Oh, where to start?
(First with a little foreword. I wrote everything except this paragraph back in the beginning of April. It was a time when I was really not doing well. I’m not sure why I didn’t post immediately but I’m finally coming back and will just post as-is and follow up with the rest of the story in another post. So here goes…)
How about we just get it out there…Claire has severe allergies and eczema. If you know me in real life you already know this. It can, at times (lately? since she was born? it’s hard to remember), be all-consuming.
A friend asked how I was doing recently and I responded that I was about the same as usual – I have a bad case of the allergy/eczema blues. She said that could be the title of my book. True story. Except I just googled it and Eczema Blues is already a blog. I’m not surprised. This is a very real thing.
But let’s back up.
Claire is awesome. She is stunningly beautiful, wickedly smart, super funny, and the kindest, most thoughtful little girl I could ever hope to meet. The fact that I get to call her my daughter and watch as she discovers this world brings me endless joy. I mean, just look at that glimmer in her eye and those silly little faces!
(And, as a side note, for an amazing read on keeping that glimmer, read this Dear Bee – what a beautiful gift these letters are to her daughter!)
But her allergies are complicated and anxiety-inducing. Mostly because we don’t even know what they all are. I am bombarded (by mostly well-meaning, so I don’t mean this personally against any of you) questions, comments and suggestions on a regular basis. It can be exhausting. So let’s write down what I know. (Or maybe just what I think? Feel? Don’t know? We’ll see where this post goes.)
Claire’s pediatrician told me on her second day of life that the rash she had indicated she’d probably have food allergies. In my postpartum bliss, I put this aside. Neither Pete nor I have food allergies. I did pretty much everything they recommend you do to protect your children from food allergies (not specifically with that intention, necessarily, but I did.)
We had trouble nursing. First latching. Then with how long my milk took to come in. And then with a baby who would get very upset after eating.
Looking back, I don’t even know what order a lot of things happened in.
Did I know then that eating was the problem? She nursed all the time so I don’t know that I did.
When did her eczema start? I don’t know that either. I don’t think the doctor called it that specifically for a while.
What about the back arching? Hmmm. I don’t know that either. But I specifically remember thinking when she was around 3 months old that the books had lied to me. My baby was getting fussier, not settling. Everyone would tell me what a good baby she was and it just made me feel worse. Don’t get me wrong, she was a good baby. She is so good. For the reasons I listed above and a million more. All babies are good.
But it was hard. And I’m sure all babies are hard. But I think this baby was hard to me because I was the one feeding her. She’d be kicking her little legs (which I now think was the eczema on the backs of her knees bothering her) and she’d go on and off, on and off (which I think was because her stomach likely hurt.) My grandmother, who nursed 5 of her own babies and has witnessed who knows how many more nursing, said she had never seen a baby nurse like that before. Hmm.
I tried eliminating dairy. I tried eliminating acidic foods. Maybe soy too? I don’t remember when any of this was either (maybe Pete will write a post that contains actual details? Pete?) but I do know it didn’t seem to matter. I felt like I was not eating well at a time I needed to the most and it wasn’t helping one bit. I added them back in and then one day finally did see the connection to too much dairy. So I cut back.
She didn’t seem as uncomfortable but she still had her rashes. I was told to just treat the rashes with steroids and oral anti-itch medication, that they likely weren’t a sign of food allergies. I think it’s something like 66% of eczema that really is just a skin rash and her eczema was limited to specific areas. Unfortunately, with what I know now, I should have been more careful. I should have tried to identify whether any other foods I was eating were causing her problems. I don’t mean that in a guilty kind of way. I didn’t know. But I wish I had.