An eczema update

It's been over a year since I posted our eczema success story. It's horrifying to me every time I point someone new to this blog post to try to help their kiddos, and I see these old pictures and am reminded of how challenging life was for them at that time.

I've had a few people ask me how things are going now, and someone even emailed me on Etsy yesterday after finding our last post and not being able to find a recent update (I guess I need a better contact button on my blog, eh?). So here's our update!


Our kitchen renovation is almost complete!

We bought our house about a year ago. It was an incredible deal for the size (five bedrooms plus an office, 3100 square feet), so we couldn't pass it up. But compared to some of the other homes we were looking at that were smaller, it needed more work. There was nothing truly wrong with this house. There's just a lot of builder grade things, not much had been updated and it wasn't really my style. But that's okay, we can work with that over time. No biggie.

The kitchen was really the only thing that mattered to me when we were buying a home. Everything else, I could live with. But the one thing I wanted was a nice, large kitchen with nice appliances. I spend so much time in the kitchen, and it was just my big dream. This house definitely had the large sized kitchen! But it lacked in the aesthetics department. Random sidenote: the one thing I wanted, like I said, was a kitchen I didn't need to renovate, and the one thing Tim wanted was a great location for biking/walking/running, and neither of us got what we wanted, go figure!


The homebirth of Ella Grace

Wednesday evening, October 1st, I had given up on the idea that labor would come anytime soon. I lay in bed most of that day, dejected and in lots of pain. I wrote a blog post. I took a bath. I had Ben come in the bedroom that evening so I could help him with homework and actually feel like part of the family, because the last months had been so tough on me and on our family. I’d felt so separated from everyone after the first three months of awful morning sickness and the last three months of awful pain. This fourth pregnancy was no cake walk. That I was sure of. I was so ready for baby girl to come and for the months of discomfort to be done. 

Ben scribbled on his paper and I stared at him in awe, recognizing that he was about to become a big brother once again. I knew in his eyes, he was going to feel kicked down the totem pole once again when new baby arrived and his mama would be sucked back into newbornhood and all that entails. I cherished those moments doing homework with him. I was mesmerized by how far he’d come in his short month and a half in school as he spelled out words all on his own before my eyes. I smiled at his chubby little kid fingers, clutching his pencil and working with all his might to perfect his spelling.


On going "way" overdue.

I've never been pregnant this long. Although with every pregnancy I've had, I've been able to say that. I  have a very clear trend going here. Every baby comes later than the one before.

My first came fast, on his own, a couple of weeks early or so. We weren't expecting it as I'd always been told first time mamas tend to go pretty overdue. But it was a welcome surprise because he was healthy and 8lbs, 1oz, so nothing to worry about there!

My second, my daughter, was a different story. At 36 weeks, they checked my cervix because I'd been having a lot of prodromal labor. I was already 3cm dilated and though I can't remember for sure what my effacement was, it was a lot. Maybe 75%? The doctor's exact words were, "Any day now...don't travel for Christmas." Almost four more weeks went by after that with no baby. Each week, I was further dilated, until a few days before my due date I was sitting at 6cm dilated, totally effaced with no baby. I was partially exhausted by the nightly prodromal labor that would often last for hours, and partially scared of their warnings that if I wasn't induced, baby would come before I could make it to the hospital, so I agreed, a few days shy of her due date, to allow them to break my water rather than use pitocin. They weren't thrilled about taking that route, but they said if I came in when I was having consistent contractions that they could pick up on the monitor, they would allow me to go that route instead of the meds, and even though it was still out of my comfort zone, I felt like I was favorable for that sort of induction and that it was a safer/more natural option than drugs. So I did, and they broke my water, and she came fast and furiously an hour later. Though it went mostly fine (she had problems breathing and they did have to take her away, probably because it was such a crazy fast labor, but I'll never know), I have always regretted forcing her out. Babies stay in the womb for a reason, and for most of us, it's because they still need to be there. There are definitely cases in which baby is safer outside the womb than inside, but those are the exception, not the norm, and can usually be picked up from Biophysical Profiles and Non-Stress Tests, which are standard procedures when you pass your due date. I have no idea when Adalyn would have finally decided to come on her own, but it's not that crazy to think she might have stayed in there another week or two. I have a history of walking around pretty dilated for long periods of time.


Since it's been almost nine months since my last pregnancy post...

I'm pretty bummed with myself at my awful documentation of this pregnancy. I documented everything in the last three, but having my side business has meant that when I do have free time where I actually have energy to do something, it's been spent completing orders, finishing up the website or, the last few weeks, nesting like a crazy person. Which is why my blog has been pathetically quiet for the past year.

So since my due date is a couple days away, shall we revisit the past nine months in fast motion?

8  weeks:

9 weeks:

10 weeks:

11 weeks (Waaaaah, I miss my hair!):

17 weeks (embrace messy hair, right?):

18 weeks:

19 weeks:

20 weeks:

And then we found out what we were having!

21 weeks (I chopped off all my hair...and totally please pretend this picture wasn't in my messy closet):

22 weeks:

23 weeks:

24 weeks:

25 weeks:

(and then I guess I forgot to document for a loooong time...) 32 weeks:

33 weeks:

35 weeks (That mirror is SO gross, I know. Don't worry, nesting kicked in and it's clean now.):

37 weeks:

38 weeks:

And now we're in week 39 and a few days from my due date! This pregnancy has somehow simultaneously gone by in slow motion AND at the speed of light. I have no idea how that's even possible, but it has. The first trimester was so. hard. Morning sickness had me laid up in bed for close to twelve weeks. I seriously couldn't function. The second trimester was fine, but definitely the worst of any of them. Everything about this fourth pregnancy has been tougher than the others (except for the pregnancy depression which seems to only hit me with my boys, so that's a huge plus! None of that this time!). The pain is way worse than ever before. For the first time ever, I've actually had some (minor) swelling and I WADDLE. Seriously. The fatigue? Out of this world. I'm not a napper but the past few weeks I've been randomly falling asleep in the afternoon. But then nighttime hits and I can't get comfy, contractions bad enough to keep me awake but not bad enough to be labor hit, I end up in the bath or eating cereal at 2:00 a.m. and beg God to just bring her out. But the realistic side of me who remembers how much work those first few weeks are is content to let her squirm around in my belly for just a little longer.

I'm so excited to bring her into the world just like Landon - in our dark, quiet bedroom, right into her daddy's hands in her own home.


The stories that need to be told

They're raw and painful. No matter how many times we say we know we're over it (it looks different for us all - sexual abuse, depression, addiction, physical abuse, the list goes on), the story comes flooding back one random day. For me, it was in the shower a few weeks ago. The tears remind you you're human and not unbreakable. They remind you that even with prayer and growth and acceptance, sometimes we are overcome and we can't do anything about it. We are all broken people. My broken probably looks different than yours. But we can relate because we're both broken in our own way.

The thing is, lately I've had this growing, nagging feeling that my stories need to be told. Many times in my life I've felt this pulling. When I was saved, I knew I needed to share my testimony. I even wrote it here on my blog one day and published it and then promptly deleted it. I didn't want to tell my story. I reserved it for the people very closest to my timid little heart. Even though I knew I'd been made new in Christ, I thought about those who have only known me since. How could they know the old me and still love me - heck, like me?

But God hasn't stopped. He's put this on my heart, over and over, and he's not going to give up until I listen.

Robin Williams allegedly committed suicide this week. I'm sure this isn't news to anyone at this point. Very few celebrity deaths impact me. I try to say a quick prayer for the family and loved ones left behind any time I hear of someone's passing, but rarely does a celebrity death bring me to my knees like this.

Twice I've battled the utterly enveloping depression demon. Once I tried to kill myself. I guess my personal philosophy has always been to keep your dirty laundry to yourself. Not that I've given tons of thought to it, just that my upbringing and my genetics sort of melded together to create this Silence Epidemic. Cry in private. Hide in the closet to feel the feelings. Smile around others no matter the agony inside. Don't burden your friends and loved ones with your turmoil. Give it to Jesus and you won't need anyone else.

Giving it up to Jesus is what we should strive for, but when it comes to disease, faith alone isn't your ticket to guaranteed healing. We live in a fallen world, and like one of my best friends reminds me often when I'm lamenting my kids' skin, we aren't guaranteed health. We aren't guaranteed healing. Not in this world, at least. Most of us still see the doctor and still take the drugs, despite our own faith. Except for the most extreme in our faith, we don't see our child on death's door and say, "No thanks," to the antibiotics because we know with enough prayer, Jesus will save our child. We just don't. Whether we believe the drugs are part of God's big plan or that God doesn't promise us all healing, in America, we still seek out answers to our ailings outside of the Bible. We trust in God and we trust in His plan for our lives, but that doesn't give us an excuse to sit by and do nothing and just expect Him to sweep in and save us.

When we keep inside the darkness and the despair, we do ourselves a disservice. We push away the ones who could help us and calm us and fill in for us when the days are too heavy. But when we fail to tell our stories to others, we do tremendous harm to those living in the darkness right now. As long as the stigma is there (and it takes about two minutes on Facebook today to see how alive and well the stigma surrounding mental health still is), and those of us who have hit the bottom, taken the pills or made the plan and live to talk about it stay silent, where is the hope for the sufferers? Without the survivors offering hope to the sufferers, it is so hard for the sufferers to see a light at the end of the tunnel.

Depression is a disease. It can be, in its worst form, an ugly, all-consuming blanket of dark and despair that one cannot escape. Mine hit me at age 22. It began as pretty situational stuff. I'd gotten myself into credit card debt and done some other things I was really, really ashamed of. The months of shame and blues suddenly turned into that all-consuming despair one random day. There had been no other trigger, but one day I couldn't speak. I could speak in my head, but words would not come out of my mouth. I had seizure-like episodes. My boyfriend of a whopping month (who, amazingly, is now my husband), took me to the emergency room. They ran all the tests and eventually asked me if my boyfriend was abusing me (ha...hahaha). Then they told me, in front of him, that it was all in my head and there was nothing medically wrong with me. They recommended I see a psychologist, and I did. She put me on an antidepressant and I went on my way, assuming all would be well soon. My episodes waxed and waned over the course of a few weeks, and I apparently even had some really bizarre flashback stuff.

Some days I had to write down what I wanted to say on paper because I just couldn't make the words come out of my mouth. I lost one of my best friends because she thought I was "crazy." I guess I was. But aren't we all, at some point, in some way? Shortly after I began taking my antidepressant, I started fantasizing about suicide. It became something that consumed my every waking moment. I researched the best ways to do it online for hours every day. I stopped going to my classes, I called in sick to work every day. I even found these horrible, dark websites where others went to share their same desires to end it all. It was so strangely out-of-body. I made my plan and I later executed it very matter-of-factly. I wrote out my notes and tossed them on the floor next to my bed. I knew what I was doing was absolutely horrible, but I was so outside of myself and in such despair I truly didn't know how life could ever be okay again. I tossed the pills in my mouth with such disregard for my own life. I read an analogy of a burning building, and jumping out of the window being the only possible solution one can find to escape the agony. I would say that is the truest explanation of the despair people in the darkest, deepest pits of depression feel. It's not rational. It IS a choice. But it's the same choice those people in the burning building face. Find a way out of the agony, jump and hope that you will escape the pain, all in a moment of sheer panic and despair.

I won't go into huge detail, but the moment I took the pills, I panicked and knew immediately that I wanted to hang on to hope for just a little longer. I wanted to wait for relief on this earth for just a few more days. So I called my then ex-boyfriend (now husband) and honestly don't remember a single thing after that. I just know that it all worked out and I stopped taking my anti-depressants the next day and I was one of the lucky ones who was able to make it out on the other side, totally happy and healthy a few months later, with no outside help. I don't advocate that. I think it's always best to find a professional and not just ride it out on your own, but my depression cloud lifted as quickly and strangely as it had formed over my life.

I got hit again in my third pregnancy, which I talked about pretty openly. It wasn't as severe, it didn't manifest in a suicide attempt, but it was still all-consuming, life-wrecking stuff. It was completely irrational, there was no real turmoil in my life. And that's the sad reality of mental illness. It is irrational. It's a chemical imbalance. It's a disease. You can't "choose joy" your way out of it. You can't think happy thoughts. You can't be rational in a state of medical irrationality. It logically doesn't even make sense. You can't expect those with cancer of the liver to just think happy thoughts and then their liver will suddenly function properly. Just like you can't expect someone with a disease of the brain to be able to think that disease away. To rationalize it out of existence. Especially when you consider that the actual organ affected is the very organ you need to do something like "choose joy." Your brain is what aids you in being rational. If your brain is malfunctioning in some way, does that even logically compute?

I've opened up about my suicide attempt in small, close circles of friends over the years. Surprisingly, my story has been met with many other stories just like mine. Sweet friends who've been to those depths of darkness and couldn't manage to find a thread of hope to hang on to. It's made me realize that there are an awful lot of us out there. Depression isn't selective - it can strike any of us at any time, regardless of skin color, affluence, education. Perhaps it's the result of a fallen world. Like eczema, we don't choose this disease. It chooses us, and once it does, we have to do what we can to survive despite it. There are so many resources out there for help, but often in the pits of irrationality, it takes another person reaching our their hand to you to guide you where you need to go. I had to be forced by my husband and midwife into a psychologist's office because in my mental state, there was absolutely no way I was going to rationally seek all that out on my own. If you know a friend or loved one suffering that greatly, it may not be enough to nudge them to find help. You may have to drag them, kicking and screaming.

As long as we keep our skeletons in the closet, we keep silent the hope that could have saved Robin Williams. When I was struggling greatly in my third pregnancy, I desperately sought out others online who had experienced what I was going through. I needed to know that it was temporary, that it was probably pregnancy-related, and that if I could just hang on, there was hope for me, because others had survived and lived to tell the tales.

Tell your tale. Give hope to the hopeless.


Topical Steroid Addiction. It is a real thing + it is horrific.

I absolutely can't believe the last blog post I wrote was the end of January. I'm pretty sure that is the longest I've gone without writing since I started blogging years and years ago. It's not like good things haven't happened to our family, or that I have nothing at all to share (I'm 23 weeks pregnant with our second girl, yippee!). It's just that we've been a little overshadowed with the bad, and I haven't known how to put it into words. Sometimes I get tired of being a Debbie Downer.

For the last year or so I, like the rest of the world, have been obsessed with the uber popular phrase Choose Joy. Nothing about it comes naturally to me, I'm a total pessimist. But it makes sense to me, and I would love my children to grow up seeing the joy in their lives. So when I'm feeling more angry or bitter or frustrated or defeated than joyful, it's hard to share that with the whole world, because I feel like I'm saying, "Hey there, look at me, the eternal pessimist!"

I especially didn't want to talk about the kids' eczema because when I wrote that post in October, I believed that was it. I needed to believe we were past the Eczema Beast. So even though things took a really bad turn for the worse in February, I didn't know how to write about it because it was painful. And raw. And I felt that I was admitting yet another failure after so proudly declaring we had conquered the Beast. Sometimes eczema feels like failure after failure. You can't ever seem to win. And it can be so utterly defeating to think you've solved their problem, shouted it from the rooftops, and then it comes back. Eczema seems to constantly evolve. And maybe adapt. You find a way to make it better, but it always gets the last laugh. 

But this is a story that needs to be told. It's one that not many people know about yet. I'm a Research Junkie and as anti-steroids as they come (I've never made my opinion on those drugs a secret), but I was in the dark on this one. Eczema has become two to three times more common in the past few decades, so more and more children are being put on topical corticosteroids to treat the condition. Most are never told of the possibility of addiction and what withdrawal from topical corticosteroids looks like.

Steroid rebound. Have you heard of it? I had. It was my big fear in treating the children with topical steroids. For some, they use topical steroids to treat the patch or two of eczema on their child's body. The eczema gets better, everyone rejoices and the tube goes back into the medicine cabinet. But suddenly, the eczema comes back. And it's worse than it was before. It's spread to new parts of the body. Out comes the tube again. Some more applications, and the problem appears to be resolved yet again. But the cycle repeats. Stronger steroids are called in to treat the "worsening eczema." Rinse and repeat. For some, they use the steroid creams for too long against the advice of their doctors (steroid creams should never be applied daily!). For others, their own doctor advises them to use the creams incorrectly, for too long, and without tapering off. Either way, it's a recipe for disaster. 

Steroid rebound is actually a really lousy way to describe what's really happening. As it turns out, that's just the tip of the iceberg. What we're really dealing with here, in quantities that I'm afraid are much greater than anyone is willing to admit yet, is steroid addiction. It's a medically accepted fact that steroids have the potential to be addictive. The medical community has fully accepted that steroid-induced rosacea is a real condition. In other words, the use of steroids can actually cause rosacea. So why is it that the medical community as a whole continues to deny what many people are experiencing and learning on their own: that treating eczema with topical corticosteroids will often not only worsen the eczema and cause it to spread, but if removed from the patient's skin care regimen, will send them into a spiral of painful and tortuous withdrawal that made their initial eczema look like a cake walk?

To understand topical steroid addiction and withdrawal, the only real way I can explain it is to explain what's happened to our little guy in the last seven months. As I talked about in October, our kids were pretty much free of eczema. I attributed it mostly to the diet change, but knew that the sea air in Myrtle Beach in September was probably helping. I even prepared myself for the possibility that when the air got dry and cold in the winter, their eczema might return, but hoped it would be mild.

It really was. Adalyn stayed clear all through winter. She got a little spot here or there, but nothing that impacted our life in any way. But one November day, Landon's face looked like this:

I panicked. A few traces of a mild flare sent my mind reeling. Would we go back to last year?! I couldn't do that. I couldn't even mentally wrap my mind around the idea that life could ever return to that nightmare. It was too much. So against every single bit of better judgment I had, and every motherly instinct that I squelched, I pulled out a tube of over-the-counter, 1% hydrocortisone. It was over-the-counter. What could it hurt?! Yes, I hated steroids. Yes, we tried to stay clear of medicines unless our lives depended on them (true story). But what could a few applications of something so mild it's sold on grocery store shelves do to harm him? Surely if I just got a handle on the eczema really early, while it was still mild, I could stop it in its tracks.

Fear is a powerful tool, and it got to me. These days, I think back on this "flare" and wonder if perhaps it was only chapped winter skin. Maybe if I left it alone, just as I had done with Ben years ago, if I had refused topical steroids, just as I had with Ben years ago, his would have just gone away on its own, like eczema often does when left alone.

But I didn't, and there's nothing I can do now to change that. But I can use it to help others. Sharing my story just means others can educate themselves and make different and better decisions than I did and hopefully prevent this sort of mess for their own children.

A few months went by with hydrocortisone application here and there. His eczema spread to his arms during that time, but it was still pretty mild and it never occurred to me that it could be from the steroids even though last year his face was pretty much the only skin affected by eczema. As you can see from the picture below, he wasn't needing his scratch sleeves at this point much at all.

At the beginning of January, I started noticing weird things like the appearance of his eyes. My mommy gut was really screaming at me by this point. I was starting to feel really guilty about the hydrocortisone and noticing we were needing it more and more often. His eczema was starting to get a little worse.

This picture is actually after we had stopped using the HC, but I didn't snap any pictures of his eyes before, and this is the best picture to convey what they looked like. He just looked sort of sickly.

While on an eczema support board on FB one day in January, someone posted a link to ITSAN.org and asked if anyone had seen it. The post was quickly ridiculed by most moms on the board and the person who posted it was basically scolded. That alone was alarming to me, and curious, so of course I had to check it out. It turns out ITSAN.org is a website dedicated to informing others of the dangers of topical steroid addiction.

The overarching theme of this "support" board on FB was that the only solution for severe eczema was to go to National Jewish Hospital in Colorado. It was something we had already talked to our doctor about, but were discouraged to go because our doctor told us if our goal was to continue to avoid steroids, NJH was the last place we wanted to be. Their solution for eczema is a course of therapy at the hospital where the child bathes for long periods of time, then gets steroid creams and moisturizers applied to their skin and then is wet wrapped. It's very structured and regimented, and it does seem to really help the children who go. The problem for us, though, was that we believed strongly that steroids were not the long-term solution for eczema. Sure, I could bathe my kid all day, every day, apply stronger and stronger steroid creams and create a lifelong dependence on them. Maybe my kid would be lucky and unaffected by these strong drugs, but the side effects were way too severe for us to be willing to risk it. We like to take the "root cause" approach because masking symptoms just makes you dependent on the mask.

On the day I learned that many children (and adults) are getting addicted to topical steroids, I decided to put the tube of hydrocortisone away for good. I believed strongly that there was no way Landon would experience withdrawal. He only used 1% hydrocortisone! For a few months! It wasn't going to happen to us. But it didn't appear to be helping, either, so what was the point of continuing to take a medicine we didn't need that had severe risks associated with it? There wasn't one.

About a week or so after we'd stopped using the hydrocortisone (which I pretty much admitted to no one, because I was ashamed that I'd resorted to steroids after my strong stance against them), Landon's eczema spread. And it was different than the eczema we'd dealt with before. Although I still had my doubts (lots of them), the picture was becoming clear quite quickly. Topical steroid withdrawal is notably different than eczema in several ways. The skin becomes red underneath. Many get what's called "red sleeves" (Landon has had this same appearance, but on his legs, stopping at the feet). Instead of regular eczema, it can look like a sunburn. For Landon, it was all this red blotchiness underneath his skin that was new to me.

Rather than those raised, scaly rashes (although he had those, too), he had this redness. He also gets that way when he eats a food he's allergic to, so at first I thought it was related to food. But it just kept spreading off and on throughout his body.

Then the skin on his neck began to change. It thickened up, almost like leather. A lot of people call it elephant skin. Totally fitting, as it resembles the skin of an elephant (also known as lichenified skin). Thick, leathery, deep wrinkles, all sort of crunched together. The deep wrinkles freaked me out. It was hard to ever get a good picture that captured what his neck actually looked like, but this is as close as I could get. This was not baby skin! And oh, did his neck ever itch! He scratched at his neck off and on for months. This was his first real "flare" spot. And about a month or month and a half ago, the skin on his neck changed, softened up, and he stopped scratching it. It appeared to be moving down to other parts of his body instead, which I was thankful for, but just this past week he's started getting bothered by his neck yet again, and it's turning back into this sort of skin yet again, so I'm afraid the cycle is just starting over.

His knees have been like this, too. Deep, deep wrinkles. Even with his one knee completely bent, you can see those wrinkle lines in his knees. I'm an adult and don't have those when I bend my knee!

A quick google images search of elephant skin steroid withdrawal will produce lots of pictures that show just how mild Landon's elephant skin has been compared to so many others who were on stronger steroids for longer periods of time.

The redness and eczema has just continued to spread through the months.

Another (and possibly the worst) sign of TS withdrawal is the horrible itching. I really cannot grasp how much this must bother them, but I'm on a support board on FB with many adults going through this, and the way they describe it makes my heart physically hurt for my son. It's an itch that they literally cannot escape. They lose sleep, many have to go on disability while going through withdrawal because they hurt and itch so badly they cannot function in any capacity. Some can't walk. The brave warriors who go through this are amazing. Landon has been in his scratch sleeves almost non-stop for months now. He has to be in them, or he will quite literally rip layers of his skin off, making him super vulnerable to infection. He started to learn to take his sleeves off during the night, and we would wake up to horrible sights.

 The scratching is relentless, so even during the few minutes we change his diaper or switch his scratch sleeves, he can do real damage to his body.

There are good days, where we can take his sleeves off for a few hours, and as long as he's entertained and distracted and fully clothed (meaning no open access to arms or legs, but at least exposed hands), he'll not scratch. These are very common in withdrawal. They are flares. They come and go, and as the months go on, most will have longer periods between flares. Right now, we don't have any periods longer than a day or so where we can take his sleeves off for a few hours, however we have very cyclical patterns of extreme itch and total sleeplessness for a week or two, and a week or two of less itch and only waking a few times during the night.

For many on this withdrawal board, they've found relief in what they call moisturizer withdrawal. Another sign of topical steroid withdrawal is that suddenly, all (or most) moisturizers burn the skin. This has never happened to us! Shortly after withdrawal, I was putting on his normal lotion and he started screaming and crying. Some days he would act like I was torturing him if I put it on, other days he was totally fine with it. Because so many people were seeing success with shorter flares and less redness when they withdrew from moisturizer, and because I can absolutely see how artificially moisturizing your skin will condition it to create even LESS of its own oils, we stopped. We very infrequently put coconut oil on him now, but we've stopped all moisturizers in the last month or so, and the red blotches/patches are pretty much totally gone. Unfortunately, though, you can't escape the fact that it causes even worse lichenified skin/elephant skin. Another symptom of withdrawal is skin shedding like you wouldn't believe. When we take off Landon's sleeper in the morning, it basically snows. It's awful. The less you're moisturizing the skin, the more that is going to happen, obviously, but it's been happening for us since day 1 of withdrawal. Those of us who are doing it like to believe it does lessen the flare times. So far, it seems to be.

Adalyn had a moderate spring flare (the lucky girl didn't suffer mommy's bad decision to use topical steroids). It's nothing like Landon's, and if we keep her indoors all the time, her skin is almost totally fine, but I noticed that once spring hit, her legs would go crazy with eczema if she went outside. When we applied moisturizer, it was making her legs redder and blotchier, so we stopped with her, too, and maybe it's a coincidence, but her eczema improved leaps and bounds once we stopped the moisturizer.

It's a tough decision with eczema kids to keep them indoors or let them play outside. Because my husband is such an outdoors lover, I do let Adalyn go outside quite a bit. Probably much more than I should. I feel like kids should be outside having fun. But she pays the price every single time. If it's at all even warm out, her legs just flare right up. Landon is just too severe. I don't let him go outside very often. Since he has to have long sleeves and long pants with scratch sleeves over them at all times, he really can't go outside anyway once it's above, say, 73 degrees outside. The poor guy would just be too hot. So you'll usually find me inside with Landon while everyone else is playing outside.

This is Landon over the past week or two:

We're on month 5 of withdrawal. Some people can go through it for years, but luckily once withdrawal is over, most people have completely clear skin. We'll see what happens to us. And hopefully, since we used a mild steroid and for a short period of time, his suffering won't go on for too much longer.

All I want is for people to do the research first. If you or your child is on topical steroids for eczema or considering it, please check out ITSAN.org. There is a small(ish) group of us who have been going through this together, and those who have gone before us who serve as living proof of this nightmare, and the happy place on the other side. We are going to raise awareness! We are going to make sure that no mom is given a tube of topical steroids without being told of the very real danger of topical steroid addiction! We are going to share our stories so that the suffering of our children (or ourselves) is not in vain!

The National Eczema Association, after talking with ITSAN.org for a few years, launched a task force committee to research Topical Steroid Addiction. This is huge! And even more awesome is that we heard through the grapevine yesterday that at a recent conference, they discussed that they did, indeed, find that TSA is a real condition. We're so excited to see their official paper on the matter and to finally end the pointless and nasty bickering I've seen between eczema moms over the months. So many have claimed it can't happen for so long, and ridiculed the moms who refuse steroids, and it's time for that to stop. Our goal should be to empower each other. To make sure that every last person on this earth knows ALL the risks and benefits to each treatment. Only then can you make a truly informed decision. Our job should be to inform and then support, regardless of what the parents choose for their children at that point. At the end of the day, the truth is that not every child or adult who uses topical steroids will get addicted. Mine did, and it's tough. If I had been given this information, I don't think there is any chance I would have used that hydrocortisone in November and December, but hindsight is always 20/20, I know.

ITSAN.org is the best place to start. There are testimonies, pictures, tons of research and information and a great forum. Go forth and visit! :)


A Hibbz Family Outing

Take a quick peek at this video and then scroll down. :)

Oh heeeeeeyyyyyy.

That's how I told hubby we're gearing up for baby #4. I suppose I could have waited 24 hours for this to pop out and it could have done the talking for me, but I'm glad I found the coolest way yet to tell him!

This baby was very much planned and as that was a first for us, it was so exciting to anticipate it, go through negative after negative test, counting this month out completely, then being a few days late and randomly testing to find a suuuuuuuuper faint line staring at me. My heart about jumped in my throat as I grabbed another brand, tested, and waited with shaky hands to find a slightly darker line greeting me.

Since we planned this baby, I wanted to take some time to put together a cool announcement. Something memorable that will be ours to cherish forever. I'll always adore the video we have of Ben telling Tim we were expecting Adalyn.

While my sis-in-law was here last week, being the budding videographer she is, I asked her if she could take some video footage of our family hanging out in downtown Greenville to help me put together this little surprise for when we eventually (God willing) got a positive. I told Tim I wanted more pictures/videos of us documented (which was partially truth) and I quickly began editing in iMovie, so excited even though I didn't think I was pregnant at the time. I figured I had at least another month to finish it up, so I put it aside to tackle some work projects instead.

Then a few days ago, I took that random test while I was getting into the shower, set it on the counter and forgot about it. I knew I was already two days late, and I've always gotten crazy early positives. So I'd written off hope for that month but some tiny voice inside me told me to just take one more for the...fun of it or something. A few minutes after I got out of the shower, I happened to glance down and just as I was getting ready to toss the test in the trash - BAM! A teeeeeny, tiny faint line. 

I wanted to tell Tim right that very second! But I couldn't because I hadn't finished this stinkin' little video and I was bound and determined to make it cool (our last pregnancy was announced by me calling him at work, crying, asking him if he was sitting down and proceeding to sob like a baby - I had a six month old colicky baby at the time, so that pregnancy came as a complete and utter shock). 

I threw together the ending of the video as quickly as my little fingers would let me and told him I would love it if he could give me 3 minutes to check out the video I put together from all the footage his sis took. I tried to capture his reaction on film, but the guy moved the laptop where I had it all set up to show him (he wanted to sit on the couch to watch it), so that part was a bust. 

/////Just insert awesome reaction here/////

We all know that I look six months pregnant the day I get the positive (even with my first, but it just keeps getting earlier every time), so just roll with it. At least by now I don't have to fear looking like I've got 8 babies in there by the end. I know that as some point I slow down and catch up to normal pregnant women. But this time it's so crazy that when we showed my mom and dad the video yesterday, my mom said, "You know, I suspected it! I just didn't want to insult you by asking you why you looked pregnant." There no hiding this baby bump! So at 4 weeks, there's your announcement.

Although we are hopeful to foster at a later point in our lives, this little babe should complete our family  for now and my heart is about to explode with anticipation. :)