PUPPP Rash

Dear mama with PUPPP rash,

Firstly, I want to tell you that I am so sorry this is happening to you. There is really nothing I can say to make the itching stop but trust me when I say I know how you feel right now. There is nothing worse than being awake half of the night because you cannot stop scratching! No matter how tired you are and you lay there awake thinking.. will I ever sleep through the night again?

Which brings me to the second thing I want to tell you.. You are NOT alone! Before my rash started, I had never heard of Pruritic urticarial papules and plaques of pregnancy (PUPPP), let alone ever met anyone who had it. It was only once I started looking it up online in my desperation that I came across any kind of information, help or support.

My PUPPP rash started when I was about 32 weeks pregnant with our third baby, our first boy. It started across my chest and I thought perhaps it was just a heat rash. This went on and on and suddenly it started to spread. It covered my chest, my arms, my legs, my back, my bum..actually it covered literally my whole body except my belly surprisingly!! I was in agony. There were days I couldn’t even leave the house because honestly? I couldn’t bear to wear clothes. When the fabric touched my skin it was like being lit on fire or being covered in ants. I cannot tell you how many creams, oils, ointments, soaps I tried to no avail. I was desperate and I was exhausted. I cried everyday for weeks on end praying for some sort of miracle to intervene. I prayed for early labor. Nothing. I would go to bed at 9pm and scratch myself raw or until I would bleed and when I couldn’t take it anymore I would get out of bed…at 11pm, 1am. 3,4,5am you name it. I prayed day would come so I could just get on with things and pretend like nights didn’t exist. Those days were really hard. I would get into the tub or shower and look at my body and all I could see was rash. Bright red, raw, angry skin all over me and I felt ugly. I didn’t feel like myself when I looked in the mirror and it was such a cross. All I wanted was to feel beautiful and glowing with my growing belly but I just felt exhausted and shitty to tell the truth. I prayed day and night for our baby to come early, to come on time and then just ..now! anytime now! But our little guy just wasn’t ready and he went nearly a full two weeks past his due date.

I’m not trying to sell you anything. I don’t have a solution because there really isn’t one. Each woman’s body is different. I tried so.many.things. to make the rash go away or at least give me some relief if only for an hour. Here is what worked for me..usually I would have a hot shower or bath once or twice a day and slather myself up with one of the many creams I tried..PUPPP rash prescription cream seemed to help but I found it a little greasy on my skin. The other thing I discovered online and tried because I was desperate was dandelion root capsules. I bought them at a health food store and I took 2 capsules 3 times a day. This wasn’t until nearly the very end of my pregnancy but I will say that within four days of taking them my skin started to heal..it scabbed up which was also itchy but more of a dry itch and withing a week it was started to clear up a little.

There is hope! There is a beautiful baby waiting for you on the other side of this nightmare, I promise. Be encouraged! You are not alone. You are not crazy. You are not being punished. God did not give you this rash..but he is allowing it for whatever reason. Although a real cross to me, I can say that I have never grown in patience or empathy quite so much as when I had PUPPP. God has a plan in all of this and thankfully, that sweet baby is going to be so perfectly beautiful that it will wash away the disappointment and hurt you feel now. Our sweet Oliver is such a joy. He is nearly four months old and has blessed our home in so many ways.

…now here is the part I don’t want to add. My rash came back. I know you want to click away now but please don’t. My rash did clear up after Oliver was born but it recently has come back. I have one decent sized patch across my chest and under my breasts again but it’s not all over my body and it isn’t nearly as painful, raw or angry as it was last time. The marks on my legs are starting to fade and I might even wear shorts this summer! haha!

In the end, I just had to take it one day at a time. One hour at a time sometimes. Surround yourself with people who love you, will listen to you and just take care of yourself. Keeping busy helped me a lot..I found the itching was much worse at night and I think it was because I was so tired by the end of the day and I would put my guard down and scratch way more making it then harder to stop. Just know that you really are not alone and that I pray for you all the time, mama. Keep focusing on that sweet baby coming..and don’t feel you have to keep up appearances for anyone. Sometimes pregnancy just sucks and it’s hard, even if the growing baby is loved and wanted and an answer to prayers. What you feel right now matters and I hear you.

The only other thing that truly helped me during that time was truth. Having my husband pray with me and reading scripture. Here are some that helped me..I pray you are able to find some comfort in them, too.

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Isaiah 41:10 fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Zephaniah 3:17 The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.

1 Corinthians 10:13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

2 Corinthians 4:16-18  So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison,  as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

 

Lent is Here

We began our Ash Wednesday with the sweet gift of being able to attend mass together. Ben starting work later in the morning does have its perks!

After lunch we all had a rest and then got up and began discussing (as much as you can discuss anything with toddlers) what we would be doing as a family for Lent. I offered a few suggestions of things we could do and Lucy was very pleased with the ideas. We got ourselves an empty bin and made up a sign that read, “Food for the poor people”..at least that is what Lucy told me her sign said. Her fascination with the poor began on the feast of St. Brigid when we read a story about her life and the ways she helped care for the poor in her community, often by way of her parents pantry. We are keeping things simple and trying to lead by example rather than talking their little ears off.

I placed their little table against a wall in our living room and covered it with a purple play silk and gathered up a little basket of Lent/Easter related books and also a few small crosses and rosaries. They visit this little table often throughout the day and it makes me smile to see them take such interest in the stories about Christ’s life. Their favorite book right now is a french Children’s Bible that my grandmother gave to Lucy when she was just a baby. They are loving hearing the old testament stories and ask me about a million questions about them. It is reminding me how important it is for me to be reading scripture and continually growing in my relationship with Christ if I have any hope of helping my children see Him.

In other news, Abigail will be two years old this Saturday and we are having a very small family get together for the occasion. If the snow holds off we are thinking about barbecuing for the first time since the fall. The weather has been so mild, we thought, why not! Also, Ben’s birthday is coming up the first week in March. I confess, I really enjoy birthdays celebrated during Lent. It somehow gets me through those final weeks of winter blahs. I am feeling more myself now, but to be honest..these last few weeks found me really tired and really down on myself and my parenting. Having toddlers is a joy in so many ways but man, the emotional rollercoaster of it all is sometimes enough to almost take my breath away. We seem to be coming to the other side of it for now, thankfully.

Finally, I am working on some new hats for the girls and after ripping them out twice I finally figured out how to make the right stitch! Yay! I can’t wait to show them once they are finished.

I’ve now got a Lent and Easter board on Pinterest if you’re interested. I find Pinterest so useful for gathering ideas that I can easily go back to and find.

Sorry for the lack of depth here today. It has been a long day and I am knackered.  I hope to be back here soon with something a little more lent related.

Well…Happy Lent! ( Is that a thing? Can I even say that?)

 

A Family That Prays Together

 “Everyone knows that the Christian family is a special sign of the presence and love of Christ and that it is called to give a specific and irreplaceable contribution to evangelization. … The Christian family has always been the first way of transmitting the faith and still today retains great possibilities for evangelization in many areas. Dear parents, commit yourselves always to teach your children to pray, and pray with them; draw them close to the Sacraments, especially to the Eucharist, … introduce them to the life of the Church; in the intimacy of the home do not be afraid to read the sacred Scriptures, illuminating family life with the light of faith and praising God as Father. Be like a little Upper Room, like that of Mary and the disciples, in which to live unity, communion and prayer!”.     – Pope Benedict XVI

 

I am a cradle Catholic. So is my husband. We both grew up in Catholic homes where we went to Sunday mass, attended catechism classes and were confirmed in the church. We both remember our parents praying with us before bed when we were small children. We both remember those bedtime prayers stopping when we were getting too big to be tucked in anymore. I say this not to criticize our parents, not even a little bit. Without our parents love and commitment to taking us (sometimes unwillingly) to the Eucharist week after week we would not be where we are in our faith.

When we became parents decided that we wanted to incorporate a family prayer time into our daily life. We knew that it should be something simple, realistic and age appropriate to our kids. Some families with young children  pray a Rosary every evening before bed and more power to you but that is not for us right now. We would pray together every few days when Lucy was a baby but we never found the right rhythm until we moved back to Halifax and into our new apartment. She was 9 months old at the time and we were getting into a nice routine with her of supper, bathtime, nursing/prayer then bed.

The next thing we decided was that our family prayer time would happen in our living room. Now this may not seem like a big deal to some people and I ask you to please bear with me. We decided to do this in our living room because we don’t want to grow out of praying with our kids once they are too big to be tucked in. Our living room is where we live, we laugh, we fight, we play and we pray. Praying there also becomes a way of including others in our prayers when they visit and we ask them to join us for family prayer. It helps Lucy to point to pictures of people in the room and name them when it is her turn to bless others.

I want to share with you what our family does every night before the girls go to bed. After they have had their bath or just put on their pyjamas, we all gather in the living room. Ben and I sit together on the couch and we start..

We make the sign of the cross to start.

We each take a turn to give thanks for 2-3 things about the day.

We pray for anyone who has asked for our prayers or who needs them.

We say an Our Father, a Hail Mary and a Glory Be.

We say St. Matthew and St. Rosalie, pray for us! (These are our family Saints, babies we have miscarried).

We make the sign of the cross to finish.

There is nothing fancy about what we do. The most important thing is that we do it. Every night. Even when the girls don’t want to. Even when we don’t want to. Consistently. Sometimes it goes beautifully and Lucy is praying for people and telling Jesus wonderful things and other times she says things like, “bless our lamp”. Miss Abigail knows who Mary is now, she says Amen with us and does a funny arm movement as her sign of the cross but you know what? I love it. I love all of it. There is something so beautiful when you hear your children  praying the Hail Mary and you think, “we taught them that!!!!”

We know that as our children grow older our prayer time may change slightly. We may work ourselves up to praying a family rosary every night. For now we want to focus on short, simple, consistent prayer time to carry us through this time of toddlerhood. Also, we can’t expect anyone to pray a rosary if they can’t pray a Hail Mary, right? We are really happy with what we do. Lucy knows about 1/2 of the Our Father and all of the Hail Mary and Glory be. We don’t say those prayers more than just that once a day usually, but over time it is amazing what young children can pick up.

If having a family prayer time is something that you’ve thought about doing but always felt like it would be too hard to do, try something simple. My kids don’t sit like angels on the couch the entire time and I don’t expect them to. They are 18 months and nearly 3 years old. At prayer time we give them each a rosary to hold and a few books with children’s prayers or holy pictures. It gives them something to focus on, if only for 5 minutes. This is how we begin!

The other part of the quote from Pope Benedict talks about reading scripture together in the home. I personally really LOVE scripture. I don’t read it as often as I should but the stories just make it all come alive for me. We recently went through our kids books and got rid of about half. There were some pages torn, or in rough shape and we widdled the bookshelf down to the ones they really love. Among those books we put in a few different Children’s Bible story books. My grandmother gave one to Lucy when she was a baby with really realistic but still cartoon images. They love it. We talk about Noah and the animals, she’s asked me about the picture of Abraham and Isaac. These two things, prayer time and reading scripture, really are possible and can be kept simple. God only asks us to bring the children to Him. He didn’t say they had to behave or always love it. He just asked us to bring them. We do this each Sunday when we go to church but can we find a way to bring them to Christ in our homes? Are we bringing ourselves to Christ in our homes? I mean no harm when I say this but, if we can’t find Christ in our homes, it’s unlikely that we will be able to find Him anywhere else.

We have found much peace in bringing family prayer to the front and center of our home. We pray that you and your families would know that peace as well. Bless you!

Psalm 23

This morning as I sat in the quiet of my room reading the small steps of the day, my eyes came to the quote of the day, “The Lord is my sheperd there is nothing I lack”. -Psalm 23:1 And there you have it folks. It was only 6:25 am and God was already blowing my mind for the day. Nothing I lack, God? Not a house? Not a bigger carseat for Abigail? Not a mini van or a new couch or more time to myself or more time to pray? Really God??? Couple this with the Gospel reading of this past weekend, Matthew 6:24-34 and you’ve got,
“The Lord is my sheperd there is nothing I lack”
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are not you more important than they? Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span? Why are you anxious about clothes? Learn from the way the wild flowers grow. They do not work or spin. But I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was clothed like one of them. If God so clothes the grass of the field, which grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow, will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith? So do not worry and say, ‘What are we to eat?’ or ‘What are we to drink?’or ‘What are we to wear?’ All these things the pagans seek. Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides. Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. Sufficient for a day is its own evil.”
I have forgotten too easily that my husband and I moved to Canada in 2006 with nothing but two suitcases each. Sure, I had a few memory box type things left in my closet at my parents house but we had no furniture, no car, no appliances, nothing but our love and our God to start our marriage with. That was only 4 1/2 years ago. Now we have a 3 bedroom apartment spilling over with furniture and 2 beautiful baby girls. We are so blessed and we have never truly gone without a thing that we have needed. Do we have the best of the worldly best? certainly not. I really believe that God will always give us the things that we need to continue doing His good work of loving our families and drawing them closer to Him.
“If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” Matthew 7:11
Just because God doesn’t always give us the things that we ask for doesn’t mean that He is unloving or uncaring towards us. Abigail has recently started bringing me things, little things she finds on the floor that are usually dangerous or even just toys or clothes, anything really. In the same way that I will take what she gives me and decide what is safe and good to let her have, God, as our Father sorts through the things we bring Him in prayer and decides what is safe and good for us to have in that moment.

God is not asking us to stop asking for things. In fact, He is saying, Pleaseeeeee ask Me! I long to bless you even more! I can still pray away for the desires of my heart, but it is good to remember that I should desire Him and His friendship more than anything He can give me. To love the giver of the gift just as much and more than the gift itself. So today? Today I will give thanks for the things He has already given me. The biggest apartment He could give, a husband willing to take the bus several times a week so we can keep the car, food in my fridge, two healthy girls, the process of house hunting, and the hundreds of other things I could write about if I had the time.
God is faithful, even when we can’t see what He is doing, we can be sure that He is working all things in our lives to bless and care for us. I am so encouraged by this today, that I don’t lack a thing that I truly need today and that my true desires are for Him and anything He wants to give. If he doesn’t want me to have something for whatever reason, I trust that it’s for my own good…even if I do act like a whining child about it at first. In the end, I know He loves me today and will be faithful to me in all things. Something tells me that He feels the same way about you, friends.

Seeking Joy

Several months ago, I made a recommitment to taking a daily time of prayer. It started out beautifully. I would wake up before the kids, get myself dressed and make my way to my favorite sitting spot in our living room, the rocking chair. I would usually get in about 20-30 minutes of prayer, and a quick facebook check before Abigail (my almost 11 month old) would wake up. Then, Abigail started sleeping through the night. I was happy about it, but suddenly she was waking up at 5:30am or sometimes even 5:00am looking to nurse and start her day. After a few weeks of this going on, I was wiped. I felt discouraged and felt like I may as well not even bother to pray since my daughter obviously had other things in mind for my morning time. I really let it get the better of me and when Abigail would wake up, I would wake up feeling bitter and irritated…not the greatest start to a day. I was very nearly ready to throw the towel in when it finally hit me, probably for the millionth time since I became a mother; God called me not only to be His, but to be a mother as well. If He has called me to this vocation, then surely He will give me grace to live it. 
My prayer time will never look like that of a Carmelite nun, nor should it. It would be selfish of me to spend hours in prayer, when my children are in need of my attention and affection. After talking it over with my husband, he declared that the day should start with, “Good morning God!” and not “Good god it’s morning”. He was so very right. It pretty much summed up the whole experience for me, smart man he is. If I could manage nothing else, I would at least start my mornings off by acknowledging the One who had called me to this very life. I am still getting up pretty early these days, lately it’s been between 5:30-6:00am, but I am doing it knowing that as I sit and nurse this baby-almost-toddler of mine, God is near and He isn’t afraid of early mornings.
With the start of the new year, I decided that I could at the very least take a few minutes to sit with my Small Steps for Catholic Moms book, before, after or even while nursing Abigail. Each daily reflection is made up of Think, Pray, Act. There is a quote from a Saint or scripture, then a short reflection (about a paragraph long) and then an act..something simple to feel like you are putting your prayer to action. It has really helped me to get back on track with my prayer. The beauty of it is that each day is a new page, a new Think, Act, Pray. I never feel like I have fallen behind if I miss a day, I just start fresh each new day. Each month has a theme and the theme of January is Joy. Boy, oh boy do I need me some Joy in these dark winter months ahead. I am inspired to continue striving for daily prayer. It is so worth it…He is so very worth it, and I need Him. This book would make a wonderful gift to a new mother, a dear friend or to yourself, to be honest. I am so thankful that I have stumbled upon it, because it has given me hope that no matter how short my prayer time, it can still have depth, give me something to spiritually chew on and also give me one simple act to put into practice.

With Joy being the theme of the month, it has got me thinking about the difference between joy and happiness. I always thought that if I didn’t feel happy, then surely I could never be joyful. I am slowly learning that joy has in fact very little to do with feeling. As Elizabeth put so beautifully, “We are children who know we are loved. We can look for joy and expect to find it. We are children of a loving Father. A child loved by God has faith in joy. I am a child loved by God. Joy is mine.” It doesn’t matter how difficult yesterday was, what argument I had with someone, how quickly and easily I lost my temper with the girls, or how tidy or untidy my house was at the end of the day…today is a new day, God still loves me, His Joy is mine for the taking.
“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” John 15:9-11
What more proof could I ask for that God loves me and wants me to have His joy? Not the joy of the world, that is fleeting and empty, but eternal joy, joy that lasts forever because it is all of His goodness and love in my life. As these days slowly get lighter, I will be here, smiling everyday at my little ones and making sure they know their mama is joyful, and also that they know the cause of that joy.

Blessed Broken Shared

God is merciful. Time and time again, He proves it to me, in lots of small ways that leave me humbled. There are days lately when Lucy’s growing sense of independence and need for freedom wear me down so thin, I just have to cry. It has been very difficult for me to admit to anyone, myself included that I am struggling to persevere through whatever it is Lucy is growing through at the moment. Being a stay at home mom is by far the most difficult ‘job’ I have ever had. It is the only job I’ve had where I get yelled at every day, have my patience tried to the absolute limit and have no time to myself for 12 hours of my day. I have often felt like a bad mom recently, totally losing my cool with my daughter, who is probably looking at me and wondering what my problem is. God is merciful. He is holding my hand through all of this and walking gently by my side, and when I just can’t walk anymore, we stop. We stop and I fall apart in his arms until I’m ready to keep going.

I remember when Ben and I were still engaged, thinking how great it was that I had my vocation all figured out. It was as if this huge burden had been lifted from me and I’d never have another one sent my way. I never imagined the issues we would have with Ben’s immigration, the miscarriages, the moving, the financial stresses, or even just the routine of the day to day being home with children. If God had told the 21 year old me about all that would be once we were married, I don’t know that I could have said yes so easily. Not because I don’t love Ben, but because all of those things are ‘grownup problems’ and I was young and in love. God was merciful by not showing me the future. He just made sure I married the right man who would be by my side through all of those things.

I’m with St. Therese of Lisieux when she said, “My vocation is love”. Our vocation is the way by which we are called to love God and His church, be it through marriage, religious life or single life. God has shown me that I can best love and serve Him, by loving and serving Ben and the girls. But God never shows us the pain, the struggle or the hardship of our tomorrows, because He wants us to focus on the blessings of today.

“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough troubles of its own” Matthew 6:34

I’ve come to see that when I spend my days living in tomorrow and worrying about what they will bring, I completely miss out on the blessings of the day that I am in. Let me tell you, I am blessed. So richly blessed by my husband and daughters and two babies in Heaven. I am blessed to know my God, to stay at home and raise our children, blessed in oh so many ways. We all are. Our blessings may be very different, but we all have them.

Much like Christ, we are each blessed, broken and shared. We are blessed by those we love and those who love us, we are broken when we realize we can’t love our dear ones or anyone for that matter on our own strength and we are shared, giving our lives entirely for the sake of others knowing Christ, even when our efforts are less than perfect. I have been blessed, broken and shared..and I am a better woman for it.

Thank you Lord, for the example we have in your Son, who, never counting the cost gave Himself up willingly so that we could know You and be with You. Help me not to count the cost of the little hardships You send my way, but let each one make me more grateful for Your merciful love.