Thursday, July 12, 2012

Parenting Challenges: Teething and Potty Training

** I apologize for the silence on the blog this week; we've been busy with a lot of things, then Nate and I got a stomach bug, which I'm still recovering from. We should be back to normal posting now! 

When I got the baby itch to have another baby, there were two primary reasons why I didn't want to have another child. It wasn't the sleepless nights, the crying, the expense, or even the sibling rivalry that I didn't want to have to deal with.

It was the teething and potty training.

Paige and Nate were awful teethers. It lasted for months, and any time they had a molar coming through they'd get double ear infections. It was exhausting and expensive, and I wasn't looking forward to that again.

They were also not very good at potty training. It wasn't until they were almost four when they were fully trained. I understand that that's within the normal ranges of getting trained, but Paige especially could have been done earlier; she just used having accidents as “punishment” for Pete and I when we did somethings she didn't like. She also was terrified of any toilet flushing that wasn't her at her house or her grandparent's house; whenever we'd go out somewhere, she'd refuse to go to the bathroom without screaming bloody murder the whole time.

With potty training, especially with little boys, your house smells. Pee goes everywhere, and no matter how hard I cleaned, I always smelled pee somewhere...didn't matter if I was the only one who could smell it, it just drove me nuts. My house was finally pee-smell free, and I was loving it. Did I really want to give that up again?

Another thing about potty training that I didn't like is how other mothers judged me because my kid wasn't trained yet. When Paige was finishing up preschool, I had a couple moms ask if I'd be sending Nate as a three year old to preschool. I didn't think he needed it or if we could even afford it, but he really wanted to go. I told him and the other moms that if he was potty trained he could go. They went on and on about how kids should be trained by the age of two because their kids were, and there was no excuse as to why a child shouldn't be fully trained by that point.

I knew my son wasn't fully ready at two-and-half to be fully potty trained. He was a busy little kid who would rather play with his toys instead of listen to his body. There was nothing wrong with him or me, but I felt like a failure, like something was wrong with me and with Nate...even with Paige, even though she was fully trained at that point. But because my kids weren't done by the age of two, it was apparently a terrible thing.

And that brings me to Ryan. As you can see, we did have our third child, and he was an amazing teether. His first tooth came in at three months, and had all of his teeth (including second year molars) by 16 months. They came in in groups, and he didn't get an ear infection from any of them. His fussing was minimal, and Tylenol worked immediately to help with the pain.

So imagine my surprise when he wanted to start potty training before he was two. He was sitting on the potty regularly, even by himself. And he was pooping on the potty regularly, too! I thought I had finally figured it out, that every kid could be trained by two and it was easy. I patted myself on the back, and started to disregard all diaper coupons and assumed I had done it, the thing all moms look forward to: bought the last box of diapers ever.

Ryan sitting on his froggy potty
That's when the problem started.

Ryan's always been a little different with bowel movements. It's just who he is; he'll have a BM once or twice a week, and he was fine with that. The doctor said as long as he was going without troubles, there was nothing to worry about.

Well me, being all smug, put Ryan on the potty one day while he was struggling to have a BM. He screamed at me, but pooped anyway. I gave him his treat, and that was that.

Then about a week later we realized we hadn't changed a poopy diaper or cleaned out his potty after a BM. He began to struggle with pooping, and would hold it in instead of pooping. I had heard about this problem from the Internet, but never experienced it myself.

We were advised to administer an enema, and it took forever to work because he was just holding it in. And he screamed and screamed. It hurt, and he didn't want it to hurt. He didn't want to poop, and he was scared of the potty. We put a diaper back on him thinking that would help, but that only made things worse because he knew poop went on the potty. I think that day he screamed for almost three hours, and I was crying right along with him. It was my fault he was doing this, and now we were all paying for it. After he finally pooped, he and I snuggled on the couch and fell asleep we were so exhausted from the whole ordeal.

A few days later, we repeated the process, sans enema. And every few days, it would happen again and again and again. I talked to the doctors, I researched in on the Internet. I talked to other moms. The doctors said it was common, that he'd outgrow it; just give him lots of fruits, veggies, and fluids, and he'll learn to get over it. The Internet scared me to death because lots of times the process could take months to clear up, sometimes a year or more.

Months?!?! A year or more!?!!?? I didn't have a year or more. I didn't even have months! My kid was in pain and suffering and it was all my fault. I don't know who cried harder during the hours we'd spend with him on the potty, him or me. It was heart breaking to see him in so much pain, and I dreaded each day, wondering if we'd have to go through the process again. What I would have given to change a thousand stinky diapers just to have him poop with ease!

Fast forward a couple months, and the problem was still happening. We were unable to go to a friend's birthday party because he was miserable and refused to poop. We'd had to administer a couple more enemas, and eventually under the advisement of my amazing sister-in-law (a physician's assistant), we were feeding him pretty much 85 – 95% fruits and vegetables. And he began pooping again on a regular basis, with ease, and by himself.

We were so excited! We had finally overcome this difficult time, and it only took us three months! Ryan was a happier kid, and the stress level in the house went down exponentially. He was still pooping every few days, but it was better.

Then he missed a bowel movement. Again. We had stocked up on enemas, and I pulled one out. Ryan saw it, began to scream, and then ran to the potty. He pooped so much it clogged the toilet! We left that enema sitting on top of my desk so he could see it; as long as he could see it, he'd poop on his own. Whatever works, right? Desperate times sometimes call for desperate measures.

After that day, we went about a month without another flare up of him not being able or not wanting to poop. We were cautious about getting excited again, and with good reason...

...because he had trouble again when we went to the zoo. He screamed and cried that day. His tiger face painting smeared all over the place from his tears, and I think I had most of it on me by the time the day was done. We administered an enema as soon as we got home, but he was so exhausted he could barely sit on the potty without falling asleep. I put him in bed and snuggled him until he fell asleep, and when he woke up, he had a very full diaper of very hard poop. He was a happy kid again, and he had multiple bowel movements on his own after that over the next 24 hours.

Clearly we're not out of the woods yet...but we're getting there. And although I fully knew better, I let other people's opinions matter more than what I knew as a mom: my son didn't want to sit on the potty. I can't let other's dictate what my child should be doing something and when they should be doing it. My child will do it when they are ready, and if they need help, I'll be here to help in whatever way I can. I need to trust my gut more; I know my child better than any other parent (with the exception of Pete) and any doctor. Although I hope I'll never have to give Ry another enema, I won't throw out the last couple enemas we have on hand just yet...and I'll keep those diaper coupons around a little longer...and I'll continue to be thankful for every poopy diaper I have to change!

Have you ever listened to some bad advice, then taken it?

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