Friday, February 19, 2010

The Agony of Living with a Withholder

This subject doesn't come up much in regular mommy conversations, let alone conversations in general.... I mean who wants to talk about poop.. and really.. who wants to talk about your kid who can't poop. It's tough.. you can't really appreciate what one goes through if you haven't experienced it yourself.

To the uninitiated... well.. heck.. so your kid can't/won't poop.. big deal.. the sun will still set... the earth will still rotate... it is really no biggie. Right?
My daughter has a fear of pooping. I don't know when or why or how this came to be - we never pushed potty training... she was eager to pee on the potty at the average age of potty training and has done this well ever since... and before then her daily constitutionals were as regular as one could expect from a baby... so I never, ever saw this coming. Until almost two years ago she started experiencing some constipation. But we were on top of that immediately.. to the doctor's... added mineral oil and more fibre to her diet (she already eats a very healthy diet as is... but we figured this couldn't hurt.) and life goes on.

Fast forward to this past summer... when it had already seemed like an eternity... we would cycle from severe constipation to finally getting some relief and then right back to the constipation. And this was no ordinary constipation.. this was raw and painful and bloated and cramping and nauseating... in a word this was bad! By this point too she was living on large doses of mineral oil so the constipation was baffling. Until we figured that she wasn't necessarily constipated, yet her fear of going poop on the toilet led to withholding for days.. which inevitably led to constipation and so on and so on. The cycle would continue and continue.

Finally our family doctor was tapped out of ideas so she sent us to a pediatric surgeon... he was confident at first -- heck.. he even promised that we would have this solved by Christmas (our first appointment was in October).. I was so elated... I could barely contain myself! We left the office that day with a renewed optimism and a prescription for Poly Ethyl Glycol -- a heavy duty laxative to clear her out and get her back on track -- the goal being to make it so she couldn't physically hold in her poop... and her poop would be of such soft consistency that she would be pooping regularly and would then realize it doesn't hurt and well.... pooping on the toilet would be the next logical step.

After multiple visits to the pedi's office... he was happy that the poly ethyl glycol was working. for the most part... and for the most part it was ... she wasn't in agony and constipated after weeks and weeks of withholding... she was willing to try to sit on the toilet (although still would not poop)... but all of these were wonderful positives that gave us hope. The pedi felt that he had done all that he could do.. and if we wanted to pursue this further.. it was time to take her to the bowel clinic.

The bowel clinic? There is such a beast? I had no idea.. and I had no idea that it would ever get to this.. that my sweet and mostly healthy, smart, happy, outgoing, athletic little girl was so afraid to poop on the toilet that she would rather writhe on the floor in extreme pain, all the while, holding back any urge to poop (unless she was desperate enough to put her own pull up on for relief). This has really gotten bad.

What do you do? We have tried everything.. ranging from taking away the diapers completely (which causes further withholding, and constipation as well as a piles of soiled underwear and clothing).. to rewards and bribes to talking, begging ... even pleading. We are so desperate now I don't even know which way is up.

And again.. unless you have been through this... it is not easy.. it is not fun... and it is downright mind-numbingly frustrating.

Our lives revolve around our daughter's bowels.. if the Poly Ethyl Glycol has been working as it should... and she isn't backed up.. we know we are good.. she won't be in agony and grumpy and disagreeable and afraid to leave the house in case of an accident... BUT if she has gone days and days and days again without pooping (despite the regular doses of laxative and other incentives)... you really can't go anywhere or do anything.. she will be tired and irritable and downright difficult.

You feel sorry for her.. you do.. you just want to wave a magic wand and make it all go away. How on earth could she pee on the potty with such confident ease.. and yet... the thought of a poop sends her screaming over the edge with fear and unconsolable sobs. This is really, really bad.

And to make matters worse.. I did the bad mother thing.. I was tired and frazzled and at my wit's end. I had spent two days home with Lu... the Poly Ethyl Glycol was burbling up in her system like a tsunami (she had gone 7 days at this point without I had to up her laxative.. and well.. she was about to blow)... and so she did... there was diarrhea all over the place for most of the first morning we were home... accidents galore... messes on the floor and up the stairs... two baths and counting and raw bums and chapped and sore hands from all the wiping and cleaning and clearing away the mess. By the time day two had rolled around I had literally had enough shit to deal with. Time to up the ante so to speak. Lu came to me with a fresh pull up full of poop.. she wanted me to change her.. I was done. I couldn't do it anymore. Please Lu, I begged... let's go and try to sit on the toilet. "NO!!!!!".. I can't....I'm afraid"

This eventually progressed into me taking all her toys outside and "calling" someone to come and take away her toys. The bawling and uncontrollable sobbing continued (from both of us)... after 10 mins or what seemed like an eternity, Lu came to me and said she would sit on the toilet. In we marched to the bathroom and I plopped Lu down on her cushioned seat. She cried and looked at me with her pleading eyes. Ok.. she sat on the toilet, I thought.. enough.. time to end this.

So I whisked her off the toilet and into her room.. got her cleaned up and she helped me bring her toys back inside. I gave her a really big hug after that -- more for me than her... but I still felt awful. I let it get this far, this bad, this out of control.
I am such a bad mom. How did I let it get to this. And how do I make it end? How do I get Lu to sit on the toilet and poop without fear or whatever it is that is holding her back?

I really would do anything to help her.. to get over this irrational fear and to get off this brutally difficult treadmill we are on.. this horrid unending cycle of "has she pooped, when was her last poop... please, please try to go on the toilet... mommy is begging you... mommy is proud of you... mommy is tired of all of this.... "

How do I make it stop? How do I reassure my daughter that all is fine.. she has nothing to fear.. and that she is a big girl now...
This has been going on for more time than I care to remember. and it is time to stop....

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