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Feb 7 / Caro

A Raw Bum Deal

Today, I learned more about penises than I probably ever thought that I would. I also had one of those moments that I’m sure most mothers have experienced, of sheer, utter panic. And I cried. In a slightly snotty slightly irrational way, simply because I couldn’t find anything else to do.

But first, let’s rewind….

Thomas had never had nappy rash until after his first birthday. I hope I was never one of those smug cloth bum mums, but I definitely do think cloth nappies helped because the only times he had even a hint of redness were times when he’d had a disposable nappy on.

But then he turned one. And his bum turned raw. At one point it was covered in little spots, which bled, and absolutely bright red. At it’s very worst, he had open, weeping sores. And I felt terrible, as a mum, that I hadn’t prevented this and was struggling to get rid of it. It definitely wasn’t down to a lack of frequency of changing, or improper cleaning, but I still somehow felt responsible.

For a few weeks, we seemed to take two steps forward, and then two back. We’d get rid of the spots and just have the redness left, and then he’d come home from nursery with new sores. Or he’d go to bed with it looking much better, only to have flared up again by morning. Somedays he’d do a corker of a poo (still pretty squishy, thanks, I think, to breast milk) and despite changing it within the time it took to whisk him to a changing mat (the squatting and grunting are a dead give away when he goes!) it would set everything back to almost square one. We tried a variety of “tried and tested” and recommended remedies, all of which helped but none of which completely eliminated it. We let him run around nappy-less as much as feasibly possible. We even used hydrocortisone!

In the end we gave in, and used Metanium, the one thing everyone seems to swear by. And that meant ditching the cloth for a few days. Most creams aren’t very cloth friendly, because they clog the fibres, decrease absorbency and are a pain to wash out. Metanium, with it’s ability to stain everything within a 3 metre radius, is a definite no-no for my lovely cloth nappies. And I was skeptical, wondering whether the effect of the Metanium would be cancelled out by the effect of the disposables. But despite the fact that Metanium contains nothing of any note, it really worked. Within 48 hours, Thomas looked as though he had a new bum.

Cream Army

Since then we’ve seen redness creeping back a few times, but managed to keep on top of it.

Last week though, the end of his penis suddenly started looking very red. It had happened once before when he was much younger, and the health visitor who happened to see at a weigh-in, said it was normally just caused by pressure from nappies, and just to put some Sudocrem on it. We used the more cloth friendly Burt’s Bees, but it did indeed go away. So seeing it again, we tried the same thing.

But this time, it didn’t work.

On Tuesday morning, I opened his nappy at five minutes to nine and couldn’t believe my eyes. The end of his penis was no longer just red. It was like a balloon. It was bright red, but stretched white at the very tip and sort of crusted over. Unsurprisingly he screamed when I went near it. And that’s when I panicked, at least internally, just a little bit.

I reacted in the obvious way. I put a new nappy on, and then called our GP. But of course at five minutes to nine, it was far too late to get an appointment for that day. I should have remebered that your urgent medical problem that needs dealing with that day actually needs to have started the day before! I was told to try tomorrow or call NHS Direct. The answer from NHS Direct was the same answer they always give: you need to see a doctor, so best go to A&E. I wasn’t taking my 15 month old son to A&E other than as a last resort.

So that’s when I cried, because I couldn’t figure out what else I was supposed to do. I felt terrible for Thomas, and terrible that as his mother I couldn’t see a way to sort it out for him. This is the very first time he’s had a problem that I was worried enough about that I wanted to get it seen as soon as possible. It’s the first time since those early newborn days, when I truly had no clue what I was doing, that I’ve felt really panicked.

But of course, I was the only one who could sort it out for him. It’s one thing having a problem yourself, and waiting to get it sorted, or just accepting that you can’t see a doctor so you’ll soldier on. But Thomas can’t talk, can’t tell me what’s really going on or how he feels. It’s the job of a mother to do everything you can to hep your child. So once I collected my thoughts, I rang the GP back. I got a more helpful receptionist who said she could get a doctor to call me. And 90 minutes later, after a five minute phone conversation, we were on our way to the surgery to be seen.

Of course, as a woman, I haven’t got a frame of reference for what Thomas was experiencing, but the male GP visibly winced when he took a look, and told Thomas that he didn’t blame him for being a bit of a grumpy guy. The fancy medical name for what he has is balanitis, which literally means inflamed end of penis. I learnt a whole lot more about baby boy’s genitalia in the course of our consultation. It turns out that it’s probably caused by thrush, but we’ve had swabs taken to check for anything else. The swelling I saw was almost certainly urine trapped under the foreskin. Even without a frame of reference that makes me wince. But fortunately it had released itself, and so far we’ve had no recurrence.

We’re hitting it hard with prescription cream, and I’m strip washing all of our nappies and wipes, although even the GP agreed they weren’t to blame. And I’m suppressing the fear, since thrush can be a symptom of high blood sugar levels.

I feel like Thomas has had a bit of a raw deal with his bum since his birthday, and I really hope that this is the end of it. The bottom line!

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