Sleep when the babies sleep. Make time for girls' nights out. Go to yoga. Get your nails done. Make time for you. From the time before my kids were born, friends and family bombarded me with advice on ways to take care of myself after my sons arrived. But ever since I became a mom to twin boys three years ago, I've prided myself on being the mom who's self-sacrificing, the mommy martyr who puts their needs above her own, always. I got used to having half of my breakfast stolen off my plate every morning because my eggs always look more appealing than what's on my sons' plates, even though I make them the exact same way. I've given up on trying to wear headbands or hair ties, because they get confiscated as bracelets and necklaces. I constantly wear red even though it washes me out because it's my boys' favorite color.
But my "them first, me last" approach to parenting totally blew up in my face last month. Or to be more accurate, it blew up in my underpants. Because my habit of putting my own needs last lead to me getting my very own case of raging, itching, diaper rash.
How is this even possible, you ask? Let me break it down. About four months ago my kids started to refuse their afternoon nap. And I love them, but being around them is like being at Coachella. It's a fabulous time, but it's noisy and messy and there's dirt everywhere and after awhile you just want some quiet and some Adele. So I started taking them on long three- or four-mile walks everyday just to give us all a break from each other. They would chill out, and sometimes even nap. I would get my sweat sesh for the day taken care of and get to have a conversation with my partner that wasn't interrupted by two tiny voices begging for fruit snacks we don't have anymore because mommy and daddy ate them last night while watching The Wire.
Obviously, pushing 100-pounds worth of two kids and a stroller up and down hills left me super sweaty. [Now's the time to cue the ominous music, because this is where I made my disastrous mistake: Instead of marching my sticky buns right upstairs into the shower once we got home, more often than not, I wait for hours until the kids go to bed before properly cleaning off. Gross, I know, but I'd pretty much convinced myself that taking care of my kids was far more important than washing off my sweat. Clean hair was for selfish moms, and I was busy taking care of two kids who needed me, so I had no time for soap. Instead (and on more than one occasion), I grab some baby wipes and mop up the worst of the mayhem in my pants. On days when the kids wake up hungry and whiny or if we had to run to the store, I wouldn't even bother changing out of my swampy bottoms at all until after the sun went down.
Gross, I know. totally gross. And in hindsight, I absolutely could and should have had zero guilt about letting my partner watch the kids while I ran upstairs for five minutes for a shower and a change of clothes. Even on the days that I was parenting solo I could've plopped the boys in front of the iPad for a couple minutes while I took care of the ecosystem putting down roots in my underwear. But I didn't, because I told myself I was simply too busy and that I had to stay with them, because that's what good moms do.
After a couple weeks of this medieval hygiene routine after our walks, I started to notice I was a little itchy in my lady bits. But because I was just "too busy" to stop for a second and think about what might be causing the ants in my pants, I chalked it up to the fact that things had gotten a little more exciting than usual in bed last night. I slapped some Vagisil on and went on with my business. But a few days later, I realized it wasn't just my little lady that was throwing a hissy fit. My butt was sore and itchy, too. I had some hemorrhoids when the boys were born three long years ago, but thinking pregnancy is the gift that keeps on giving, I assumed they, like Justin Bieber, were making an admittedly successful comeback. I anointed them with some witch hazel and tried to ignore the fact that I was walking like I had a bowling ball between my legs.
Three days later, everything south of the border was hot like fire, and not in that "Oh baby, I just got a Brazilian, so let's put the kids to bed early and put on some Boyz II Men" kind of way. I couldn't stop itching, and I knew it was time to trim back the hedges and take a closer look at what was going on down there. I grabbed my partner's clippers because there was no way I was touching my tender bits with a razor, and cleared the area. Then, using a three-way mirror, my bathroom counter and a lot of hamstring flexibility, I took a look.
My butt and lady patch was one giant, angry red NOPE. The skin was bumpy and uneven at the edges and looked even worse than I'd ever imagined. I immediately did the worst thing you can ever do when faced with an unknown medical condition: I googled it. The images I saw when I looked up "adult rash on butt" are far worse than anything I have ever seen on a Dr. Pimple Popper video, and I've watched them all. In some of the pictures, I wasn't sure if I was looking at a butt or a group of fancy mushrooms. None of the alarming images I saw online looked like what I was seeing on my own inflamed derriere, though. And while I was relieved that it didn't look like I had any sort of STI or deadly disease, I had zero clue what to do about treating whatever this red demon was that had taken up residence on my ass.
The idea of mooning my doctor held zero appeal to me and my partner had already tried and failed to identify what the rash could be. I was just about to get over myself and call my doctor for an appointment when my bestie came over for a playdate with her baby girl. As we chatted and I told her about my rash woes, she changed her daughter's diaper. It was then that I saw a much smaller and cuter version of my own problem staring me in the face. Diaper rash. I had diaper rash. All those sweaty walks without changing clothes or showering right afterwards had basically been the equivalent of leaving myself sitting in a wet diaper for hours on end, everyday, for weeks, and now I had a massive case of adult diaper rash. Relieved that I finally figured it out, I grabbed the diaper cream from my friend and ran to the bathroom, where I applied it liberally.
The relief was immediate and my embarrassment was immense. After a couple weeks and case of Bordeaux's butt paste, I was finally feeling like myself again.
If I left a baby in a wet diaper for hours on end without changing it, I'd consider it to be neglect, but I had zero qualms about doing it to myself, all in the name of trying to be the perfect parent. Making your kids a priority is one thing, but neglecting your own self-care is unnecessary and unhealthy. I've learned that I need to take care of myself, too. Because if I don't, it can literally come back to bite me in the ass.