Today we feature an interview with Mei, also known as @MarcieMom. Mei started blogging about eczema and helping eczema families in her unique way since 2011, a year after her daughter Marcie was diagnosed with eczema. She co-authored Living with Eczema: Mom Asks, Doc Answers and illustrated the book cover and another children’s book A to Z Animals are not Scratching!. Mei chairs a national eczema support group in Singapore and donated to set up a fund for eczema patients requiring financial assistance. She has helped many parents through her blog EczemaBlues.
In our previous post, we reviewed her book Living with Eczema: Mom Asks, Doc Answers. MarcieMom has also been a past contributor to DermBytes, blogging about her experience as mom to an eczema child and sharing her top tips for taking care of eczema.
Q: What was your inspiration behind writing the book?
I was invited by my daughter Marcie’s doctor, Professor Hugo van Bever, to co-author the book. It was an excellent opportunity to share what I know about eczema and ask all the questions a Mom would have, thus the unique idea behind the book Living with Eczema: Mom Asks, Doc Answers! From the onset, we wanted this book to be practical for parents and practitioners; it’s also 100% authentic – I asked the questions and Prof Hugo answered, we didn’t screen out each other’s questions or answers!
Q: How did you decide which topics to cover?
We group the topics from first giving a background to eczema, with the majority of the chapters centered on practical aspects like diagnosis, skincare and treatment, followed by future research. It is intended to be comprehensive but not too complicated. For the questions, it’s from my own experience blogging, replying to comment, moderating eczema forums and also, an extra pair of eyes from the lovely Amanda of Nottingham Support Group for Carers of Children with Eczema.
Q: How was the partnership in working with Professor Hugo? Did working closely with a healthcare provider lead to any new insights?
Professor Hugo was most gracious – we had an equal partnership in all aspects, from the title, to chapters, to splitting the writing work (he covering the more technical and I writing the more practical), to doing what each is good at (he had the overall responsibility of ensuring medical accuracy while I did the administrative part).
Professor Hugo has a very straight forward approach to his patients – be honest and listen. I remembered that I did not feel rushed at all during the consultation sessions my daughter had with him. Similarly, I didn’t feel rushed or ‘clerical’or ‘subordinate’in my collaboration with him and he respected my views on the book.
Q: Did you learn any new things while working on the book?
I did learn quite a few technical parts of the skin but then I quickly forgot them!
Q: Can you share some feedback you have received from other eczema caregivers?
Our book is recently launched so much of what other eczema caregivers said were ‘where to buy the book?’! Bloggers we sent the book to appreciate the practical and comprehensive aspects of the book.
Q: This is now your second book! (The first being a children’s book that is distributed to eczema support groups.) Any additional future writing plans?
Yes! I have a quarter-baked novella on being a mom with eczema kid, purely fictional (ahem!) but I haven’t got the inspiration to proceed till the end yet. It’s intended to be romance novel though, but since, I’ve fallen in love with thriller instead but it’s so much more difficult to write a thriller!
Authors: Dr. Hugo Van Bever, MarcieMom
“Living with Eczema: Mom Asks, Doc Answers!” by Dr. Hugo Van Bever and MarcieMom is a unique book which systematically tackles must-know information about eczema. Each chapter includes an introduction to the topic followed by a question and answer discussion between MarcieMom and Dr. Hugo Van Bever. MarcieMom’s questions cover the frequently asked questions that eczema patients and parents have and Dr. Hugo Van Bever provides answers.
This book is a helpful supplement for any eczema patient or parent. Health care providers are often limited in the amount of time they have to teach and counsel during a clinic visit so this book can help fill in the gaps. Furthermore, Dr. Van Bever cites studies and evidence (or lack thereof) in his answers, helping dispel myths and promote evidence-based practices. This is no small thing as plenty of non-evidence based practices abound in the care of atopic dermatitis. In other words, Dr. Van Bever helps the reader understand what works and what does not. He also tackles frequently confusing topics such as the utility of allergy testing in eczema. This book is also helpful for patients and parents who feel alone in their disease. MarcieMom is frank and open about her experience in taking care of Marcie’s eczema. I found “Living with Eczema: Mom Asks, Doc Answers!” to be a good blend of background information, up-to-date science, and practical advice and would recommend this book to any eczema patient or parent.
Experience of a First-time Mom of Eczema Baby
Being a first-time mom is already a huge challenge and having an infant with eczema only made it tougher. We first noted rashes on my baby Marcie’s face at two weeks old and she’s diagnosed with eczema at her one-month checkup.
I would say the challenges were manifold, truly blood and sweat type!
Mental & Emotional
“Sleep like a Baby” – this phrase hardly described how my baby slept since her rashes came at 2 weeks old till date! Those days and nights which I had to swaddle her, hold her hands and co-sleep (we’re still co-sleeping!) were truly stressful. It’s about worrying about blood from baby’s scratching even when you’re taking a pee, and half the time, I try not to. For the first time ever, my dentist said my teeth were dirty as I often cut short my brushing to hold my baby’s hands!
Other emotions like blame and resentment could easily creep in – either with spouse not doing enough or contributing the ‘eczema gene’ or with (very often) your closest family and friends who don’t understand eczema and offer miracle cure or insinuate it’s due to the mom’s negligent care.
For the parents, it’s more of fatigue and stress. For the baby, it’s the lack of sleep and constant irritation. Allergy tests aren’t accurate before the baby is at least 6 month old, so very often, pediatricians will recommend switching to hypoallergenic milk formula or for moms who are breast-feeding, you’ll start to wonder if it’s anything in your diet. My baby did not take well to the formula switch, and I faced huge drop in milk feed (and huge rise in worry), colic and reflux for her.
MarcieMom’s Top Three Baby Eczema Tips
Managing eczema requires being a multi-tasking mom – there are so many factors to look out for! To make it less stressful, let’s concentrate on the top 3:
- Once your baby reaches 6-month old, take an allergy test
Once my baby took hers at 7-month old, it really helped A LOT! First, we found out she’s not allergic to anything, so we could feed her solids without worrying about which food triggers her eczema. Second, we could stop being paranoid about everything, such as too much dust or walking past a cat or a dog in the park. You can read more about allergy test, including my Q&As with leading doctors in Singapore here.
- Moisturize like crazy!
Moisturize lots, within three minutes after shower and at every diaper change and do use a lotion or cream that does not contain the top allergens. You can click here to learn about reading label of sensitive skincare products. There are also studies showing that moisturizing reduces the severity of eczema and may help to prevent the allergic march.
- Don’t be steroid-phobic!
I know this would draw flak from some but truly, eczema needs to be managed and part of that management, is the application of topical steroid. Steroid has to be used under doctor’s supervision, who will advice the frequency and the strength of steroid. I was once steroid-phobic but realized that it’s so much more practical to quickly treat the eczema rash rather than let my baby suffer the itch, inflammation and damage to skin from scratching. To learn more about steroids, read here.
Hope above will help to prepare a first-time parent for baby’s eczema and whenever you feel stressed, drop by my blog to read the cartoons, 101 things that Moms with Eczema Child do Differently!
Mei, also known as Marcie Mom (on twitter), has baby girl Marcie who had eczema from two weeks old. Mei runs a blog, EczemaBlues.com, a comprehensive and light-hearted resource for parents with eczema children. Mei is also the co-chairperson of Singapore’s Eczema Support Group and has initiated an eczema fund for low-income patients in Singapore. Mei has also published a wonderful children’s picture book, called “A to Z Animals Are Not Scratching!”.