Alright, so here's the deal with Addie. It's taken me a few days to write about it because it's something of a socially taboo topic (not that poop has ever been off bounds on this blog), Addie's getting older and maybe could be a little embarrassed by this, and it's also taking us some time to figure things out. But I think it's good to talk about things, to shine a light on them, so that there is no shame.
Basically, Addie has this condition called chronic constipation. It doesn't sound like a big deal, but it is, or it could be. It may not be a big deal for Addie, yet. We don't know. We're optimistic, but we don't know.
For the last month or so, Addie's been complaining of pretty bad stomachaches. It looked like cramping from the way she was bending over. It usually happened around mealtimes, but not always. One of Addie's little friends also had chronic stomachaches awhile back, but that turned out to be kind of like attention-getting behavior. So, we had a few hypotheses: either it was hunger, she was needing attention, or she needed to poop. Or, it was some horrible and unnamed problem, but neither one of us even spoke this possibility. The cause, and therefore the solution, was not clear.
Then, a few days before the trip, Addie started to complain of her "vagina leaking." She was using huge amounts of t.p. just for pee, and then had a urine accident on the plane back from the trip. I felt really concerned, figured maybe a bladder infection. There was also one stool with bright red blood. Scary, very scary.
So we made a doctor appointment after our trip, just to be on the safe side. Addie is allergic to most antibiotics, or we think she is, and we needed to have her tested to make sure, because she's building up resistance to the one they like to prescribe and that she can tolerate. But the allergist wouldn't do the test until we figured out the stomach thing. So we go into our pediatrician about the stomach thing, and the peeing thing, and also a bad cough Addie just developed.
The doctor does all the normal questions and exams, and honestly, I just expect her to say that Addie has a cold and maybe is something of a nervous kid, and that probably explains the stomachache. And maybe the pee thing is that she just needs to give herself more time on the toilet. The blood thing, I don't know. A hard one? That's what I expected. I expected the doctor would laugh and kid me for being a nervous parent, bringing my kid to the office yet again.
But, nope. Instead, the doctor says, "Well, we have two very serious things going on here. One more serious than the other. She's got bronchitis, a really bad case of it. We can treat that. Of greater concern is the fact that she is chronically constipated. Basically, she's full of poop. And the poop is getting hard and impacted and pressing on her bladder and causing the leakage, and before long, if we don't get on top of this, you'll start having anal leakage."
Yes, friends. Anal leakage. These are phrases every parent can't wait to hear at the doctor: "very serious," "impacted poop," and "anal leakage."
And after that there was some talk of "this could be the worst year of your life" and "this is one of the most common and yet incredibly serious things we see" and "you have to get on top of this immediately or it will seriously ruin your quality of life."
Like, scary words, pretty much. And a scary story. The worst year of our life? Ruin our quality of life?
I guess I'm glad she imparted the seriousness of things, because I basically was forced to push through the stupor I felt into action. We don't know exactly what caused the problem. Diet doesn't cause chronic constipation, but it can help it, so that's one thing. Addie also is not a big fan of certain public bathrooms, particularly those ones where there are automatic flushers that spray water on your ass or airplane bathrooms where the flusher seems like it's going to suck you in (pretty run-of-the-mill kid fears, I think). Our best guess is that she is just a very, very focused kid. She does not want to miss anything in school. When she is reading a book, you almost can't rouse her. When she's watching t.v., she falls into a t.v.-watching coma. All "spirited child" stuff. So we've got to retrain her brain and her muscles to properly register when she needs to go to the bathroom, and then strongly encourage her to listen to those signals, and provide her with opportunities to act on those signals.
Here's the do list:
1) Switch to a mostly whole foods, probiotic diet. We're most of the way there anyway, but need to cut out some of the white flours, especially, and dairy products with lactose. Addie loves fruits and veggies, but we needed to up her intake of bran and whole grains. Easy enough. Prunes, baby, prunes!
2) Get her on a potty schedule. She has to have dedicated "potty time" after every meal. Which means getting her teacher on board. Teach is very cool, so also easy enough. She loves to read, so I bought her the gigantic fifth and sixth Harry Potters at the thrift store, and she just goes in with those and hangs out until good things happen (so to speak). I promise not to lend you these books someday, you germ-freaks.
3) Keep a food/poop journal. Record everything she eats, and everything that comes out, along with tummy aches. Gathering data helps us with the second-guessing, any tendency we might have for shaming or blaming, and with tracking long-term improvements. The thing with chronic constipation is that kids with it still poop; they just only may poop every four days. They hold the rest of the time and those muscles get all screwed up.
4) Give her Miralax, an easy-going laxative, everyday. We've chosen to do this after school to try to avoid accidents during the school day.
Writing it here, this doesn't seem like that big of a deal, but when the doctor was first telling me, I felt like I went into shock. I mean, our lives are so full, and these changes seemed big. And what if we didn't "get on top of it"? Would our lives be ruined? What if we failed?
And you know what? I kind of bought into this horrible possibility for a few minutes, because that's what I've always done. It was tempting to believe this might derail everything, be the shoe I've always been waiting to drop.
But that story can suck it.
For a bunch of reasons. Addie is a kid who, three weeks after being told she had a lisp, basically cured herself of it with no speech therapy--just some gentle reminders. We are a family who comes together in difficult times and makes whatever changes we need to make. I am an organizational mastermind, who may not be able to control this situation, but can use her powers of automation and system building to make these things happen smoothly.
Most of all, we are just bathed in love and grace and light and, you know, that helps a lot at times like this.
My money is on us kicking this thing in the pants. Ha! No pun intended. Already we are seeing good things and feeling positive. In some ways, maybe this is a blessing--a chance to improve how we eat and drink, to be there for one another, and to be compassionate and loving. That sounds okay to me.