Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Don't Be Rash (PSA)

I know I haven't been blogging much lately. There's actually a reason for it, in addition to the general busy-ness of life with two under three. It all started with an oval patch under my bra line on my left side. I first noticed it in January. It didn't itch, burn, or really feel like anything. It was just there, about two inches long and a half inch wide. I ignored it for a few weeks, but when it was still there in mid-February, I started wondering what it could be. I showed a girlfriend who told me it looked like a patch of ringworm her son had on his leg a year ago. Of course, I consulted Dr. Google, and indeed, my patch looked like ringworm patches that I found online. I bought a tube of otc antifungal cream and put it on the patch. While it didn't go away, it didn't seem any worse. The first week in March, I noticed some small (pea-size), light brown to pink, oval patches that extended under my left breast and a bit down my side. There were maybe six or seven patches and, unlike that first spot, these itched. Not a lot or anything, but just more noticeable. I applied the cream to those, too. At this same time, I had an appointment with my primary care physician to discuss my post-partum anxiety (that's a whole separate post). As an aside during that visit, I had her look at the rash. After a cursory glance, she confirmed that it was ringworm and told me to keep applying the ointment to it and that it should go away in a few days to a couple of weeks. It was after that visit that the rash started getting worse. It started on my forearms and on my other side. I went from having less than ten spots to having 20 or 30. And instead of being mildy itchy, they were extremely itchy. And a new spot was cropping up all the time. First, I would get this horrible itchy place on my skin. I would try, try, try not to scratch, but eventually, I would get distracted doing something else and forget that it was a no-no, and I would itch. Then a spot would show up seconds later, red, angry, and welt-like. I e-mailed my doctor and let her know that the rash was getting worse. She prescribed a stronger antifungal and some cortisone cream. I dutifully applied both creams to no avail. I started using tea tree oil soap and not putting any normal lotion on. My skin was drying out, which was what everyone told me what necessary to rid myself of the fungus. By this time, several of the patches had gotten red, oozy, and were painful, especially on my forearms and stomach. I was so afraid of passing on my fungal infection onto my family, especially Emma, who was still nursing. I would take a sheet and wrap it around my breast so that only my nipple was showing. I would wash the sheet immediately after nursing. I also was washing my bedsheets every morning and never wearing a shirt or bra for more than two hours. I had to wear long sleeves all of the time and avoided touching the kids as much as possible. The thought of them contracting this horrible, itchy rash was enough to make me break out in more spots. After a week of the prescription cream and things only getting worse, I went back to my doctor. She was stunned by my rash and took skin scrapings to do a KOH test to make sure it was fungal. She saw lots of fungus in the scrapings so prescribed a third type of antifungal cream. She said she was at a loss, because ringworm doesn't usually spread like it was on me, but in cases where it was resistant to topical ointments, she would usually prescribe an oral antifungal. But oral antifungals are no-nos for lactating women, so my choice was to wean Emma and take the medications or keep suffering. I opted to try this last cream and see if I could beat it with that. This was a Friday. By Sunday night, I was ready to do whatever it took to get rid of my rash, even if it meant weaning Emma. I was covered from hip bone to collar bone in these angry red patches. They burned, they itched, they oozed, they bled. Where I didn't have the patches, I had a fine, red, bumpy rash that itched more than anything I have ever experienced. And as the patches crept upward, I had nightmares about the fungus getting into my hair and losing chunks of it. Forunately, they didn't creep up my neck, but I was still miserable. Showering was the worst. They were sting so much that I cried as the water hit them. I could barely stand drying myself off. Then I would rub the antifungal cream in and it would feel like I was burning my skin with a blow torch. Then, the very worst thing of all happened: I noticed two spots on Emma's cheek. I burst into tears and called my doctor's office, begging for some help. I couldn't imagine her having to endure this horrible rash. My primary care doctor finally referred me to a dermatologist. This doctor took one look at me and told me that she would "eat her shirt" if what I had was a fungal infection. She said that KOH testing is very unreliable and that if a person with no rash whatsoever was tested, it would show positive for fungus unless taken and intepreted properly. She did a skin biopsy in two places, a swab for staph infection, and a scraping. She prescribed a heavy-duty cortisone cream and told me to stop applying all of the creams. She said that I very likely had eczema and that all of the harsh creams and soaps had basically "burned" my poor suffering skin. I questioned how Emma could be getting the same thing and she said that she probably was just having a reaction to all of the creams and such that I'd been using and not the same thing at all. I was skeptical of that, but it was a relief to know that it might not be a communicable disease after all. She told me I was the first person she'd ever seen happy to receive a diagnosis of eczema. I was so desperate for relief that I applied the cortisone cream in the drive-thru at the pharmacy. Within five minutes of the first application, I was crying tears of relief. It was the first time in three weeks when my skin wasn't burning and itching. This was a Thursday. By Sunday, the rash was so noticeably better that I was willing to wear short sleeves and was no longer worried about the kids catching what was obviously not a fungus. I had done some research on eczema and though I didn't really feel like it sounded like my rash, I figured it must be it, because the steroid cream was clearly working. I didn't care. I was just so glad to be freed from the "rash prison" I had found myself in. On Monday, the dermatologist called me. Turns out, what I had was definitely not a fungal infection and wasn't even eczema. It is something called pityriasis rosea. No one is exactly sure what causes this very benign skin infection, but it is most noticeable (and often confused with ringworm) because of what is called the herald or mother patch. It is generally not contagious (though sometimes it can be in the very young with immature immune systems, explaining Emma's little rash) and thought to be the result of a virus, though no one has isolated the exact cause. I was a textbook case of this skin rash, except for that I kept putting on all of the caustic creams and soaps, which basically gave me a chemical burn and that was why it became more difficult to diagnose. The reason that I put this all here is because if someone is googling "rash that looks like ringworm but won't go away with antifungal creams", they might just end up here and save themselves three weeks of what I went through. I never imagined a rash could be this painful, inconvenient, or altogether horrible. I am just so very glad that Emma's few patches went away without incident and I can now stop doing laundry morning, noon, and night. Moral of the story: Always go to a specialist when things are "funky".

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Little Moments

When I was wondering how on earth I would manage life with 2, a commentor (not sure who and too tired to look back through the archives - raise your hand if it's you so I can credit you) said that it would be chaotic, stressful, and crazy, but there would be little moments where I would meet everyone's needs and everyone would be happy and I would feel like a rockstar. That pretty much sums up having more than one kid. Life is constantly crazy. I sometimes don't even realize how nuts things are until we have guests over and I catch a look at their faces while I do my usual triage/juggling routine. When seen through their eyes, I guess our life can be pretty hectic. I have learned to block out a lot. I deal with it as it comes and as fast as I can and don't let the chaos get to me on most days (most, I said!). Most of the time, I actually enjoy the noise, the pace, the days that pass in a busy blur. I am gaining immunity to the moments that might drive others nuts. But the moments that I am not immune to? The little moments where both of my children are content. . . when I have a baby in each arm and a heart filled with love. . . when their little faces look up at me. . . and I do feel like a rockstar. . . and a Mommy. Today, Will wanted to build a tent. So we did. With a blanket, the couch, and Emma's exersaucer. After we built the tent, he wanted his books. So we read in the tent. Emma woke up from her nap and Will wanted his sister in his tent. I offered a "camping lunch," which he eager accepted, but only if "Emma gets 'camping lunch' too". As I made lunch, I heard Emma start to fuss and before I could get there to intervene, I heard Will say, "Don't worry, Emma Drace, I'll get you another toy." I delivered "camping lunch" (nothing really special, just getting to eat in his tent) and watched as Will offered his sister the Gerber snack I had placed on his plate for just that purpose. As he munched on a carrot stick, he reached out with his other hand and absentmindedly patted his sister's hand. She smiled at him and then they both laughed. Thank God for these little moments. And all the other moments in between.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

No Fear

To answer your burning question. . . Yes, I made the phone call to CPS. The caseworker I spoke to asked me if I wanted to be alerted on case updates (they will not inform you of any details, just simply when the case is closed). I chose not to hear anything. I figure I have done my part at this point and I don't need to hear anything else.

One of my commentors asked why I hadn't already? Why wouldn't I?

Well, I guess because there is that small part of me that felt for the mom. I have been there. I have needed one little thing at the store, be it milk, bananas, a spice to make something in particular, you name it. Though I have never given in to the urge, there have been many times when I have glanced in the rearview mirror only to see two kiddos sleeping peacefully and thought, "They'd never even wake up. . . I could be back in a minute. . . "

Granted, I would make some different choices (no keys in the ignition for starters), and ultimately, I don't think I could do it regardless of where my keys were, but the impulse has been there. And there have been other parenting moves that I have made that I am not necessarily proud of.

Parenting is hard work. It is a daily grind of choices that may seem small, but add up to gargantuan responsibility. While I feel I mostly hold up well to this pressure, I'll admit occasional lapses in judgment, things that a stranger might misinterpret or misunderstand.

Yes, I do recognize that there are lines we cross and lines we don't. I realize that my parenting "errors" have fortunately been minor to date and not put my children in harm's way. But for the grace of God. . . because I have made mistakes that could have ended poorly for my children and have been fortunate that they have not.

So, I guess that's why a small part of me empathasized with this mom, even if I thought she was 100% certifiable for making the choice that she did. I wondered about the day she had, the type of crap she must have endured to get to the point where she put her children in jeopardy, just to make things a bit easier on herself. Her day must have been awful and my call to CPS wasn't going to make things better. It was going to make things worse.

Ultimately, however, what made me make the call was the look on her younger child's face; the fear that baby had in its eyes. I have made mistakes, yes, and I will continue to do so, no doubt. But I pray with all of my heart never to see that look of fear and abandonment in Will or Emma's face.

And that's why I called.

Thursday, March 17, 2011


Okay, blog readers, time for another round of my favorite game. What Would You Do?

Today I pulled into my local grocery store parking lot. I parked next to a van and right next to the cart corral (yay!). As I was getting Will out of the car, I heard the unmistakable cries of a baby. I looked behind me and saw a baby in a carseat in the minivan right next to my car. I also saw a toddler in a car seat. The engine was running, but as I scanned the car, I could not see an adult in the car.

That's because there wasn't one.

The doors were unlocked, the keys were in the ignition, the engine was on. The kids were in the car, secured in their seats, the infant was crying.

I stood there for a moment or two trying to figure out what to do. I didn't want to leave these kids unattended. I gave a brief thought to calling 9-1-1, but decided that the police probably wouldn't respond before a parent (hopefully) returned to the car.

Another woman walking by cast a curious glance at the car and then asked me if it was mine. I told her it wasn't and, concerned, she joined me in pondering the situation. As the minutes passed, we both began to wonder if this was a stolen car, dropped off because the criminal didn't want to have two innocent kids on board. Neither of us could imagine a mom intentionally leaving her kids alone in an unlocked, unguarded, engine-running car for even a minute, let alone the time we had been standing there.

I wrote down the license plate, car color, make, and model. I was about to dial the police when a lady came out of the store. Before I could even open my mouth, she threw up her hand in a defensive gesture and said, "Yes, these are my kids. And they are fine. Mind your own business."

She then peeled out of the parking lot, tires screeching.

I have all of the information to report her to CPS, but balk at making the actual phone call.

So, what would you do?

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

I Did It!

So, I did it! I ran the 5k, which was actually a bit longer of a race than that at 3.8 miles!

I am very proud of myself. For those of you runners out there, I know a 5k is just your warm up, but to me, it felt like a marathon (Um, okay, it didn't. But you know what I mean!).

I was super nervous the night before. I didn't know what to wear, what to bring, what to leave at home, how to carry my stuff during the race, where to go to find the finish line, blah, blah, blah. We ate dinner later than I wanted, I went to bed later than I wanted, and I woke up several times during the night, worried I would somehow sleep through my alarm.

It was also Daylight Savings, so I lost another hour of sleep, bringing my grand total to somewhere around five hours of broken, restless sleep. I finally gave up waiting for my alarm and got out of bed at 5:30.

My running partner picked me up at 6:00. We picked up another friend on the way. She actually is a marathon runner and insisted on stopping for a snack, since both of us novice fools hadn't eaten breakfast. I was too nervous to eat (and was scared to have to use the bathroom during the race), but she reminded us that the race didn't start until 8:50 and that we had to have something in our stomachs. So I choked down a whole grain roll and some water.

We got to the race super early (they were closing down the major roads in and out of the area at 7:00), which was actually nice for my nerves. We got a great parking spot and then were able to walk around and look at all of the free stuff, listen to music, and get some big, funny green hats.

It was fun, so fun that I almost forgot the reason we were there. But soon they were calling for all race participants to go to the starting line and I remembered why and my heart started pounding. There were four waves and we were signed up for the third wave (non-timed) so that we wouldn't feel out of our league or slow other people down. Our friend was in the first wave, so we stood with her in her wave before the race began. We were surrounded by what could only be described as professional runners who were wearing spandex, fancy jackets, and expensive running shoes. They were doing stretches, jogging in place, and just generally looking ready to go. I started to get pretty nervous. What the heck was I doing there? I should be at home, on my couch, watching this on t.v. After her wave took off, it was time for us to line up.

This is when I started to relax. These were our people. There was a five year old standing next to us. There were lots of jogging strollers. More people were in jeans or funny costumes. No one was stretching, everyone was chatting, and I think my ten year old Nikes might have been the nicest shoes there!

Soon, we were off. We had planned to start the race at a brisk walk for the first five minutes. This was actually a good plan, because it was so congested that running would have been impossible. By the time the crowd thinned out enough to run, it was right about the five minute mark. So. . .we started jogging, slowly at first, then picking up to a comfortable (for us) pace.

The first ten minutes were awesome. I felt good. Really good. We were passing some people, being passed by others, keeping pace with most. We weren't breaking any speed records, but we were moving.

The course was pretty flat at first, then went up a long, gently sloping hill. That hill was kind of killer, even though it wasn't steep, because it seemed to go forever. The neat thing was that at the top of the hill, the course just turned right around, so we could see the hundreds of runners running back down the hill. Finally, it was our turn to get back down the hill and that felt amazing.

Have I mentioned that my poor running partner had The Flu the whole week before the race. As in, her whole family had the H1N1 flu? Yeah, the poor thing was a real trooper, but it was about the half way point that she started coughing and wheezing. We slowed our jog to a walk for a couple of minutes to let her get some good deep breaths and use her inhaler.

But we were right back at it as soon as she was able and kept going. We were both pretty tired and ready to start walking again when we saw the 3 mile marker. That bolstered both of us up and we kept going. We were just about ready to walk again when, all of a sudden, there were people on both sides of the course, ringing bells and cheering for us and a guy boomed out, "One block left!"

Well. How can you not jog the last block?

So, we did. We jogged through the finish line. We finished the 5k in 44:14, which I know isn't a great time (race average was 38:51). But it doesn't really matter because it was our time and we have already signed up for another 5k in a month. We are going to beat our time and then we are doing an 8k in May.

I did something that I didn't think I could do. That feels pretty amazing. I highly recommend the C25K program if you are thinking about learning to run.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Now I've Got the Runs

Running for more than 30 seconds used to be a challenge for me. I am serious. I am NOT a runner. Ever see that episode of Friends? Where Phoebe and Rachel run together (seriously, if you are not sure what I am talking about, you should click the link for a visual)? Yeah, I run like Phoebe. Only with slightly less grace.

Back in January, I decided I was tired of being out of shape and out of breath and unable to run a quarter mile on my own. I like a challenge and I knew that training for an event would be a challenge, a goal, a deadline. It would be something to hold myself accountable to. I also had a girlfriend who delivered her little girl a month before Emma and just happens to live across the street from me. We were in the same place and needed an impetus to get us moving.

So we both decided to try the C25K program. With a great deal of skepticism that our pudgy, non-runner tushes could actually do such a thing, we set out on our first workout. And kept going. And going. And going. Last night, I ran for two and a half miles straight. And felt as if I could have kept going, but the training schedule really encourages you to not jump ahead, and I am obedient to what has been working.

And today? Today, I registered for our first 5k that will happen next week. Sunday, March 13, 2011, I will run my first official event; the Seattle St. Patrick's Day Dash. I am excited, I am nervous, I am proud.

I know, I know. It's only 3.2 miles. But it's such a start for me. For a girl who couldn't run .2 miles to run 3.2*? It's a BIG deal.

*And who, psssssst, is now wanting to run a half-marathon.