A lobster nearly killed me

[Tweet “A lobster nearly killed me.”]Alright. Fine. I’m exaggerating a little bit. I did not nearly die by the claw of a lobster. Although, for a minute there, it sure seemed like I might.

Yesterday was my mother-in-law’s birthday. For the record, she turned 49.[1] To celebrate her birthday (which is usually a week or month long depending on the year) the family got together for an old-fashioned backyard Maine lobster dinner. Someone brought potato salad. Someone else brought lobsters. I brought wine and chocolate.

The kids instantly sought each other out like a wild pack of hellions and played basketball in the driveway while the old folks (anyone not a kid) sipped wine, chatted about boats and vegetable gardens, and tried not to drool over the enormous pot of boiling water that was waiting to cook freshly caught lobsters.


Tables and chairs were lined up in the yard. Wine was being passed around to fill glasses (OK, just mine and my mother-in-law’s…we are so simpatico) and everyone was eagerly waiting in line to fill their plates with amazing food prepared with love by the women of this tribe of Cottrell’s.

My son, Loud Child sat next to me. He is four and hasn’t yet figured out that we do not fall in love with our first cousin’s. And so, he was a blushy and googly-eyed awkward ball of energy at his teenaged cousin who sat directly to his left. This meant that I had no choice but to sit to his direct right. And this was only because he was so shy that he whispered things to me that he wanted to say or ask to his cute left.

Loud Child usually loves lobster and had been looking forward to eating this dinner all day long. I had used this as a bargaining chip to squeeze out good behavior all day long. So I was completely taken by surprise when he announced that he wasn’t going to touch his.

You know what this meant for me? This meant that I JUST SCORED A FREE LOBSTER!

I ate two lobsters. I drowned those two lobsters with two glasses of a lovely sauvignon blanc. I must fess up that until this particular lobster dinner I had spent a solid 14 legal years denouncing white wine as an imposter to the real gem, red wine. I made every joke in the book about how ridiculous and stupid and what a waste white wine is. But then I had this truly lovely sauvignon blanc and my mind was forever changed.

Skip ahead a few hours and two impossibly cranky children and we find ourselves at the part of the story where my lobster tried to kill me.

It was smack in the middle of the night. One o’clock in the morning to be exact, and I woke up honestly believing that fire ants had raided my bed. My ENTIRE BODY was on fire. I could not scratch it fast or hard enough.

My youngest son co-sleeps with my husband and me. I was immediately terrified that something sinister was in the bed with us and so I snatched him up in my arms and searched his little sleeping body, but I found no signs of bites or rashes.

But still, my body just plain hurt and the heat and itch was so awful I had tears streaming down my cheeks before I even realized that I was crying.

Not quite awake yet (for goodness sakes this happened so fast that at this point in the story only a minute or two has passed since waking up) I stripped the bed in hot search for bed bugs or fire ants or demon spawns from hell.

I didn’t know.

Baby was still asleep so I quickly snuck out of the room and headed downstairs where my husband was still awake and watching TV. I had tears streaming down my face. My body was swelling. My skin was bright red.

I was covered in welts.

The welts started on the trunk of my body and were about the size of quarters. Within minutes they spread faster than a rumor and were the size of grapefruits and then dinner plates. Before I knew it my abdomen, inner arms and legs, my scalp, my face, and inside my mouth was all itchy and swelling.

What the hell was happening to me?!?!?!

My quick thinking husband grabbed a Benadryl and made me swallow it with a giant glass of water. He sat with me for a few minutes and we both feared that my throat would close up next. I had some trouble breathing and used a rescue inhaler to open my lungs.

And then I was OK.

A little while later the swelling stopped. The itching went away. I became drowsy and floppy and my sweet husband helped me get back to bed.

The next morning I was fine. My skin was a little red in places but that was it. The kids were rearing to go on with their usual summer day. I had coffee, no breakfast, logged a few complaints under my breath and went about my business as Mom.

And then BOOM! Out of nowhere the swelling came back. This time it was worse. My husband had his sister drop off an antihistamine and I called the family doctor.

After several conversations with our new marvelous friend (who happens to be a nurse) and also with our fantastic family doctor, it became clear that I have developed an allergy to shellfish.

Me. I’m an eighth generation Mainer (this is as far back as my family records officially go). Lobster is a part of my soul. Lobster is a part of my every single summer. Lobster is a huge part of my familial and cultural identity as a Mainer.

And now it turns out that I can’t touch it because I will swell up like the freakin’ Hindenburg and turn seven shades of red.

All is not lost, though. A writer friend chimed in on Facebook to tell me that she too had once experienced a reaction to shellfish but that it was an isolated experience. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the next time I eat lobster (because I will, damn it!) that it will have no lasting effects outside of pure pleasure.

[1] See what I did there, Lynn? Now I’m your *favorite* daughter-in-law, huh?

Sarah Cottrell

About Sarah Cottrell

Maine-based writer Sarah Cottrell is the voice behind Housewife Plus at the Bangor Daily News and is a regular contributor to Disney’s Babble and Momtastic. She is a co-author in six books including I Still Just Want To Pee Alone from the New York Times Bestselling series. Sarah’s work has also been highlighted and featured by SELF Magazine, National Public Radio, Washington Post, and VICE Tonic.