Last summer Kaylee appeared to be ready for potty training. She took to it like a fish to water and over the course of a single weekend we managed to get her pee trained. We were very excited at the prospect of having all three kids potty trained and being able to stop buying diapers for the first time in a decade. We knew that poop training, and overnight training would take a little bit longer, but as fast as she picked up this first thing by the time school started we’d be completely finished.
Boy were we wrong. Our summer was filled with frustration as Kaylee refused to poop in the potty. Big potty, little potty it didn’t matter she would not go. Which meant we would go through 5-7 pairs of underwear a day. Yes you read that right. My daughter has always been a prolific pooper. So she’d not be able to hold it in, soil the underwear, not be finished doing what she was doing, and have the entire thing happen all over again a few hours later.
We tried everything. We figured out when she was most likely to poop and sat her on the toilet during those times, we tried sitting her there with distractions so she wouldn’t be thinking about what she was doing, we tried bribery of everything you can possibly imagine, but none of that mattered she just wasn’t interested.
So we backed off of her a bit and just dealt with the frustration of having her soil the underwear figuring she’d grow out of the phase eventually. Around September things got a little better. Kaylee began to realize that we put her into a diaper for nap and for bedtime and if she could just hold her poop for that long she wouldn’t have to go in the toilet. Not an ideal solution to be sure, but at least it cut down on the number of times I was rinsing out dirty underwear in a day.
Unfortunately, the act of trying to hold it in during the day began to constipate her. When we went to the pediatrician for her 3 year checkup I talked to him about the issue and he recommended we get a product called Miralax which is essentially a stool softener. The hope was that if it became easier to get rid of she might get over the whole not wanting to do it. So I started her on the medicine which just dissolves into whatever she’s drinking and she began to look forward to her “poop” medicine every morning.
It worked like a charm for a while. She actually got into a habit for a while that the urge to go would kick in while she was in her morning bath and I would take her out of the tub so she could go. For almost two weeks straight this worked like a charm. No more constipation, no more soiled underwear, everything was turning out just the way we’d hoped. What we didn’t realize (at least not for a few more weeks) was that she was still trying to hold it and prevent herself from going.
Things appeared to be going so well that I backed off giving her the medicine daily. Eventually she was going to need to learn to poop without me pre-softening it. She was still getting some because I didn’t want it to become painful to go again but it was a lot less. This made it easier for her to hold in her bowel movements again and since she was still providing some on a daily basis (though admittedly not nearly as much as she had been) I didn’t realize that was exactly what she was doing.
At Thanksgiving everything came crashing down. Kaylee had held in her poop for so long that she physically could not do so any longer. She was taking her bath one morning and began to moan, which is usually an indicator to me that she needs to go potty. By the time I’d crossed the living room and gotten to the bathroom her moans had turned into full fledged shrieks of terror and pain. I couldn’t figure out what could possibly be causing her to cry like that, so I scooped her up out of the tub with the intention of putting her on the toilet and as I did so the most disgusting and scary thing I have ever witnessed happened.
As I lifted her up Kaylee finally pooped all the poop she’d been holding for goodness knows how long. The thing was so long and so big around it looked to me (out of the corner of my eye) like her leg had actually fallen off. Needless to say I freaked out. After that we decided to stop potty training her completely for a while. We moved her completely back to pullups and quit pushing her to use the potty.
We took some criticism for that move, but I didn’t care. I figured if Kaylee was so afraid to go that she would hold in her bowel movements for potentially weeks at a time that wasn’t healthy for her and much as I wanted her out of diapers I didn’t want her to make herself sick in the process. We told her on multiple occasions that if she needed to go she should just go she should never hold in her poop. She seemed to understand and things got better for a little while.
She didn’t regress completely, there were still times when she would ask to go pee in the potty, though I admit I quit pushing for her to do it on a regular basis because I didn’t want to pressure her and end up having her start holding that in too. Over Christmas my brother got out his Everyone Poops book and read it to her. She loved the story and immediately asked if she could go on the potty too. (she wasn’t successful that day but it was the first voluntary try we’d had so I still consider it a success). She was so enamored with the book that my brother said we could borrow it for a few weeks to see if it helped.
Unfortunately, it didn’t. She asked for the book to be read to her pretty much every day but even with that she wouldn’t go on the toilet herself. The time at Christmas was a one time fluke. It was also around that time that we discovered that even though she was in diapers full time she was back to her old habit of holding everything in for as long as she could. About once a week things will escalate to the point they did that first time though now all of us, including Kaylee, recognize the warning signs and we’ve managed to get her onto the toilet in time.
She’s also begun to understand that once she’s finished doing it that she feels much better, though that has so far done nothing to change her habit of holding it in. Once we put her into pre-school we knew she needed to be potty trained to attend. We put her back into underwear full time (except overnight) and believe it or not her 3 months back in diapers did not do anything to harm her potty training. She did have one accident her first day back in underwear but since then she’s right back to telling me she needs to go.
Everything I’ve read about this issue says it’s actually pretty common for children her age (which is funny to me since neither of my boys went through it). We are still doing all we can to make it as comfortable a process as we can and hope that one day soon she will grow out of this. I’d also like to see her be ready to be done with diapers overnight as well, but I remember that one taking quite a bit longer with both of the boys too. Still, even with that I’m down to buying diapers once every 6 weeks or so, I’ll call that a huge improvement.