If you have never struggled with a child who refuses to willingly poop, be grateful. Be SO grateful. And if you HAVE struggled with a constipated child, then this post is for you.
If you’re not into hearing about poop, I don’t advise reading this post (or having a child, actually, because kids and poop are a package deal).
It’s hard to pinpoint exactly when our family’s poop struggles began. Sometime after our daughter’s first birthday, the time between her poops started getting longer and longer. Every few days, we’d suffer through a hour of moaning and crying until she finally got it out. We tried to improve the issue by cutting back on how much dairy she gets, giving her prunes for snacks, daily scoops of Miralax, and encouraging her to drink plenty of water. She eats a healthy diet and gets lots of exercise. Our pediatrician assured us that toddler constipation is unfortunately very common, and that we were doing everything we should to encourage her to go.
The situation continued to decline from there, and I feel we’re currently at rock bottom with the poop struggles. Our lives are held hostage by this issue. It determines how every day will go: If it’ll be a pleasant day with our beautiful daughter, or a nightmare day with tears and desperation.
My husband and I bitterly joke that our two-year-old daughter gives birth a couple times a week, and we are her eternal doulas. A poop labor progresses as follows:
- It begins with intense grumpiness. If it’s been a couple days, our daughter’s mood is abysmal. We made a rule that if it’s been more than two days since she pooped, we don’t go to a restaurant because there’s a 100 percent chance we will spend the entire meal dealing with a screaming, thrashing, sweating child who decided the best time for a 40-minute poop session is right when Mom and Dad are about to enjoy a hot meal in a pleasant, public setting. (We regularly break this rule because we hate ourselves.)
- Then comes the catatonic pre-poop trance. If we’re at the playground, a museum, or somewhere else that’s fun for kids, she will run around and enjoy herself. The second we are home or trying to enjoy a meal, distractions fall away and she suddenly remembers she hasn’t pooped in days. She presses her sweaty face into our necks in a weird catatonic state as she contorts herself trying work it out, occasionally moaning, crying, or screaming. She will sometimes stay like that for hours if we don’t do something to accelerate the poop.
- We bring out the big guns: Suppositories. We usually try a warm bath and stomach massaging first, but if that doesn’t work, we have no choice but option b. If you have never given a child a suppository, again–be thankful. First, my daughter sees the canister of suppositories and begs me not to do it. Just this morning, she said, “Please. Please, no, NO. No poop medicine. It hurts!!” Try hearing that from your child and having no choice but to pin her down, shove it up there, and watch her cry in seeming agony for the next 20 minutes. It makes you feel like an absolute monster. But the alternative is days more of torture and discomfort for the entire family or even a trip to urgent care because your child refuses to go, and those alternatives certainly sound worse for everyone involved.
- She finally, FINALLY pushes it out. As soon as she finally starts going, my entire body relaxes. The smell of that long-awaited poop doesn’t even gross me out. It brings a wave of relief like no other.
- Everyone instantly feels a million times better. And just like that, she’s back to her funny, loving, smart, silly, playful self. We have our daughter back for a day or so, and the clock is reset for at least 24 hours.
The issue doesn’t seem to be that it’s too hard to push out (she gets Miralax every day, per her doctor). She just DOESN’T LIKE TO GO. She feels the urge and represses it, eager to get back to playing. We try sitting on the potty regularly. We read happy pooping books. We talk about how pooping is normal and makes us feel better. Nothing helps. The cycle is never-ending.
I realize this post may seem inappropriate to share because it’s so personal (and I’ve intentionally not included any photos of my daughter or her name), but this is my truth, and I wanted to share this part of my mothering story for any other parents who have dealt with this particular burden. This is my heaviest parenting burden at the moment, the thing that makes me feel more helpless and desperate than anything else. Holding my miserable child as she screams, knowing there’s nothing more I can do to help her, makes me feel hopeless. Many times I cry along with her, feeling her pain just as strongly. It breaks my mama heart to see her suffering again, and again, and again.
That’s all I’ve got today. If you’ve been here too, my heart goes out to you. And if you’ve found the magic pooping solution, please PLEASE share your secret.