I have always had eczema since I was a child. It was mostly confined to my hands for most of my life and the occasional flare up on my face, although I remember one stint on my foot and of course, the usual crook of my arms, back of my knees and junction of my underarms. Sometimes it got so bad, I’ve actually gone to First Aid and had my skin scrubbed raw. I had used every topical prescription on the market including Protopic, the now black labeled topical steroid cream.
Revealing a more masochistic side of me, I remember in the middle of the night, secretly turning on the faucet until it was scalding hot, to give my itchy hands some relief… despite my parents and my doctors telling me that it would make my skin more dry and cause the eczema to flare up even more. All I knew was after a few dips in the scalding hot water, my skin didn’t itch anymore and I wasn’t spending the night consumed with tearing the skin off my fingers until it bleed or filled with puss, allowing me to fall asleep before the itch returned. I now know it was probably because I killed those nerves that told me it itched.
This is what I call being a good parent. Only now because of my pregnancy, do I heed what my doctor is actually telling me. When my eczema flared up to the worst it has ever been in my life, I was begging for some relief. None was given, but much advice was dispensed. My flare up, which the doctor said had much to do with stress, had now consumed my entire body, with the exception of my feet. It began on both my face and my stomach, spreading to my arms and my legs and now my back… little red welts, dry skin patches and an incredible itchiness which I spend practically all day willing myself not to scratch. Under the advice of my doctor, I slathered on the Aquaphor, even though the idea of something so thick on even my face grossed me out. Desperation, makes you do things you never thought you would do. Instead of scalding hot water, I turned the other knob, to gradually ice cold. Even my showers start at warm, to ease myself in, and then slowly the knob turns colder and colder and colder as I progressed. Now the additional bonus I felt, was that I was being a little more environmental. I wasn’t utilizing or wasting energy to heat up more water. I still spent the following hour after the shower, with aquaphor slathered on, a bottle of Sarna nearby for the itch I can’t resist, willing myself not to scratch and doing a lot of slow, calming, breathing to bring my body temperature down. But I did see a significant improvement on how often I wanted to scratch and a major significant improvement in the eczema flare up. While most bumpy eruptions appear after my shower, by morning they are reduced to flat little red dots on my body. Any itch equaled dry patch and on came the dab of aquaphor and some more breathing until the itch subsided. While I’m sure some drug out there post pregnancy would make it all disappear instantly, I was happy to find a more natural approach to dealing with my chronic eczema. It also gave me some sympathy for a much younger self, I really didn’t had this kind of self control as a child, to not scratch or not scald my skin. Hopefully if any of my children have to suffer the same condition, I will be more sympathetic to their pain.
The hardest part of all of this wasn’t even the willing not to scratch, but rather something inevitable that I kept pushing off, weaning my daughter off breastfeeding. My doctor concluded that the stress of school, nursing my 2 year old and providing nourishment to a developing fetus which having severe nausea was causing my body to act out in the form of major eczema flare ups. While we knew the nausea should get better soon, school and fetus was inevitable but my daughter’s nursing days had to end. In some sense, while it was heartbreaking for the both of us, I know that in the end it will be better for us both. With the new baby coming in 5 short months, I hope this gives her enough time to forget about breastfeeding and avoid the jealousy that might have ensued watching the new baby nurse with Mommy when she wasn’t allowed to anymore. I am happy that at least I was able to surpass my 2 year mark even if it was only for a few weeks past and am confident that I put her health on the right path.