Thursday, August 9, 2012

Allergic to Babies (PUPPPS) -- by Caitlin Carroll

Since Dana began this blog some months ago, I've been contemplating posts in my mind, half-heartedly composing them as I lay in bed at night and occasionally typing some words devoid of much meaning. Although I love feminism and bodies (the female variety, especially) and I loathe objectification and eating disorders and all that, I could not decide on an angle for my own personal Embodyed post. 

The thing is, I don't really have body issues. Like most teenage girls, I too struggled for some years with an eating disorder but mine wasn't about my already-too-skinny body, but more about my attention-starved-middle-child-teenage-diva self. I never put my body to the brink of disaster or had any striking revelations about quitting, I kind of just did it and then grew out of it like nail polish and beauty pageants.

Although I've been struggling trying to find a way to put into words how much I love my body without trying to seem superior to the other posters, destiny (or God/Goddess, whatever strikes your fancy) practically handed a great post down from the heavens. You see, I love me some baby-making. Not the act (ok, so I like that plenty) but the actual process... I'm a connoisseur of pregnancy, an aficionado of birth, a specialist of lactation. I love making babies with my own, super powerful and awesome female body. And if you've seen my adorable kids, you realize I'm pretty dang good at it to boot. 

Until the past few weeks, that is. When the itching started. And the rashes. And the raw, scaly skin. It started on my breasts. My wonderful, slightly-saggy but oh-so-baby-nourishing breasts, covered with a horrible, red, itchy rash. Then, it spread to my one endearing stretch mark on my soft belly, my one emblem I carry that beholds the fact that once I held two precious darlings in my womb. Before a few days passed, I was covered -- back, thighs, arms, neck. Itch. Itch. Itch. Scratch. Scratch. Scratch. As I quickly ruled things out: thrush? allergic reaction? heat rash? bacterial infection? my dear friend and expert at all things maternal, Charla, pointed me to postpartum PUPPPS (a dumb name in my opinion, it sounds like I'm adopting from the animal shelter). I self-diagnosed myself, because I hate paying doctors to diagnose me with things that I can Google for free. 

PUPPPS, or Pruritic Uticarial Papules and Plaques of Pregnancy, essentially is like being allergic to pregnancy (ME! Allergic to pregnancy! Who would've thunk it?) Most women develop it while they are pregnant, usually with a first pregnancy and 70% of the time carrying a male child. It's the rare few of us who get it postpartum. It can last from a few weeks to until you stop breastfeeding your child in some women. Most of the time it runs its course in a few months, and it seems like steroid shots can help it clear up faster. I'm opting not to do a round of steroids, simply because I am breastfeeding my tiny girl and I know that the amount that would get to her is minimal, but not worth it in my opinion. Compared to what I've seen online, my case is pretty mild (thusfar) and I'm able to sleep and go about my day with little disruption besides the occasional itchy breakdown, helped by cold baths and creams. There are some natural remedies, like dandelion root and stinging nettles tea, which supposedly offer relief (also: emu oil?? Odd). For now, I'm gritting my teeth and bearing it and seeing how long it is going to play out. The first few days were horrible, but my body seems to be used to the idea of itching now and is calming things down. 

Although physically I seem to be handling it, emotionally I am crying a little inside at the thought that my body has failed me. All the while boasting of my amazing feminine body, and then it goes and breaks down on me. But then again, when I sat down and really thought about it, it's amazing our motherly bodies don't break down more often. I mean, COME ON, we are growing tiny humans in there! People! We are growing PEOPLE. In our BODIES. Like, holy heck, I can make a human out of microscopic cells, a man child who can jump and climb and run and pitch the most ridiculous temper tantrums and a tiny daughter who can hold her head up and smile the most charming smile and look into your soul with her deep blue eyes. That's pretty miraculous, complicated stuff that goes down in the female body. And sometimes, it just wants to revolt. In my case, of all the million things it could have been, it was a little rash. And that's ok.

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