Poop, Rashes

When I thought about having kids, this was one thing I did not expect: my whole life now revolves around poop. My poop. Piglet’s poop. Probably other poop, too. I dunno.

Pregnancy destroyed my digestive tract. I don’t know how or why, or when/if it will ever return to normal function. In the ten weeks since Piglet was born, I’ve had a couple of spells where things worked more or less how they were supposed to, but it doesn’t last long. Then I go back to counting the days since my last bowel movement and debating what to do about it. I’ve had to resort to glycerin suppositories (oh sweet relief!) twice now, because the Milk of Magnesia gives Piglet the runs and makes him totally miserable.  I eat three spoons of flaxseed meal every morning, and heaps of green vegetables at lunch and dinner, all to no avail. Is this the lingering effects of pregnancy hormones? Is it some permanent damage from my intestines shifting into the spot my uterus once occupied (before it slumped down to bulge into the front of my vagina)? Rectocele? Is my abdomen just too loose these days to maintain the proper internal pressures? Is it laxative dependence?  I don’t know, but I really, really, really want it fixed. The sooner, the better.

Did I mention that Milk of Magnesia affects Piglet?  Yeah. It’s listed as safe for breastfeeding, but…  not pleasant, I guess. The screaming was awful, and I think not all of it was from the MoM, but for a while there, while I was taking the stuff, his poops went a little greenish, and the texture changed from bee pollen granules to liquid. As he went back to bee pollen, the screaming also subsided a lot.

EC is going well. I had a migraine the other day, and strangely this meant we caught almost every poop, because I had no tolerance at all for any crying, so I was alert to every squeak, and just put him on the potty whenever he squirmed or made noise. We had a couple of false starts, but mostly he had to go.

Please note that this did not cure the cranky episodes. We still have to walk him around and sing to him a whole lot in the evenings to keep our neighbors from complaining to the landlady. But there seems to be some reason for it now. After a while he nurses and goes to sleep. And that’s the end of it. And then we can say “he was tired” and shrug and go to bed.

On another note, Piglet got the rash again this morning. He had it a week or so ago– this sudden patchy red rash on his back, with little bumps in the red patches. It went away about half an hour after we noticed it, and we were totally at a loss on what it might be. I have an inkling now: I think it might be eggs. Both times he got the rash, he was hanging around shirtless, and I picked him up after cooking and eating eggs for breakfast. I may patch-test this theory when I’m feeling a little more brave, and deliberately rub a little egg on him to see if it happens again. Then we’d know for sure.

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Prune Juice and Other Dangerously Infantile Advice

My solid day of puking and diarrhea Monday has turned into just a residual case of diarrhea and general sluggishness. It doesn’t usually take me this long to recover from a stomach bug. I’m guessing the baby is to blame for that. Still, it’s a respite from worrying about my otherwise-constant companion: constipation. But I know it’s temporary. It’ll come back.

It has become glaringly obvious to me, after hours of internet-searching to try to find a pregnancy-safe solution to the constipation problem, that there is some unwritten law against giving real, crucial health information to pregnant women. A quick search for “severe constipation” will get you a complete breakdown of the problem and its potential causes, complications, and treatments. But if you search for “severe constipation pregnancy” you get ten thousand articles and forum replies all repeating the same recommendations:

1) Prunes and Prune juice.

2) Fiber

3) Regular Exercise

4) Drink More Water

Thanks for nothing, internet. It appears your question cannot be taken seriously if you are pregnant. The Unwritten Law says you must be treated like a hypochondriac five-year-old. Your health concerns are of no consequence.  There is no such thing as severe constipation during pregnancy. It’s all in your head. Drink some prune juice: you’ll be fine.

Except it’s not true. The problem is not in my head, it is not benign, and I’ve tried all those useless suggestions already. They didn’t help. Instead, earlier this month I  had the most frightening, most revolting, most not-benign digestive experience of my life: my very first fecal impaction. I will not describe this to you. Look it up on Wikipedia. This is what happens when pregnant ladies cannot get real information on the real health problems that are really affecting us. The problem with being treated like a five-year-old when you’re an adult is…  you’re not five anymore. Your parents are not responsible for your health anymore: you are.

But there’s an iron wall between information about health problems, and information about health problems that coincide with, or are caused by, pregnancy. I can find tons of useful information about severe constipation, but not about which treatments and preventive measures are safe to use while pregnant– or what the exact risks are if they are not totally safe. Why?  Is it because nobody collects information on these things? Why not? You’d think that would be really important!  Is it because everyone is covering their asses to avoid liability if your kid is damaged? If so, they are covering their asses so tightly they probably haven’t pooped in years.

Meanwhile, I still can’t find the information I need, and I’m terrified of a repeat fecal impaction. Every time I see the stupid prune juice advice now, all I want to do is claw the author’s face off. Severe constipation isn’t just something to be waved off like that: people die from that shit. We need information, not prune juice.

Hyperactivity, Diaper Pins, and Digestive Complaints

I do not think the baby has stopped kicking since 7am.  As far as I know, that’s a sealed environment, and I’m not consuming caffeine. Has my child found a way to smuggle espresso from the outside? Even when there isn’t kicking, there’s movement. I was staring at my belly earlier and saw a distinct lump pop up and make a slow circuit around my belly button (which now pops out if I lean back a little).

Yesterday’s expedition to the mercado yielded a full complement of cloth diapers, as well as a handful of diaper pins (yay!). I also finally broke down and got two maternity shirts. I’m not sure why I didn’t do that earlier– they are so much more comfortable than my regular shirts, which still kind of fit, but which I am constantly tugging down in the front.

My old intestinal enemy has returned. My husband went out for chifa without me a few nights ago, and got a persistent case of travelers’ diarrhea. I am actually jealous of him, and I am tempted to go try out this disreputable chifa place. I have, once again, been forced to resort to the leche de magnesia, after two days of complete intestinal inertia. There is no way this feature of pregnancy is in any way adaptive.  How do wild animals avoid it? Chifa?

Constipation, Dopamine, and a New Obsessive Research Topic

Despite keeping up with my 400mg of magnesium citrate in the evenings, and my two spoonfuls of flaxseed meal in the mornings, the constipation has returned. I am really bummed about that. But today, what I experienced was way beyond bummed. After three days without a respectable bowel movement (I know, I know, but it’s medically relevant), I woke up this morning feeling blue.

I stayed in bed while my husband got himself breakfast. I felt overwhelmed trying to come up with ideas on what to cook for dinner. By the time I got home from the grocery store, this had progressed to a complete fog of lethargy and hopelessness, with a side of foreboding. I took a nap, and it was difficult to get myself moving when it was time to put dinner together. As I cooked dinner, I felt like crying for no particular reason. And my guts were cramping up. Twice I had to leave the stove to pass an insignificant amount of poo (again, sorry), and as I served up the meal, I fought down a little wave of nausea that for once had nothing to do with food smells.

Somewhere in there, I was able to step outside the black cloud of bad feelings as an observer. I still felt it, and powerfully, but I could tell the feelings were not the result of anything that had happened. They were a singular entity, attaching themselves to any passing thought. This, I thought, is not just a blue mood. This is a crash in dopamine levels. Recognizing the problem didn’t make me feel any better, mind, but knowing it was a physical problem, not a personal problem, was helpful. It meant I could explain what was happening to my husband, and he’d have a better idea how to help/not help as needed, and also that it wasn’t his fault.

Now, recall the digestive situation: 3 days of constipation, dopamine crash on the third day, and at the height of the attack, some gut movement. Now, just an hour later, the black mood seems to have cleared. I know the two phenomena are connected, but I don’t know by what mechanism. I have experienced this, to a slightly lesser degree, before: inert guts, followed by lethargy and seriously depressed mood for no reason, which clears up when the guts start moving again. I have also observed it to an even more severe degree in my father. I accompanied him on a month-long trip in the developing world, and he developed terrible constipation and we had no access to laxatives. After five days of total gut inertia, he was explaining to me how/where he’d like to be buried, and how to get back home without him. He was morbid, hopeless, and overwhelmed with despair. I was scared for him. Finally, he tried the nuclear option: drank a glass of half Pepsi, half vegetable oil. I understand the next day, trapped in his motel room, was pretty miserable… but once his guts were clear, so was his mood (and while it’s a vile thing to drink, a carbonated beverage bubbling up through oil looks really cool).

I know there’s a connection, but I have not, so far, been able to tease it out. Basic physiology says dopamine regulates gut function, but the literature gives no mechanism for the gut affecting dopamine levels. There has to be one, and I want to know what it is, and if there is anything I can do to prevent/treat it effectively in the future. In the meantime, it’ll have to suffice that I can recognize it when it happens, and not simply be swept away by it.

Notes: This abstract suggests the regulation of the gut by dopamine, but not the other way around. However, from the discussion of rats, it looks like it might be possible to read the cause/effect train the other direction as well. Anxious rats develop more gut lesions. But what if the rats are anxious because their guts are dysfunctional?  In another direction, insulin apparently inhibits dopamine secretion, so the more insulin, the less dopamine? It might be something to keep tabs on, but it doesn’t quite fit the sequence of events I’m trying to decode here. This fascinating post points out that certain strains of gut bacteria actually produce dopamine, which is tantalizing. I don’t see how it hooks up directly to the phenomena I experienced, but it definitely gives a mechanism for the gut influencing dopamine levels, instead of the other way around.