Sunday, August 6, 2006

scratching that itch

(Edited to add a somewhat gross picture of my leg ...)

Yesterday morning, I was up at 6:30 a.m. making blueberry scones. I was making a racket all over the kitchen, but Steve was sleeping so soundly that he didn't hear a thing. He loves scones — they bring back memories of relaxing afternoon teatimes in Ireland, like that late afternoon when we checked into our B&B in Cork, and the first thing the owner did was shuttled us into the parlor and put a tray of tea, coffee, scones and pastries down in front of us. We'd been driving all day to get to Cork from just outside Dublin, and this felt like heaven. Bliss. Ever since then, scones have held a special place in Steve's heart.

The trick to making scones, I have learned through trial and error, is to not overwork the butter in the dough. It should go in cold and pebbly and have the appearance of peas. I think I nailed it yesterday because these scones were just the way I like them: crispy on the outside, flaky on the inside. By the time Steve got up at 8:30, there were two dozen hot scones cooling off on various racks and plates around the kitchen and coffee in the pot. It was the kind of Saturday morning I'd love to have every weekend — although without the lower backache that comes from working in the kitchen while nearly 39 weeks pregnant. And without the itchies.

The reason I was up at 6:30 a.m. in the first place — I, who usually can sleep until 9 or 10 — is that over the past three or four days, I have developed PUPPP. (Or so the OB diagnosed it, and the stuff I've found on the Internet seems to confirm it.) Short for pruritic urticarial papules and plaques of pregnancy (which I prefer to translate into English as "incredibly, nightmarishly itchy, rashy skin in pregnant women"), it's a condition that occasionally pops up in the third trimester. I tell you, this itching is keeping me awake at night more than my big belly and the multiple trips to the bathroom ever did. It just won't go away, and it pops up in new places every day, and at this point, I don't know how I'm going to make it through the next week (and possibly more, if I go over my due date). I would welcome the pains of labor over this. (Famous last words?)

It started four or five days ago on my belly, in the creases of my stretch marks. I thought it was just my skin reacting to even more stretching, so I put a lot of lotion on it and tried (not very successfully) not to scratch it. Then I started to notice a rash on my arms and thighs that was also very itchy. It starts off looking like bug bites and then turns red bumps, probably because I scratch it. When I double-checked my belly, I realized it had the rash, too, and this was where it was itching. Now it's under my breasts, too, and creeping up the backs of my hands to my fingers and down my thighs to my calves. When is it going to stop?

After I give birth, that's when it will stop. There is no known cure except just having the baby. And this Lemmondrop has not dropped, is not engaged, and my cervix is dilated not one whit, though it has softened about 50 percent (at least that's something), so who knows when he might come? Hopefully on time, but I can't count on it!

A couple of months ago, I had what (in retrospect) was a mild precursor to this. The doctor drew some blood to check my liver functions and was able to rule out a rare, more serious liver condition that would have been bad. The itching itself went away with a few days of Benadryl and calamine lotion. These days, those things only give some temporary relief, sometimes.

I've learned some interesting stuff online:

• PUPPP normally occurs in first pregnancies during the third trimester with an average onset of 35 weeks. Thankfully, PUPPP does not usually affect subsequent pregnancies.

• The cause of PUPPP is unknown. It is not associated with preeclampsia, autoimmune disorders, hormonal abnormalities, or fetal abnormalities. And it's not harmful to the baby. It just itches like the devil.

• One study has shown that male fetal DNA can be found in skin biopsies of the rash. Since 70% of women with PUPPP give birth to boys, a new hypothesis is that male fetal DNA acts as a skin irritant. (Makes sense — I am having a boy.)

I also found this Web site by a writer who had PUPPP and has collected as many relief remedies as she can for other PUPPP sufferers. (Can we call ourselves PUPPPies?) :) At any rate, I've tried a few of them, including an Aveeno oatmeal bath this morning, which brought some mild relief that has since gone away. As I type this, I feel like bug bites are erupting all over me, and I stop every minute or so to scratch something. I know I shouldn't scratch, but I can't help it. I also don't like to complain too much — I am so fortunate and grateful for this pregnancy and this baby whom we will be meeting soon. But this just sucks.

For breakfast this morning, I ate about six scones. Even a day old, they were so satisfying. I hear it's a good idea to load up on carbs when you know you have a baby coming. It's the same philosophy marathon runners have, which is why they eat spaghetti the night before a marathon. So I'm not going to worry about the scones. I want all the energy I can build up for the Lemmondrop's birthday!

In the meantime, please send encouragement and anti-itch vibes. I could really use them right now. :)


Laura said...

Oh, no... you poor thing! I'm so sorry to hear about the PUPP. Your scones sound delicious... eat WHATEVER you want!

LutherLiz said...

That looks itchy! Despite the rash, I thought you were looking great the other day. Hang in there, it won't be long now!

liz said...

Oh, Emilie, you poor thing. It doesn't matter how grateful you are to have this baby... no one wants a rash, for heaven's sake!! I'm sending lots of soothing anti-itch vibes northward. Hang in there. Maybe this is your body's way of getting you 1000% ready to meet your little guy - any nostalgia you might have had about not being pregnant any more is probably gone, huh? ;) He's almost here!

Monkeymama said...

Oh, that looks so painful. I hope you can find some relief!

Ellen said...

Poor Em! It looks awful. The burden of motherhood sometimes. However...the brilliant contrast between your yummy scones and the yucky rash came out very well in your post! Was it planned?

Kerry said...

I can't believe that photo... you are a trooper. Any thoughts on asking to be induced?

deena said...

I just started my blog today--mostly to take up these middle of the night episodes where I can't stop scratching. The PUPPP has attacked me too, and I've been eating lots of chocolate donuts--dealing with this, I feel like I deserve them. Hopefully you've had your baby by now and are itch free. Good luck!