Learning to Adjust to Corey’s severe allergies and eczema
With the worst of the eczema infections over, our second year of May 2017 – 2018 was all about staying on the grind.
By his first birthday, we also added a confirmed house dust mite allergy to the plethora of food allergies in eggs, milk, peanuts and shellfish (which at the writing of this post he has successfully outgrown yay!). Conversation with doctor during his one-year-old checkup:
Doctor said: you have a very allergic child on your hands
Me: No kidding. How am I going to juggle EVERYTHING?
Doctor said: eczema and allergies are very complex. Feed your baby a healthy diet, avoid his allergens and keep up the skin care regime we set.
Doctor did not have a lot more to add beyond this in that conversation. To be honest it was already A LOT to process and do.
He had already given me a proper diagnosis and a simple skincare plan. Prescribed medicines and creams to use and the safe dosages to give.
For everything else, I had to figure out on my own.
Reality Sinks In
By our second year, it became increasingly clear that Corey’s childhood was going to be very different from a normal child.
Here was a child, who was constantly rashy and itchy, being told all the time that he could not eat most things he older brother ate. During birthday parties Corey could not go near the dessert tables, much less taste all the colorful and pretty goodies all the other kids were having. Other people rarely kissed or cuddled him because we feared they may have remnants of his allergens on their breath which could cause him to react.
Year 2 was about digging my heels into constructing a conducive environment for Corey while giving him as normal a childhood as possible. To accomplish this as I soon found out, was no easy feat.
I wondered how lovely it could be if I could place him in a safe bubble. Images of the movie Bubble Boy would frequently come to mind whenever I had these thoughts.
Author Seth Godin wrote in on his blog, “there are three ways to deal with a problem: Lean into it. Lean away from it. Runaway.”
In my first year dealing with Corey’s allergies and eczema, I think I leaned away for a while. I lived in the denial that hey, maybe he’ll outgrow this soon. I might have for a very short time even contemplated running away (the topic of eczema mummy’s depression is a topic I would love to dive into someday. But not today as this post is about Corey’s progression).
I think it was my husband who jokingly said to me during a particularly difficult day: “where’s the return policy on this kid?”
Many times I would break down. Then I’d looked at Corey through my tears to see his rashy face smile and beckon to me.
If he was not giving up, how could I?
So I decided to really lean into the problem. I read, ate, slept baby eczema and allergies. I built trackers to track Corey’s activities, diet, medicine, and cream usage. His diet, while limited, was chocked full of healthy proteins and skin healing foods and bone broth. I overhauled my house to adapt to his allergies.
The outcome? by the end of the second year, Corey’s skin started to exhibit some normal baby smooth areas. Corey was exceeding his growth charts and growing faster than his older brother did at the same age.
It was a nauseating year-long roller coaster ride
As I write this, it feels like I can finally validate all my effort. But while it’s easy to look back and say I did that, none of it happened overnight. I was constantly going back and forth between his flares, trying to figure out what caused them. Often times I was left wondering if it was the foods he was eating or foods cooking in the air making his eczema worse?
Most days it was more confusion than clarity. It felt like a year-long roller coaster ride that I could not get off. I remember I would keep repeating to myself that we really could not live like this, how as he going to have any childhood like that?
Corey’s eczema skin in the second year felt like sandpaper, looked dull and parched.
On the surface, the worse of the eczema was healed, but if you stared long enough, you will notice that faint rashes were still present underneath.
A dermatologist once explained it to me aptly: eczema skin is like a smoldering forest fire. On the surface, it looks like the fire is out but all it takes is a tiny trigger to ignite a huge flare.
Sticking with the program – my glass is ALWAYS half full
I was discouraged more times than I can remember. In fact, I was discouraged most of the time. I’d get his skin reasonably clear, then poof! Overnight the rashes were back again on his trunk and back.
Drawing on every ounce of positivity during these moments was what got me through. Some days’ I’d feel like a crazy person because I needed to have a pep talk in my head:
Why are these rashes back again? Hey, at least it isn’t as bad as it used to be. He’s eating ok and growing ok. He was happy this morning and scratching less right?
When self-motivating stopped working, I emailed Corey’s doctor asking all sorts of questions. He usually had the same answer: eczema and allergies are complex diseases.
If eczema and allergies were so complex, isn’t there a way I could simplify the process for myself? Simplify I did, and then I met other mums and started helping them simplify their processes.
Anyhow, that was how I kept sticking with the program. Repeating the same skin care regime four times a day during this second year. More moisturizing and skin repair work when Corey slept. Constant monitoring of his diet and exposures documented in notes and trackers.
My go-to motivation during days when I threw my arms up and said to H*^# with eczema: as long as the patches were getting smaller and not getting worse, we are on the right track. Just keep going
Related: Eczema Tracker February 2018
Making up for loss time -sloooooowly
It is every parent’s privilege to indulge in their baby’s smell. Go ahead, if you have a baby under the age of one, pick them up now and give their hair a big whiff. For me, I did not smell my baby’s anything till 2018. I even recorded it down because to me, it was a huge milestone for us. My journal entry:
31st March 2018: the first time since his birth in 2016 that I smelled his hair. By this time his eczema was almost totally healed. He had just fallen asleep and I noticed how well his skin looked. So I bent over, gave him a kiss and it was the perfect opportunity to take a deep whiff. I inhaled deeply and felt my eyes getting hot because he still had that perfect baby smell!
At that moment, I promised to shower him with as many kisses and cuddles as he would let me. It was like I was transported back to the mum with a newborn infant.
We have not looked back since. Yes, with chronic eczema and allergies, I’ve had to slow down (waaaaay down) every aspect of my baby’s milestones. But the important thing is, we were now back on track by the second year of battling his chronic eczema and about to gain speed as you will read in the next post on year three and beyond.
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