Everyone (no one) is always (never) asking me: Tracy, when will you do a Jezebel product diary? As someone who both works from home and has ecstatically embraced the invisibility that is being a mid-thirties, monogamous, married “Mom,” said diary would look something like this:
Woke up, maybe washed my face, probably didn’t wash my hair.
Maybe washed my face, probably didn’t wash my hair, went to sleep.
Which is a little... lacking ...in the way of products. Last week, though, I saw my opportunity as I was felled by the signs and symptoms that my toddler had given me hand-foot-and-mouth disease. For the uninitiated, HF&M is dreaded by parents like all humans dread bed bugs. It’s a nasty and highly infection virus mostly affecting little kids, but, as I am now well aware, adults can get it, too! Its signature: sores and/or a rash in and on all the body parts from which it takes its matter-of-fact name. Typically, it’s caused by the coxsackievirus, which is a—chef’s kiss—beautiful self-own.
I used to think that the ghastly parental whispers around this disease were a touch overdone. How bad could it be, really? As with all things parenting related, ha-hah! Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahah. Cue the products!
It is my unreasonably but necessarily early bedtime of 9 p.m., because the toddler (whom I will henceforth insist on calling a baby) wakes up by 6 a.m. My husband has absconded to another room, as I am the walking plague. So I settle into the middle of the bed, feeling exhausted despite having napped for most of the afternoon, and relieved to be on the verge of temporarily escaping my miserable physical condition: fever, sore throat, stinging mouth sores, and dozens of small pink itchy dots slowly emerging on my hands. That’s when all of my bodily consciousness narrows and consolidates in my hands. Suddenly, I am just a pair of burning, throbbing, itching digits. I put said hands under the pillow, then above the covers, then in between my knees. I cannot escape them; I am them.
I retrieve a bottle of Thymes’ Eucalyptus Body Lotion from the bathroom. This was my dad’s Christmas gift to me and, wow, is it coming in handier than I ever expected. I slather and wait. The burning, throbbing, itching gets worse and I wash it off with cold tap water, the first product that has shown any signs of promise.
It’s 12:30 a.m. and I haven’t slept a wink. The burning, throbbing, itching has magnified. It feels like microscopic fire ants are crawling underneath the surface of my skin. The small pink dots on my hands are now angry red bumps. I scratch at one hand, then the other. I scratchscratchscratch, knowing I am making things worse. Now I’ve doused gasoline on the fire hands. Tears come to my eyes and I have a saintly vision of Kim Kardashian, who, I have read, has psoriasis. And I think, with a heart-thrumming degree of earnestness, intensity, and solidarity that I right now in this writing cannot exactly summon, Poor Kim.
I consider the bottle of Uberlube Luxury Lubricant on the bedside table and say aloud to myself, “What the hell.” A little squirt. A gentle rubbing between thumb and forefinger. Nope. Now I’ve just made my pain slippery.
That’s it. I’m sneaking into the baby’s room, where I know that, somewhere, there is a tube of Globe Hydrocortisone Ointment 1% and the internet says this will help. A slow-mo turn of the doorknob, a tip-toed step inside, the holding of breath, and a pause. Then I creep, Pink Panther-like, toward the diaper changing table, where I use my iPhone to illuminate a mess of baby wipes and diaper creams. I get down on all fours, pressing my face to the floor, and find that the hydrocortisone has fallen behind the changing table, just within reach. Victory! As soon as I am safely back in the hallway, I slather my hands with this viscous lotion, which only makes things much, much worse.
Now it’s 2 a.m. and I’m using my fire fingers to navigate Internet forums on my phone. I read post after post from frenzied parents trying to soothe their distraught babies with hand-foot-and-mouth disease. Someone recommends Benadryl. Another suggests Calamine lotion. I flash to childhood visions of a bubble-gum pink bottle pulled from the medicine cabinet for bug bites. Then I consider getting in the car, right then and there, to drive the 15 minutes to my childhood home where, maybe, perhaps, my dad still has that bottle of Calamine lotion, caked with ancient chalky pink goo. Instead, I pad down the hallway to my own medicine cabinet, knowing full well that it does not contain any Calamine or Benadryl. “How do we not have Calamine or Bendryl? How? HOW?”
I start sobbing. Then I take a Claritin as a next-best option. While I’m in there, I anoint a Q-Tip with some Neosporin and swap the insides of my nose. I seem to have developed some...weeping nasal sores? In addition to these hand sores? Back in bed, the pain is such that I start having visions of peeling off my own skin like gloves. Sleepless and writhing, grasping for an accurate pain analogy and finding only childbirth, I decide to listen to a sample of the audiobook of Buddhist teacher Pema Chodron’s When Things Fall Apart. A soothing narrator purrs about holding a “fearlessly compassionate attitude toward our own pain” and “leaning into the sharp points.” I am compassionate toward my pain. I am leaning into the sharp points. Then the audio sample ends and, despite my desperation, I cannot stomach the $17.95 to buy the whole thing.
So, I do the bad thing. The forbidden thing. I could use my inflamed hot-pink devil hands to dress myself and drive to a 24-hour Walgreens. Instead I order from Amazon Prime Now. The next available delivery window is 8-9 a.m. Just a handful of hellish hours to go before receiving my shipment of: Aveeno Eczema Therapy Daily Moisturizing Cream for Sensitive Skin, Benadryl Extra Strength Cooling Anti-Itch Gel, Benadryl Allergy, Aveeno Maximum Strength 1% Hydrocortisone Anti-Itch Cream, and Basic Care Hydrocortisone 1% Cream (and a couple frozen Amy’s Macaroni & Cheese).
It’s almost 4 a.m. now. Having not slept all night, I creep into the kitchen, dig into a little-used cabinet, and retrieve the mortar and pestle, the pre-babiest of all pre-baby purchases. After pouring some whole oats into the stone mortar, I begin what I hope is a silent grinding process, but my husband soon appears in the doorway and he looks... fearful. Streaks of tears have dried on my face. A messy bun slips down the side of my head. “I’m trying to make COLLOIDAL OATMEAL for a hand bath,” I screech, hunched over the mortar and pestle. “THE INTERNET SAYS IT WILL WORK!”
As I stand at the kitchen counter, wild eyed with my hands dipped in a metal bowl of lukewarm oat water, said husband gently suggests that I sit down, get comfortable. When I do, I realize that the burning, throbbing, itching is less so. It is working. IT IS WORKING. I bring the bowl to the bedroom and place it on the floor by the bed, routinely rousing from a shallow half-sleep to lean over and re-dip my fire hands for a fleeting moment of calm.
When the baby wakes up, I retrieve the Aveeno Baby Daily Moisture Lotion from his room, realizing that it has colloidal oatmeal in it. MAGIC COLLOIDAL OATMEAL. I slather, once more, and this slather works. Even better than the hand bath. I spend the next two hours slathering every couple minutes. I have sores now on my face—nose, lip, ears—and on goes the oatmeal. It works so well that when the Amazon order arrives, I use none of it. I have found my ointment, my miracle product.
I have survived 24 hours with hand-foot-and-mouth disease, thanks, and only thanks, to oatmeal. “Oat-meaaalllll,” I sing, prancing around the house while lathering. Sores are emerging on my feet, but who could care now that I have my salve? One thing: I have to pick up the baby from daycare, which means seeing other human beings. Having learned nothing, nothing, from my acne-haunted teen years, I attempt to dab L’Oreal True Match Super-Blendable Concealer on my face sores, which only highlights the fact of the face sores. I promptly wash off the concealer and replace it with some more oat-meaaalllll. At bedtime, I pop a Benadryl and sleep clear through ‘till morning.
Now I write this while eating a bowl of oats for breakfast.