Friday, April 22, 2016

6th in a Series of 12

He's half a year old.

Well, he was--back on March 13.  He's considerably older than that now, but let's travel back in time, shall we?  :)
At six months of age, Benjamin weighed about 17 pounds.  Just like in his 5-month report, I still have no idea about his length.  Can we just say "he grew" and leave it at that?  ;-)
The big thing concerning Benjamin in his 6th month was not his weight or his length, nor his teeth (he still doesn't have any of those poking through) nor his hair (there IS some of that poking through, but precious little).  It wasn't his eyes (they are still a beautiful blue), wasn't his toes (he loves to play with them), wasn't his smile or his laugh (both are such a source of joy), wasn't his food (he didn't eat any), and wasn't his large motor skills (he's following our "normal" which means his progression of skills is considerably later than the average baby's).  

It was his skin.
Four days after Benjamin turned five months, we grew concerned enough about the persistent rash covering most of his body that we decided to take him to a doctor.  Our favorite family doctor is my dad ;-), and we had been talking with him about what should be done for Benjamin.  It was his advice that led us to a wonderful pediatrician close by.  She grew up here locally; told me a story, during our first visit, of her mother having a very serious foot injury as a child and being taken to my grandfather who was the town doctor in Dayton; has very reasonable prices; was warm and friendly and took plenty of time to chat with us; and even makes house calls if the need arises.  If I have to take my baby to someone other than my dad for medical care, I want it to be someone like my dad...and Dr. Hanon is (except she's female, young, and pretty...but you know, she's close).  :)
I called Dr. Hanon's office on a Wednesday morning and, within an hour or two, was in her office (along with David, who decided that he wanted to go along, too) and she was examining Benjamin. She was extremely pleasant; and after we talked for a while (I had taken a whole list of questions) and she checked Benjamin, she gave her diagnosis: eczema.  
It wasn't a surprise at all.  After all, I have eczema that flares up from time to time so I was familiar with it from my own experience and wasn't shocked to have a child that--sadly--inherited that trait from me.  But it was reassuring to hear from Dr. Hanon that his skin condition wasn't anything more serious than annoying, bothersome eczema.  Even though that's what I had suspected, the mind starts to imagine other possibilities sometimes...and worry.
Even more comforting to me was what Dr. Hanon said when she examined several small lumps that can be felt in the back of Benjamin's head.  She checked them out but pronounced them harmless--simply enlarged lymph nodes that are related to his skin issues.  When so much stuff is going on with a baby's scalp, it can show up as lumps under the skin.  Whew!  That took a weight off my shoulders.
Dr. Hanon prescribed some medicine for Benjamin--prednisolone--and told me she was confident that it would work very quickly to clear up his rash.  "But," she added, "we can't keep him on it for long.  The side effects are too serious."  Besides that, she prescribed some special ointment for him.  "Come back in two weeks, and we'll see how he is then," she instructed.
We immediately started the medicine and were thrilled to see the rash clear up so quickly.  His skin was beautiful!  But after the five days or so that he was on the medicine, we had to stop it and, sure enough, the rash returned.  It's a piercing kind of disappointment to know that a medicine exists that could so effectively take away Benjamin's itchy rash, but we can't give it to him very much because of the side effects.  :(
We returned to Dr. Hanon's office after two weeks (David accompanied me again) and enjoyed seeing her again, although it was disappointing for her to see that Benjamin's eczema had flared up again so badly.  This time, she recommended keeping him on the medicine for a little longer and slowly tapering him off it, to see if the good effects of it could be sustained for longer.  She also suggested giving him a very low daily dose of Claritin to see if his eczema was brought on by an allergic reaction to something, and we talked about the possibility of something in my diet affecting Benjamin's skin.  "It's a really tricky thing to figure out if something in breastmilk is causing it," she said. "Some moms are really motivated to experiment and try to find the cause, but it's not easy, and it's not always successful.  If you want to try to avoid dairy, for example, go ahead.  It doesn't hurt to try!"  One thing that stood out to me during this appointment was how happy Benjamin was--and how much Dr. Hanon commented on that.  She remarked that some babies with such prevailing eczema are fussy babies, but Benjamin smiled so much and was so cheerful during this appointment. Such a charmer!  :)
As expected, putting Benjamin back on the prednisolone was almost magical in the way it cleared up his skin again; and he was still benefiting from that when I called her two weeks later, just like she asked.  I reported in, and she assured me that I could call her in the future anytime we needed her. (Spoiler alert: I haven't called her yet, but Benjamin's eczema has continued to be such a challenge that I have a feeling we'll need to do that again before too long.  I'll be happy to see her again, but I sure wish we didn't have any need to!  I forget if it was during the second appointment or during that phone conversation, but Dr. Hanon said that, if the things she suggested didn't clear up his rash, he would probably need to be seen by a pediatric dermatologist or an allergist.  We're still trying a few things to solve the mystery of Benjamin's eczema, but I won't be surprised if, before too long, I'll need to call Dr. Hanon again and ask her what the next step is.  Every day we hope for improvement though, so we won't have to take the next step.)
Despite the itchiness and even pain that he must have felt in abundance, Benjamin continued to be a cheerful, sunny little guy this month--at least, during the days.  Nights were a challenge.  I'm speculating that the activities of the daytime were distracting enough to keep Benjamin's mind away from how miserable he felt; but perhaps during the lull of the night, he became more acutely aware of his rash.  And so, he would wake in the night and cry and want to be nursed before he would go back to sleep.  I, who had been so used to my other babies learning to sleep through the night at two or three months of age, was quite surprised that I now had a six-month-old who still didn't possess that skill, and I wondered what to do about it.  (Another spoiler alert: I'm still wondering!)
Most of the time, day or night, I dressed Benjamin in long-sleeved, footed sleepers so that he wouldn't scratch his skin and cause damage to it.  There wasn't much I could do about his head though, and it wasn't uncommon to find new scratches on it when I got him out of his crib.  I tried to keep his fingernails clipped pretty closely, but they grow so fast, and even after six kids, I still get nervous every time I cut a baby's fingernails!  I also tried to keep him well-moisturized; and several times a day, I would oil him up with coconut oil in an effort to provide longer-lasting moisture for his parched skin.
With the weather warming, I occasionally opted for a cooler outfit than the footed pajamas; and I loved to see him in those clothes and notice the little details of them... teddy bears that peek out of overall pockets.  :)
But most of the time, his skin was covered so he couldn't scratch much.
If I had had a choice, I never would have selected eczema as a trial in young Benjamin's life; but as with most storm clouds, a silver lining is peeking through.  One sweet result for me of Benjamin's eczema is seeing my husband in a new light.  You see, Jeff's heart is moved by the suffering of his youngest son; and as I watch his compassion and concern pour forth in abundance for dear little Benjamin, it makes my love for Jeff swell to new heights.  "There's no great loss without some small gain," I hear my grandmother's voice say.  Not that increased love and gratitude for my husband is a SMALL gain!  ;-)
It didn't take six months to get to this point, but wow, I seriously CANNOT imagine our family without Benjamin.  This half-year has been so full and abundant; and this little guy, for being so small, has added a HUGE portion to our collective joy!
Happy half-birthday, Benjamin Caleb!  We never stop thanking God that, out of all the families in the world, He chose ours to be yours.  We love you dearly and forever!!!  :)

1 comment:

Carol Slater said...

Happy half year birthday to Benjamin! My granddaughter will be a year old next month