Monday, September 5, 2016

7th in a Series of 12

I was late with Benjamin's six-month update--a month and nine days late, to be exact; but when I posted it, I had no idea I would be SO MUCH LATER with his seven-month one!  It feels a little ridiculous to be working on this just days away from his first birthday; but since I took the pictures back in April when he turned seven months and since I jotted down some notes about what life was like for him back then, I might as well go ahead and finish it up.  I hope the old saying "better late than never" is really true!  ;-)
I mentioned recently how it pained me to look back on these pictures of him.  It honestly shocks me when I see pictures of his skin at its worst, but that's a good thing, I suppose, because it means that his skin looks so different now.  I am continually grateful for that.  But while we're on the subject of his skin, let's talk about that, shall we?
In the six-month update, I described our visits with a wonderful pediatrician, Dr. Hanon, and the incredible results from the prednisolone she prescribed for him; but after we took him off that (more gradually, the second time), sure enough, the eczema flared back up badly.  The low daily dose of Claritin he remained on didn't seem to do a thing to help.  Nothing did.
The thing about eczema or other skin conditions is that there are SO MANY factors that could be causing or contributing to the rash that it feels virtually impossible to decipher what is causing the problem.  We wondered, "Is it something he's getting through my breast milk?  Is it a reaction to a soap, or shampoo, or lotion, or laundry soap, or something that might be on my hands, like dish soap?  Is it something he's breathing in?  Some sort of vegetation from outside?  Pet hair?  Dust?  WHAT IS IT?"
If you can't figure out what's causing it, it's awfully hard to figure out how to solve the problem, but we tried.  I'm not sure of the precise chronology of all of this, so it's possible that the steps I'm describing didn't happen exactly in his seventh month; it's also possible that I'll forget something we tried along the way.  But I remember that we tried to help his eczema by...
~ keeping his skin moisturized with vaseline (a creamy vaseline and regular ol' greasy vaseline),
~ keeping his skin moisturized with a special concoction that our friend Frances at church gave us,
~ keeping his skin moisturized with a different all-natural balm,
~ keeping his skin moisturized with coconut oil,
~ changing laundry detergents from the Arm & Hammer baking soda kind I buy at the store to a homemake kind I mix up and then to Shaklee detergent,
~ completely eliminating any kind of baby shampoo or bubble bath in his bath water and just using apple cider vinegar (yes, he smelled mildly like a pickle, but it was worth it if it helped him! :) we thought it did for a little while, but before long, his skin was as bad as ever),
~ using a humidifier in his room,
~ giving him allergy medicine,
~ changing my diet to eliminate dairy to see if breast milk was the culprit (that was HARD, by the way, but I was determined to do it if it would help times, I thought perhaps it was making a difference, but at other times, that seemed like wishful thinking...when I would slip up and eat something with dairy in it, like birthday cake when Moriah turned 4, I would watch Benjamin closely and see if his skin got worse...I really couldn't tell much difference at all, and it certainly wasn't clearing up his skin like we were hoping...but I did lose 10 pounds by going off dairy, so that was good!...once we admitted that the dairy in the breast milk wasn't the problem, it was delightful to be able to eat dairy freely again), :)
~ feeding him soy formula for a few days (not that I think soy formula is a wonderful thing, but we were getting pretty desperate for answers and were willing to try almost anything...he did NOT like bottle-feeding, and those days were undeniably miserable for both of us...I admit that even though I wanted him to be helped more than anything, I was not-so-secretly relieved when formula wasn't the answer, and I got to nurse him again!!!), :)
~ rubbing a prescription-strength hydrocortisone on his skin.

Maybe there's more, but that's what I can think of at this moment.
Nothing, except the prednisolone that he couldn't stay on because of side effects, cleared up his rash.  It was awful and so, so discouraging.  We ached for him and marveled at his joyful spirit through it all.  Several times, Jeff or others would remark that Benjamin seemed to be our happiest baby.  Amazing!
Of course, he still wasn't sleeping through the night.  On a good night, he would wake up once to nurse and then go back to sleep; but not every night was a good night.
Benjamin's seventh month was an EXTREMELY busy time for our family.  During that month, we gradually gave all of our puppies away, had numerous visitors in our home (some from Canada, some from California, some from other places), celebrated my birthday and Moriah's, and tried to keep up with the normal busy schedule of extracurricular activities.  I think we might have squeezed a little school in as well, but probably not much.  ;-)  I was TIRED.
But it was a GOOD month, too; and this little guy kept growing and growing, up to 18 pounds this month.
We loved hearing him find his voice and practice his "dadadada" sounds, as well as his "rarara" sounds and others.
I finally got around to giving him some food.  He had seemed so content with nursing (and especially since he was still nursing in the night, he was getting plenty of nourishment from that), and I wasn't in a hurry at all to start food with him.  But on March 24, I gave him rice cereal for the first time.  He was NOT thrilled; and in fact, he, unlike my other kids, never did develop any kind of desire for rice cereal.  I finally gave up and gave the rest of our box of it to a friend of mine whose first baby is younger than Benjamin--no sense in it going to waste!
On March 31, I gave him sweet potatoes; and he liked that better than rice cereal.  Smart boy.  I do, too.  :)
On April 2, I gave him applesauce mixed with rice cereal.  Well, that was certainly superior to plain rice cereal, but still not a huge hit with Benjamin.
On April 5, I fed him avocado, and he thought it was weird.
Two days later, I gave him mashed bananas.  I forget exactly when; but at some point, we gave him some of those baby food puffs.  So slowly we were introducing him to more foods.
We got such a kick out of him though: he would make the funniest faces when he tasted a new food, and we would just laugh and laugh.  :)  He has been, by far, my most reluctant eater.
I wasn't worried though: it was obvious that he wasn't exactly wasting away.  :)
Benjamin loved playing with his toes...
...perfect built-in entertainment for a baby.  :)
He did NOT love tummy time...
...and usually protested vigorously when placed on his tummy.
I was fortunate to get a couple shots of him actually smiling while on his tummy.  That wasn't normal!
My love for him grew and grew, as love does; but I longed to be able to help him with his skin.  I'm happy to say that, during his eighth month, the turn-around we'd been looking for occurred.  More about that in the next monthly update!  :)

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