The moment that Eva was placed onto my chest she was utterly perfect to me, I looked deep into her eyes and just saw this little person, my little person whom in that instant I loved more than life itself. And she was perfect. She had smooth baby soft skin that was so addictive to sniff and extra skin ready for her to grow into when she took on that baby fat look you come to expect when they come out of the newborn phase.
We took our perfect little bundle home and before long she started to look a little jaundice, not too much and they weren’t too worried about her just said to keep an eye on it. This dissipated and she did struggle to latch a little but because she was a little bit early they were again not worried and I would see how we got on over the next few weeks. By about a week old she started to get red eyelids and a rash on her chin, this was attributed to the way she fed and rested that little chin on my skin whilst she fed and dribbled. I just knew something wasn’t right and this rash soon made it to her cheeks then by 2 weeks old her entire body was covered in dry skin and patches of a rash I now know as eczema.
We visited doctors and hospitals and tried creams and lotions, bath treatments, porridge oats, you name it we probably tried it. By this time she would also projectile vomit and have explosive nappies and again we knew that something wasn’t right. Breastfeeding lasted about 6 weeks before we went completely to bottles and the situation got alot worse. We became versed in the sound of a projectile vomit from another room, walked around with a muslin cloth over our shoulders the entire time and never ever left the house without an entire new set of everything.
Eventually they suggested she may have allergies and we were given a formula that was free from cows milk to try. Her skin by now was thick and scaly and you could see it mostly on her face, the same rash that would eventually be known to us even to this day as her allergic smile.
This new milk, although foul smelling and took a while to convince her to drink, did seem to make a difference but we went through ups and downs and at 5 months she developed a pimple like rash all over her body along with swollen eyes and I used to cry in sympathy for her. I myself used to have eczema as a child and have allergies and I knew how tough it was and what she may have to come.
I must have spent hours googling different rashes and symptoms over the first 6 months of her life and the thought of weaning was a terrifying one. But we were prepared, we would wean without milk. Surely I was the best person to do this seen as before having Eva I myself didn’t eat milk so we were used to it, we were old hats. And that was actually fine, then came egg, which made her skin bad. Again. Right. So we knew what we were dealt with and whilst it meant there was alot of preperation on our part it was fine and we got through to 9 months knowing where we stood, that strawberries and tomatoes were a no go but feeling more relaxed about the whole thing.
It probably took about 9 months to settle down, daily creams and keeping on top of flare ups, not bathing her too often and being careful with washing powders, toiletries, new clothes and towels.
That was until she was 9 months old and I innocently placed chunks of fresh pineapple in front of her. No sooner had she eaten it and made a funny face than she was covered in hives. Head to toe angry red hives. A trip to the doctors and apparently you can be allergic to pineapple too! There is something about the enzymes in it apparently that can provoke a reaction. My poor little baby girl.
Being first time parents we didn’t know much difference and got on with it, it is only now that I look back and I have had a child without eczema or allergies that I realise what a time we went through and what a stuggle it must have been for her. And no wonder she screamed alot. Which she did.
I would see other mothers with babies with the soft skin that is so expected and part of the whole baby appeal! I would look and feel so envious. I would feel so sorry for my little baby girl, for her discomfort and for her future. Feel guilty that I passed it on or that this was caused by my Hyperemesis pregnancy, her being early or not able to breastfeed. I so desperately wanted for her to feel normal.
She became very responsible from a very early age, she had to, she never took food from someone elses plate, never helped herself at parties and never shared. But it would all improve and she would grow out of it at 1, or 2 or any other year before 5. That’s what they told me. Because most do.
Truly it wasn’t until she was 5 years old and we got her allergy tested that we knew the full picture. The puzzle finally clicked into place of the reason we were in the hopsital with swollen eyes the same time every single year and the fact that not only was she allegic to food but also the environment too. She had by now got eczema, asthma, allergies and hayfever. She was ‘atopic’.
I admit that I came out of that appointment both incredibly sad but incredibly relieved. We finally knew that her only true food allergy is pineapple and whilst the rest are still a no-go for her eczema we are armed with all the knowledge and hope that this may change. In time.
But from then, for now and probably forever she has a life of daily medication, inhalers, cream and a pestering to always drink more water.
She can’t run on grass barefoot, can’t pick flowers or roll down hills. We can’t have pets and she has to sit out when they stroke the school rabbit. But we know where we are now and we know what to do. Mostly.
Having a newborn with allergies and with eczema can to the outsider seem like a minor problem. To us it was our ordinary, the only way we had known. But it is life changing for them and you.
When I look back at these photos they actually make me cry, we have come a long way but I can still feel it, I can feel the moments of despair and of sadness that my precious bundle of perfect joy had to deal with such a tough start to her wonderful life.
I’m actually part of an eczema trial now with Roma as she was at risk because she is a sibling of an atopic child and she has a follow up and allergy tests in a few weeks. She has perfect baby soft skin, she has no signs of allergies and problems and it is amazing how different I feel about it. I’m nervous of course but sure she’ll be fine. And in the same breath that makes me feel worse still for my poor little baby girl all those years ago. I am proud to be part of research to perhaps someday help with the causes of this horrible, sometimes minor, sometimes life changing, condition.