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July's Biatch

I hate July. Next year, I plan to not come out from under my bed for the entire month. Even then, something unpleasant will happen. And it will probably involve the big scary dust dinos that live under there.

Last July, I gave birth to the Boy, who just turned one and is all a one-year old boy should be. He cruises. He babbles. He smashes. He is a delight and, frankly, the only good thing that has ever emerged from the month.

Since I had my boy joy at the end of July, the first three weeks were full of vast uncomfortableness. Compared to Julys past, however, that was but a minor inconvenience. I’d actually begun to believe that my July curse had been lifted, that a successful pregnancy and low-key post-partum period would mark a turning point. How wrong I was.

That bitch July has now trained her evil stare on my children. I’d like to make some grand statement about that not being allowed to continue because I will fling my body in front of all who dare to cross my kids. While that is true, it only works in the movies. July will fuck with them regardless of how fiercely I defend them.

The onslaught started mildly, with a case of roseola for the Boy. It’s unpleasant, certainly, but mostly non-life threatening. A week later, he picked up the Coxsackie virus, which was marked by incredibly painful lesions in his mouth. Again, mostly non-life threatening, but the screaming and not-sleeping was wearing on us all.

His plagues were only a lagniappe to an otherwise dreadful month. At her four-year well-kid check-up, the Diva and her belly were a topic of much speculation. She’s always had a big toddler tummy but we’d figured it should have melted away by now. Instead, it’s getting bigger. And she seems to have stopped growing. And has “Offensive Flatus,” which is about as delicately as I can put it. Even the cats flee the room, if that gives you any indication.

I figured that the pediatrician would take a wait-and-see approach. Instead, blood was drawn. It indicated that it is very likely that she has Celiac Disease, which is the condition where your body can’t digest gluten and it actively damages your small intestine. And gluten, like Elvis, is everywhere.

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It’s a shock to have your kid go from normal-if-funny-shaped to having a chronic condition, one that will require daily management and intrusive life changes. Of all the chronic conditions to have, this is one of the better ones, granted. But I’d rather she’d not have it at all or, if that can’t be arranged, that it could be given to me, instead. As much as I like cake, I’d gladly give it up for the rest of my life if it meant that my kid didn’t have to deal with any of this. I don’t have the slightest idea how parents of kids with fatal diseases deal. My heart goes out to you, which is cold comfort, I know. With celiac, the blood test is merely the first step to confirming a diagnosis. What then followed is an hour-each-way trip to our nearest Big City to see a Pediatric Gastroenterologist for a consult. While our hip and happening small town has plenty of doctors, dentists and hair stylists, exotic specialties require that you jump in the car. The PGENT Scagnelli, whose last name I adore because it conjures images of a muppet-like sea creature, made it clear that we’d have to do a biopsy of the Diva’s small intestine.

The small intestine isn’t easy to get to even in small people. Thanks to the wonders of mini cameras, it’s not as invasive as it could be -- but it still requires sedation. I hope to never, ever have to have one of my kids sedated again. If you can, July, throw me that bone. The day of the biopsy dawned hot. We made the hour drive down and sat for another hour, simply because hospitals get a sadistic glee from making you wait. The reception room was full of folks over 60 – some well over – and the Diva, who kept spinning like a top so that she could get her skirt to flare out, was still ticked at us for not letting her eat.

The hospital staff couldn’t have been nicer, which seems to be a default for hospital staff. Dennis, our nurse, had a great rapport with the Diva. Our PGENT entertained the Diva with the endoscope, showing her what the inside of her ear looked like, among other things. For the Diva, the worst part was the IV and even that wasn’t a huge deal. For me, the worst part was when we left the room as the sedatives took her away. She was still conscious enough to call out a plaintive “Mommy” as we left. A big fist squeezed my heart.

Ten minutes later, Scagnelli fetched us from the waiting area and brought us to her. She was just coming up out of the drugs. He warned us that one of them – Versed – makes kids cry for a good half-hour afterwards. And it did. She was so pale and drooling and crying, the cry of a kid who is hopeless and alone.

We went back to a recovery room, where Dennis turned out the light and peeled off as much as the monitoring equipment that he could. The Diva whimpered and sobbed. My husband stroked her forehead. I climbed into bed next to her. We were like that in the dark for what felt like forever, while sobs wrenched out of her teeny frame.

“Why am I so dizzy, Mommy?” she asked, between bouts of tears. “Why does my voice sound so weird?” We’d explain, then the crying would ramp back up.

Dennis, bless him, came in and showed us the room’s TV, which was the perfect size for a four-year old and, even better, had the Disney Channel. Three seconds into the Doodlebops and her tears stopped. What mommy can’t make better, dancers in day-glo make-up certainly can. It’s nice to know where you stand in your kid’s universe.

Flash forward a couple of weeks and we now have a confirmed diagnoses of celiac. With it, Scagnelli also gave me four full-color pictures of the Diva’s digestive tract. I’ll put them in the album next to her first sonogram, I guess, or turn them into Christmas cards. A lifetime of label-reading and food-policing awaits us all. I can’t wait.

As for July, I have surrendered officially. I never thought National Ice Cream month could be so cruel.
About the Author:
Adrienne Martini  has been a theatre technician, apprentice massage therapist, bookstore bookkeeper and pizza joint waitress. Eventually, someone started paying her for her words and an editorial mercenary was  born. She has written theatre reviews and features for the Austin Chronicle, blurbs about tofurkey and bottled water for Cooking Light and a piece about  knitting summer camp for Interweave Knits. She is a former editor for Knoxville, Tennessee's Metro Pulse and recently picked up an AAN award for feature writing. In July 2006, her first book Hillbilly Gothic: A Memoir of Madness and Motherhood will be published.  During the day, she fields freelance gigs and crams knowledge into the heads of college students in Upstate New York. At all hours, she is mom to Maddy and Cory, and wife to Scott. 


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