When I was in my final month of prengnacy with Bryn, I developed this truly awful disease known as PUPPPs. This is apparently a rather rare disease, as evidenced by the fact that I have never known anyone else to have it. No one really knows what causes it, but it only occurs during the third trimester of pregnancy. It is not harmful to the mother or the baby in any way, but there is no cure other than childbirth. Some theorize that it is caused by the extreme stretching of the skin over the stomach at the end of pregnancy. This makes a certain amount of sense, since usually people only get it if they are carrying multiples. Those who are not carrying mulitples are usually carrying boys. So basically, I was a big old freak to get it in the first place when carrying a girl.
At this point, you may be asking, "So what is this PUPPPs thing?" Basically, it is the worst rash you can dream of. Think chicken pox, then multiply by a factor of 10. Or maybe a factor of 100. Anyway, it's bad. You basically want to claw your own skin off. The rash starts on the stomach and then spreads to the rest of the body, until you have angry red welts that itch like the devil covering every available inch of skin. And did I mention that there's no cure? So whenever you develop it, the misery continues for the duration of pregnancy, which makes you VERY anxious to have the child. When I was pregnant with Bryn, I tried a plethora of home remedies, including frequent oatmeal baths and smearing vast amounts of hydrocortisone cream across my entire body, all to no avail. The one silver lining to this itchy cloud is that I was told that there was no chance I could develop it again, as it is a disease limited to first pregnancies.
Anyone who recalls my first pregnancy will remember that it was bad. I basically developed every kind of freakish medical problem that I could: 4 straight months of throwing up everything I put in my body (including water), followed by intense migraines, followed by my pelvis dislocating itself in 3 places, followed by PUPPPs, with a few other minor things thrown in there. This pregnancy, on the other hand, has been blessedly uneventful in the way of strange illnesses. This is perhaps why I was shocked to find small red bumps covering my stomach when I got in the shower on Wednesday morning.
I had just had an OB appointment on Tuesday, when I was completely free of small red bumps, so I tried to convince myself that I was perhaps just having a mild reaction to the ultrasound goop or something like that. As Wednesday went on, though, it was hard to deny that my rather large stomach was becoming itchier and itchier. I kept telling myself, "Thank goodness this is just some silly little rash and I can't get PUPPPs again."
When Ben got home, I showed him the rash. He took one look at it and said, "Honey, that's PUPPPs." I forced a laugh and told him that it was not physically possible for me to get again. He kind of just rolled his eyes at me. I spent most of that night awake, as the itching spread across the rest of my body. No red dots appeared anywhere else, but along about 2:00, I resigned myself to the fact that spots would, in fact, be appearing in a few days.
Thursday's shower revealed that while the rash had not yet spread, the rash on my stomach had gotten bigger and redder.... and itchier. I had to admit that this was looking and feeling a great deal like the beginning of PUPPPs. So following my shower, I hopped on the internet to do a little research. Sure enough, all the "rash during pregnancy" articles indicated that I did, in fact, have PUPPPs. A second search revealed websites by several other angry (and itchy) women who had, against all odds, developed PUPPPs during both their first AND second pregnancies. So apparently there's me and like four other freaks in the world who have managed to achieve this feat (and blogged about it).
Further internet searches revealed that no magical cure for PUPPPs has been found in the past two years. Darn. I did find a website, though, where several women swore by the effectiveness of a product called Grandpa's Pine Tar Soap. They claimed that while all the oatmeal baths, hydrocortisone cream, Benadryl, and moisturization in the world had not helped, this magical soap had cleared up the rash in a matter of days, much to their OB's shock and amazement. I decided this was worth trying out and searched for a website that might sell this wonder product.
When I located a vendor, the website included a review from a man who praised the "manly odor" that the soap gave him. I gulped and attempted to ignore this. At that point, Bryn woke up screaming, and I was off to Mommy duty. About an hour later, while I was in the car, I called Ben and asked him to order the soap for me. He did one better--he tracked down some "organic products" store near his work and called to reserve the one bar of Grandpa's soap they had in stock.
He brought the soap home that night, and I put it aside for use in the morning. While I was working on the computer last night, though, I noticed an odd stench in the room. Something had surely gone bad. I searched for the offending object to no avail. What was that scent anyway? Wait.... it was tar. I hunted down the box of soap, and sure enough, the offending smell was issuing from the sealed box. Great.
When I hesitantly opened Grandpa's "wonder product" (it actually says this on the box) this morning, my bathroom was immediately filled with the scent of tar, tempered by a bit of pine scent, which I believe was just thrown in to (ineffectively) mask the tar odor. I guess that's how Grandpa came up with the original name of Pine Tar Soap. The box boldly proclaims that the soap "lathers white!" I had been curious about this label, as most soaps do that anyway. Upon opening the box, though, I understood why the label was necessary..... the soap is jet black and looks like, well, a big lump of tar. I should add that the box also proclaims that the soap is made of vegetables and has been in use since the 1800s. All I could think as I stood there with this soap in my hand is that if this is the kind of soap the pioneers used, I no longer judge them for only bathing once a week or so--it's probably all they could take.
In spite of all of this, the itchiness got the better of me, and I climbed in the shower and lathered up with Grandpa's special recipe. The "manly odor" of old campfire filled the shower. I also learned that Grandpa's claim that the soap "lathers white" is not entirely true--it is more of a light mud, khaki sort of color, which I guess is as close to white as you can get out of a bar of black tar soap.
Anyway, after all of these adventures, I carried the "manly odor" with me for the rest of the day, in spite of intense moisturizing after getting out of the shower. The moisturization was necessary, as the "wonder product" works by sloughing off dead skin and my entire body was dried out after using it. But after all of these complaints, I do have to admit that the rash has not yet spread anywhere other than my stomach and that the itching there has been kept to a minimum all day. So I guess it really does work.
So there you have it: I am an itchy pine tar freak. I'm willing to try about anything, though, to keep from itching out of my own skin for the next 5+ weeks. Wish me luck--and don't stand downwind of me unless you like the smell of tar!