Wednesday, September 21, 2011

I'll Take What I Can Get

I pulled into the parking lot of "Sneeze, Wheeze, and Itch Associates" just as Reese was falling asleep for her nap at my friend's house across town. Knowing she was in good hands, I let my worries drift away as I sat in the waiting room, opened my borrowed copy of The Help, and picked up where I left off. I almost always forget to bring a book to the doctor's office (unless of course you count Bear Snores On or Bunny on the Beach), but today wasn't just any doctor's visit. When I called to make my appointment for the allergy testing recommended by my primary doctor, the receptionist told me to plan to be there for up to four hours. Two years ago, I would never have been excited for a four-hour trip to the doctor. But now? All I could think about was how much quiet reading time I could enjoy in four hours. I could only hope it would take that long.

After completing my in-take paperwork, I read 15 pages in the waiting room before the nurse called me back. She took my vitals and left me alone to change into a gown and wait for the doctor. Ten minutes passed. Fifteen. Twenty. I didn't care. I read another 20 pages. Finally, the doctor came in to talk to me about my symptoms and prep me for the test. If you've never had allergy testing done, it's probably the least fun thing you can do with a couple hours of spare time. You lay on the exam table with your back exposed and the nurse pokes you over 50 times with little needles, each one containing a different common allergen: molds, grasses, dust mites, pollen, ragweed, animals - you name it, they stick you with it. It's actually more of a nuisance than real pain. Either way, I didn't care. I read another 10 pages while they poked at my back.

They told me it takes 20 minutes for the test to work, and they both left the room. By the time I heard the door close behind them, I could already feel the itchy welts rising up on my skin. You're not supposed to scratch them, so I laid there on my stomach and wiggled back and forth as if I could somehow claw at them with my imagination. I did my best to remove my thoughts from the itching, from the fact that I was lying half-naked on a table in a doctor's office, from the laundry and dishes waiting for me at home, from my child sleeping across town. I immersed myself completely in my book and, despite my discomfort, I read another 20 pages.

The nurse came back in to read the test. She took measurements of the welts, rattling off the ones that came up positive (ragweed, grass, trees, cats, dogs... no wonder I'm such an itchy mess). She applied a hydro-cortisone cream to what she called "the big ones." It relieved some of the itching, but definitely not all of it.  Then she proceeded to tell me that she had to repeat the test on my arms for the allergens that were "questionable." She poked each of my forearms four times and left the room for another twenty minutes. Now, not only could I feel the welts rising on my skin but I could see them too, and those were even harder not to scratch because they were so easily within reach. I returned my mind to the blissful enjoyment of reading in complete silence and took in another 20 pages.

After over 3 hours and 20 minutes at "Sneeze, Wheeze, and Itch Associates," I walked out the front door with a packet of information on allergy shots (which are going to cost me who-knows-how-much), my back and arms covered in itchy welts, and a long list of things I'm allergic to but probably can't avoid coming in contact with. But despite all those things, I just spent over 3 hours with no responsibilities other than lying still and reading a book. As I pulled out of the parking lot and began the drive to pick up Reese, I turned the radio up a little higher, sang a little louder, and smiled a little bigger. I read almost 100 pages in one sitting and it was awesome.

Over the past 15 months, I've had to lower my standards of what constitutes "rest and relaxation" and find some creative ways to recharge my "mommy" battery. Sometimes it's a dinner date with Matt or a girls' night with friends. Sometimes it's a slow walk to the mailbox or a late-night glass of wine. And sometimes it's three very itchy hours in a doctor's office with my nose in a very good book. So what if I was lying on a table covered in tissue paper instead of in a hammock on the beach? So what if I was getting poked with needles instead of getting massaged with oils. So what if I was itching with awful discomfort instead of relaxing with blissful joy? All that mattered to me was that I was reading. Alone. In silence. And these days, I'll take whatever I can get.

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