‘We’ll have to shut down the whole clinic for the afternoon.’ She said, annoyed.
‘Well, you just go ahead and do that,’ I thought, annoyed. But didn’t say it.
My 11 month old had suddenly developed a rash all over his whole body. I instantly assumed it must be chicken pox, since he was 1 month away from being vaccinated. He must have picked it up at the local pool.
Chicken pox is so feared, that even the mere mention of it requires shutting down a clinic so it can be thoroughly cleaned.
And so we waited, impatiently, for 24 hours. Then the call came ‘No, it’s not chicken pox. No, no further tests were done, so we can’t tell you what it actually is.’
It wasn’t until months and months later that I made the connection. Whenever Jack had a peanut butter sandwich, he broke out in welts.
And he was covered in eczema at all times. From the age of 6 weeks. Even though he was 100% breastfed until 6 months. Lying awake at night, I’d hear what sounded like sandpaper rubbing against nails. Poor Jack would groan and moan, scratching through the night.
I’ve tried every possible lotion on the market – from cortisone to calendula oil. No relief.
I’ve never been allergic to anything, so I didn’t know where to start. My mind flashed back to a flight with my husband years ago – pre kids – from London to Paris. A flight attendant made the inconvenient announcement that due to a peanut allergy in one of the passengers, all peanut related menu items were removed from the menu. We were sitting at the back of the plane, so by the time the trolley arrived, it was empty. We were hungry and very annoyed.
Now, I feel very guilty about it.
Jack was 2 ½ years old when we finally did the ‘skin prick’ test and I wish we had done it much, much sooner. His back lit up like a Christmas tree. Peanuts, cashews, tree nuts, dogs, mould, weeds, pollen, dust mites… I was overwhelmed. He handled it so well. By now, his discomfort resistance levels are so high.
And so we left the clinic armed and terrified with an epi-pen. Good grief. Imagine if I actually have to use the thing? Too much for a mother to bear. Too much!
I have declared war on dust mites, Googling every possible dust mite killing spray. I’ve never been more determined to beat something in all my life. Mattress, pillow and doona covers, dust mite spray, allergy vacuum… and oh, the creams. Declaring war on dust mites is an expensive but oh so necessary exercise now.
And it surprised me how much it affected me spiritually. My husband and I both believe that words are powerful and so we chose names for our boys that would speak life and hope over them every time we said their names. Jack means ‘God is gracious’ and Jack’s middle name, Angus, means ‘perfectly formed.’ So, I truly believe that every time I speak his name, I’m speaking these things over his life. I had a bone to pick with God.
One night, Jack was crying out and I went into his room to comfort him. He asked me to cuddle him. I could see he had drawn blood from scratching so much and it was smeared over his face… and his sheets were covered in dead skin (in just a matter of hours!). I lay down beside him, amongst the dead skin and held him in my arms. I instantly felt his body relax and he fell asleep.
I thought about how God offers this comfort to us, when we call for him in our pain. He meets us where we’re at and we can just fall into his arms… forgetting our struggles and just resting in Him.
Recently I read a quote from Nick Vuijicic (born with no arms and no legs): ‘I don’t have this extraordinary life DESPITE my weakness, I have this extraordinary life BECAUSE of my weakness.’
Okay, so living with unbearably itchy arms and legs can never compare to living with NO arms and legs, but it helped me realise that the nights I sat up cradling Jack as he scratched and smeared blood over us both, God was hearing my pleas and He had a reason for not answering yet.
Jack lives in a constant state of discomfort… but he bares it so graciously and I know he has an extraordinary life ahead of him. I’ve already learnt so much about life and love and faith… because of him.
This Winter, poor little Jack developed asthma. I was completely unaware of the symptoms and so for nights on end, he coughed incessantly but by morning, he’d be fine again and I’d forget about it. One night, he called me into his room and humbly declared ‘Mummy, I ‘vonnited’.’ He had coughed so hard, he’d vomited over his pillow and blanket.
‘That’s okay, sweety,’ I whispered, gathering him in my arms. I was so full of compassion for him. I stripped off his pyjamas and put him straight into the shower. I listened to him singing happily while I changed his bed and thought: ‘what a great honour and privilege we parents have to serve our kids.’ And it reminded me of Matthew 25:35-36: ‘For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’
It really describes a mother’s job description. Although I hope I never have to visit him in prison! Jack’s weakness allows me to fulfil God’s calling on my life… and it’s a privilege.
As I tucked him back into bed, he reached out to cuddle me and I squeezed him tight. So aware of the preciousness of life. A couple of days later we were in the hospital emergency room after a long night watching him struggle to breathe and so began our new life with Ventolin spray.
I’m so glad he’s still too small to notice the ‘looks’ he gets from strangers, as if he has leprosy… and the comments: ‘What’s wrong with your son’s skin?’ People ask me ALL THE TIME, looking genuinely concerned that it might be contagious. My prayer is that he will grow up to be so confident in himself that the stares and comments won’t worry him. He will know he is loved more than he could ever hope to comprehend and his mumma is doing all she can to make him better. But he is perfect in his imperfection. His weakness has helped me find strength I never knew I had… and a depth of love I never knew I possessed.