVDs, while Matt and I cried and reassured each other we were good parents. Coop made friends with all the nurses and techs, waving at everyone through our room window and doling out high-fives like it was his job.

We went back and forth with the pediatrician's office trying to get the allergy test results released to the hospital, but the amount of red tape involved would make anyone jump out a window. We still don't know what caused the reaction, and we still don't know how to interpret the test results. I guess Cooper will eat and drink air until our doctor is back from vacation...

I'm happy to report, he made a full recovery. His lips have gone back to Courtney Cox's original size, and we now have an Epipen just in case.

My boss was kind enough to drop off my computer for the weekend and a sweet stuffed animal and book for Cooper. I've said it before, but my office is truly a family. I can't imagine another organization going to the lengths mine goes to for its people when they need it most.

Coop and I cuddled all day today and took lots of naps after a high-adrenaline, shitty Tuesday. On Thanksgiving Eve, I can't help but be thankful for the nurses, doctors and my office for being so caring, helpful and understanding. There's nothing like a life-threatening situation that makes you realize how much we take our health for granted. I can't believe I even thought about work before dropping everything to pick him up. In these situations...scratch life, every second matters.

I'm still getting the hang of the mom thing, but yesterday was definitely a wake-up call.