The Proof is in the Pooping

This is the continuation to Slave to the Potty.

We are now eight weeks into Pacifique’s life of diaper-free living and things are very different from I expected they would be at this point. But I am getting ahead of myself.

THE FIRST DAY AT SCHOOL (& The diaper denial flashback)
When I left off last time, I was faced with the task of dropping off Pea for her first diaper-free day at school. Having not yet succeeding in mastering pooping, I really wanted to get a good track record early on of no pee accidents so that should she eventually poop in her panties, they wouldn’t have any other recriminations to make. Yes I was gaming the system. I am not proud of this fact, but a mother does what she has to in order to make things work.

I was also obsessed with the fear that they might decide to put her in diapers against our will. Our whole approach was based on the fact that we had said “good bye” to diapers and that we had no diapers in the house and that she was now a big girl and didn’t need them. This is important on a lot of levels but mostly if you face –and from what I’ve heard most of you will- the moment where your child starts any one or more of the following: crying, pleading, begging for a diaper while clutching their bum, it’s pretty horrible. I think this is more likely to happen the older the child is as they tend to be more set in their ways. But hey this is totally non scientific and just my hunch.

I sort of go back and forth on this. There is much on not pushing a child and intellectually that makes sense to me. That said I knew P was ready and sometimes in life some things aren’t comfortable but you have to push past the fear to realize there is nothing to be afraid of. I was surprised initially when sometime during the first day she asked for a diaper. I held strong and explained that we just didn’t have any more since she was now a big girl. Then of course I was really surprised when she only asked one more time – and I can’t remember if it was later that day or sometime during the next – but never asked again. That was it! I think if I had given her one diaper once, then I would have opened a Pandora’s box of shit (no pun…), turning potty training simply into a battle of wills vs. learning how to recognize the signs of when your body needs to go and how to release on command.

Ultimately this worked for us and so you can see my apprehension at the thought of a new place, a mini toilet instead of the now trusted potty and no one keeping an eagle eye on P leading to an accident and the reappearance of diapers. Like any committed parent, I dropped her off at school and took her teacher aside, trying to hold her attention whilst competing with a handful of munchkins to quickly explain our approach and assure her that P would be fine – my confident tone obscuring how I truly felt about the whole thing. And like any good parent, I totally chickened out of picking her up as the anxiety of finding out what had actually happened and being met with the disapproval of her teachers should she have peed herself was just too much for me. So I took the cheater’s route made available to me only because we live in Singapore and sent our helper to get her. Of course everything was fine and she was amazing and had no accident. She did initially refuse to go in their mini toilets at the assigned toilet break/diaper change time but her wonderful teacher noticed her later clutching her crotch and coaxed her into going and voilà – the next major milestone achieved!

The next few weeks all sort of melt together. (Gee could you imagine a play by-play? I’d die from the tedium and probably face Kevorkian-style charges for assisting in mass reader suicide.) What comes to mind when I think back, is how well Pea seemed to do during the daytime and what a nightmare nights were, which is funny as in the beginning nighttime was what seemed to be the most stress-free.

MOMENTS WORTH MENTIONING
+         Within a few weeks, we really didn’t need to prompt her about “telling us if she needed to pee” as she very quickly would just speak up when needed. We had a couple of ‘raised eyebrow’ moments when she insisted going down for a nap without peeing first but were pleasantly surprised as she either came out shortly after to ask to pee or would just manage to hold it through nap time and sometime after until she decided she needed to go. If ever I had a cartoon character moment with my jaw dropping 5ft to the ground, this was it.

         Poop was increasingly becoming an issue. We did have a couple of successes (literally couple – 2 while she was consciously awake) but poop started being a nap thing. She would go into her room and pretend to go down for a nap. She would actually play really quietly until she felt the need to poop and then do so in her panties and then call out to us to be changed. Or on a really bad day, she would poop herself, we wouldn’t hear her and she would try to fall asleep without getting poop all over herself in the most awkward positions  – poor kid, I really hated myself those days. I even ended up trying to use the old school camera I mentioned in part 1 – but when I noticed her get suddenly still, I never managed to get there fast enough – and even if I did, she would cry out and REFUSE to go near the potty. :( She was so well-intentioned, after pooping yet again in her panties she would say  “two nights, two nights I’ll poop in potty and you will give me egg and I will close my eyes and get egg in my hand and I will eat the chocolate and get the little toy.”

Promises promises.

PERSISTENT BEDWETTERS
Along with the lack of successful bowel movements potted, nights went completely downhill. The harder we tried to help her have a dry night, the more she seemed to be having accidents in her bed. From really limiting her intake of evening fluids to trying to wake her up an hour after bed or just before we went to sleep, or when we thought she was always having accidents around 2am, or 3am, or again an hour before she usually gets up, etc.  She was starting to cry when we would wake her. More often than not she would refuse to get out of bed or sit half asleep on potty and do nothing and we would have to carry her back to bed. You get the picture; no matter what we did 5 out of 7 nights, she was wetting the bed. Again I was starting to feel like I deserved the persecuting parent award.

So we get to the point where we are almost one month in and that night, she barely peed before bed but started one of her wondrous panty poops. I cleaned her up, got her to bed. Woke her up 90 minutes later. Here she is barely awake. Gives me two drops of pee and a tiny poop. And I know she is unconscious as she doesn’t ask for an egg.

My poor little girl, she is so exhausted. The bags under her eyes make IKEA’s big blue bag look like a tiny clutch. It is at this point that I decide to wave the white nappy pre-fold in surrender and slip a diaper on her at night. I just want her to get some sleep. I just want to get some sleep. A number of people I trust tell me I should do it – and two days before, one of the nurses at our family practice was telling me how they would slip it on after their son fell asleep so he thought he had gone to bed in regular undies. And I think yes ok then, this is what we must do for all our sakes.

THE RETURN OF THE DIAPER
That night I slipped a pull-up on her and get ready for a good night of rest. I am exhausted after weeks of interrupted nights of sleep and sink into a deep slumber.

Then my eyes pop open in terror as I hear the clink of her spoon against her ceramic cereal bowl in the morning. How do we handle this? We didn’t talk about it? What did Cherry our helper say to her? I can hear she sounds cheerful enough.  I would have expected her to yell out “Cherry I have a diaper on!!!” or something similar but I didn’t hear a thing?! I now realize we didn’t think this through and it is too late.

I make my way out to the dining table where she is having breakfast. I sit down and look at her. I’ve glimpsed that the diaper is still on. She is eating very slowly and looking at me. She is looking at me in a way that she never has before – Like she knows something but isn’t sure if she should say anything lest she ruin a good thing.

There is a huge white elephant in our room and its got HUGGIES written all over it.

Seriously for those of you who saw Mr. and Mrs Smith, it was like the scene when they’ve both figured out that they are contract killers and are trying to act normal whilst watching each other’s every move. Poor Pea – on the one hand she’s clearly hoping that she’s won the lottery and yet must have some inkling that it is just too good to be true.

So what do you think happened next? Call me totally naïve, I had really thought that she might be quite mortified at the sight of herself in diapers. <laughing manically> I was SO WRONG about that. As soon as we suggest she needs to change out of her nappy and into panties she starts crying that she wants her diaper. “Give me a diaper, I want a diaper, etc.” Need I say more?

She was crying, running away from me. I had to tackle her American Football style and TEAR the diaper off. She was FREAKING out. And I sat there wondering what ON EARTH was I thinking. All those weeks of work and we are back to this?!

In the end it wasn’t as bad as it could have been. I sat her down on her bed and took her in my arms and I apologized. I told her that it must have been really confusing to wake up in diapers. I told her I should have explained to her before she went to bed that because she was doing so much pee in her bed, the doctor said it might be best to put her in a diaper at night BUT ONLY at night. The doctor was very clear that she is still a big girl and needs to wear her panties during the day. She really likes her doctor so invoking him is almost always a winner. I think she gets that resisting is futile and starts chanting she wants her “coconuts panties” (AKA polka dot panties) and people over on the other side of the island can hear me sigh in relief.

As with everything when raising children, things never seem to turn out as planned or have the effects you think they will. I just figured if we put her in a diaper at night, she would get more sleep and, given her incredible ability to hold poo, she would go back to just pooping once a day but saving it for nighttime. And there would come a day, probably in her early tweens when I would tell her if you want to get your ears pierced, you need to shit in the loo. And I decided I was ok with that.

But that would be too easy.

DRY AS THE SAHARA
My greatest surprise to our reinstating the diaper is that P started waking up dry almost every morning. I’d say since bringing back the diaper 3 weeks or so ago, she has had 3 mornings where she peed in it. (Yes do note she has only PEED in it). And two of those times, she had a really bad cough so I am pretty sure one of her coughing fits led to a full bladder giving in.

Where we are at:

  • She has developed incredible bladder control. So much so that when she finally did have an accident during the day on June 9th at school – I almost couldn’t believe it. It is the only daytime accident on record.
  • We never really need to ask her if she needs to pee though we do throw in the odd precautionary reminder before a long journey or sleeping.
  • On the rare occasion she does pee at night, she will get up, open her closet, take out fresh panties and changer herself out of her diaper and either hand it to you or put it in the dustbin herself.
  • For all our advances in the yellow domain, we seem to be going increasingly downhill in the brown one and I am at a complete loss except for that I am clearly saying all the wrong things.

How do I know I am saying all the wrong things? Well as I was unable to bear hearing her, whilst clutch her tummy, say things like “it’s coming its coming, I don’t want to poo, no potty, etc..” in a desperate tone of voice. I decided to let her have a diaper at a nap time when it was clear she had been holding back the goods for a few days. And instead of taking full advantage of this, she, at the end of her nap, took off her diaper, put on her panties and pooped in the panties. I was actually forced to call my husband to make sure we had in fact put her in diapers before the nap I was so shocked by the turn of events.

Now, the only place she started wanting to poop was in her panties. It would be accurate to imagine me with my head low in my hands with a look of despair. And it only gets worse. I decided to be quite firm about the no pooping in the panties rule: potty or diaper. I felt I was being generous. And instead of being rewarded, now she doesn’t want to poop ANYWHERE.

It could be turned into a Dr. Seuss book:

I will not poo in my pants, I will not poo in the plants. I will not poo in the loo. I do not, do not wish to poo.

Clearly this is still a work in progress for us. But here are a few tips I’ve gleaned from our experience so far

Things to watch out for:

  • Children’s aim – why? Because they don’t have any. You are going to think, and you will be right, that children’s participation is key. Getting them to help empty the potty, flushing the toilet and waving bye-bye to the Pee. But beware, embrace Maradona’s “hand of god” and make sure you guide the potty to the toilet unless of course you don’t mind having a bowl of piss poured on your foot. (And if you don’t, I don’t want to know about it)
  • Splashback – On a similar theme, once they do seem to improve their aim, or even while guiding they have a tendency to want to pour from a great height. Careful – splashback common here. I can attest to pee-splattered pants and arms. Droplets always deem to defy gravity when we need to pee and run out the door.
  • Withholding Poop –This has caused no end to my anxiety. The key is fiber, fiber and more fiber. Despite giving Pea a Buddha belly full of poop; that kid could keep it in. Pediatrician has said as long as she isn’t constipated I don’t need to worry. Anyone who knows me of course will know I am unable to heed that advice.
  • Calling Wolf – Children will use the excuse to wee as their “get out of jail’ card for nap times/ bed times and time-outs. For the former, at least initially I always took her to the potty and for the most part she could muster up a bit of wee but when she would ask again 10 seconds later, I’d tell her that she had just gone and that I would be back in an hour to take her again if needed. The time-outs are tricky. Strictly speaking you should take them and then return them to the time-out. In our case we haven’t done that really as if I can get her to change her attitude/behavior, then I am happy to take her out of timeout – at least for the time being that works for us.

What we would do differently:

  • Rewards – I think I make it pretty clear in part one the drawbacks to rewards. Phase them out as quickly as you can and chose carefully.
  • Dealing with night accidents – I would not have brought back the diaper. I would have first tried stopping the constant night waking and just seen if she got it on her own. Everything indicates that she would have. And if I did end up having to go down the diaper route, I would have explained things to her and have it be a joint decision, not just sprung it on her.
  • Potty vs. proper toilet –I would have tried to get her to just go directly on the regular seat with one of those little travel potty seat adjusters. I don’t know if it would have worked, but I would have wanted to never even show a potty and just make the toilet the place where people go.
  • The ongoing poop issue – I would have really been vigilant about amping up the fiber right from the start. I don’t really know what else I could have done. Everyone says it will come with time. I hope they are right.

For those of you who made it this far, well crikey I should really reward you with kinder eggs! I hope you find some useful bits in here and if anything else, misery and poopy panties love company.

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6 thoughts on “The Proof is in the Pooping

  1. So sorry you are having such a hard time and having such frustrations. It is really difficult for older children to let go of diapers — some of them feel like it is a part of them. So much patience is needed and you certainly have that! The hardest age to use conventional potty training is between 2 and 3. So you situation is quit common. 12 months to 18 months starting is more is easier with fewer issues like holding and diaper attachment. These day parents are encouraged to start very, very late and aren’t warned of the unique challenges of training older children. You don’t have to do EC (which is not hyper vigilance or watching for every minute eyelash twitch and it is done part time by working parents) in order to introduce the potty earlier than 2.5. It used to be that training on average was done at 2.5 and now it is as late as 4.

    Hah..we call the splash pees “turbo pee”

    Much luck and smoother sailing!

    • Thanks for your kind note. I’d love any reading material you want to recommend on EC. I did some reading way back when and it didn’t seem right for me but if you have something to persuade me otherwise for my second daughter who is now 10 months, bring it on! I did try earlier with my daughter without success which is why I waited on the advice of a good friend of mine who is also a pediatrician and mother of 3. I will say that my daughter learned how to pee almost immediately and was fine with that – it is only #2 that has increasingly become a problem. I’ve got until September 2012 to get it right when she will be going to a school which requires them to be fully clean but I have to believe that by then (14months away) this will all be resolved! Thanks again for the comment.

  2. Well, with EC there is nothing lost in trying but everything to gain even with the smallest success :)

    If you like to read books. Laurie Boucke’s book (diaper free baby) has more practical information on part-time EC, late starter EC than Ingrid Bauer’s book (Natural Infant Hygiene) which also has more history, cultural anecdotes, and very nice photographs as well as how-to. Boucke’s book is shorter. You can likely get both at your local libraries.

    For online, check out my blog roll. There are specific EC tips specifically for late starters (your 10 month old) and also for helping conventionally trained children too like your oldest.

  3. Hey Coco, thanks for sharing your journey out of diaper land … for one, it makes me really interested in EC (although too late for Anna now, but will definitely look into it if we have another baby).

    I suppose we will just wait until she is 3years+ and ready to make a conscious decision on her own regarding diapers .. I don’t think I’d have the nerve for potty training boot camp. I’ve also been told that it’s better for them to learn it from their peers than from us parents. She will change into the next higher age group at Kids Space next week so she will have a chance to observe slightly older children using the toilet and we’ll just take it from there, however long it takes.

    Since Claude is still quite small, please do let us know if you’re going to try EC with her – it’s not too late I think?! – or if you’re going to start potty training earlier with her to perhaps avoid her getting so attached to diapers..

    • Hey Christine,
      I think you may find that they start to change a lot month to month and perhaps you can start a bit earlier than three. I would have loved for Pea to learn it from her peers but it seemed to have no impact on P. She loved watching her little friends go but that in NO WAY translated to her wanting to go. But who knows, I am sure each child is different.

      I went back and did quite a bit of reading on EC and I remembered why I decided against it in the first place. Again it may be right for some people but ultimately to me the work involved was way more than my potty training boot camp – it just drags out much much longer and I wanted something quick. Ultimately Pacifique did have her daytime pees down in a couple of days with ZERO accidents. The pooping took much longer and i think with hindsight that is something I would try to get Claude doing much much earlier, say around 12 months. I think EC is easier when it comes to #2 or so a friend of mine found. I’d like to try and avoid her having poop issues the way Pea did and I think that might help but EC from the start isn’t right for me. I won’t go into the details here but we can have a chat over coffee or taking the girls to the park one of these days!

      I am hoping that what I’ve heard from friends is true and that the second child is usually much easier as they want to copy their older sibling. Claude is already obsessed with the bathroom and P’s potty so I am envisaging an easier time of it.

      I am glad you liked the posts and thank you for reading and commenting!

  4. Update
    PUTTING THE POOP TO BED (err not literally of course)
    July 6th P had just peed in the potty. Dressed, she suddenly turned to me and said, “my poopoo is coming, I need a diaper!” As I reached into her wardrobe, I said to her “how about pooping in the potty and then you get an egg? (i.e. kinder egg)” This statement which I had stopped using for a while would normally elicit a “no no no, a diaper”. But to my utter surprise she said “oh yes!! I’ll poopoo in potty and get an egg” all while running to potty and pulling her knickers off.

    I couldn’t quite believe it but 3 minutes later, we had a rocking perfectly shaped poop. No stress, no panic, no problem! And it has been smooth sailing ever since. We’ve downgraded rewards from Kinder eggs (expensive) to little star cookies (cheap and a smaller dose of sugar). I think our well timed trip to France may be the opportunity to eliminate rewards altogether. And she has even agreed to Pee on the regular toilet! It is like a switch when off in her head. And I am so glad this is over.

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