Monday, October 31, 2011

More than just a pain in the butt.

My daughter has had stomach problems since she was born, having inherited this unfortunate malady from me.  I have all too vivid memories as a child running to the bathroom calling for my mother.  Not quite sure what it was back then:  nerves, the wrong food, or something else to consider as "over sharing."  Thankfully I've been able to manage my issues as an adult and avoid pain and embarrassment in my daily life.

The doctor has advised us to give her prune juice, Mylicon drops and when all else fails, use suppositories or a rectal thermometor when she is really miserable.  Before I let my daughter cry herself to sleep, the whole "helping her poop" fiasco was the one that sent me into the bedroom hiding.  There is nothing worse than seeing your kid in pain.  That and not being able to explain to them how to deal with it, or that your inducing pain and discomfort is going to help them in some way.  I don't want her to grow up too fast but if we could just get to the part where we understand what she wants and she better understands us, times like these would be so much easier.

When I see her make that strenuous, red face I usually know what's coming.  However, this morning makes two days without a stinky diaper right after, which spells trouble.  People may wonder why I'm so concerned. Its only a stomach ache right?  It's not the end of the world!  Wrong.   I look at my baby with the "worry face" my husband tells me I have to work on losing.  I can't help it.  I spent too many times as a kid, doubled over wondering if I was going to die right there on the toiletbowl.  So as my poor 14 month old drops her bottle, starts crying and screaming while tightening her legs, abs and face to push, I can't help but want to scream "Someone do something!!"  And I realize that someone is me.

I lift her up, pry her legs apart to straddle me and sing a catchy, original tune called "Let's Push the Poop Out," while rubbing her back and bouncing up and down.  This works for a a few seconds until her pain subsides and she is interested in her books and dolls again.  But I know this isn't going to end unless I'm cleaning up a dirty diaper, so I reluctantly get her on the change pad and begin the "helping process."

She's older now and we haven't had to do this in a really long time so she is both stronger and more aware.  After kindly telling her that "Mommy has to help," while dodging her wild feet, I resort to a firm,  "Please stop!"  I put the thermometer near her again and she kicks me in the face and says "Top!"  while giving me her signature stink eye.  I'm both shocked and proud.  I guess she can say "stop" now and apparently knows that word should always accompany a potential invasion of her private parts.  I decide we both had enough and get her dressed.

I go to work, kiss my still constipated daughter and wish my husband luck.  We both know its going to be a long afternoon.  A few hours later I check in with him on g-chat and he tells me he has just experienced "the worst 30 minutes" he's ever had with her. Lots of straining, screaming, and crying, and still no poop.  I pounce on the keyboard, frantically sending as much advice and questions that come to mind: "Is she in serious pain?   Should we call the doctor?  Try a suppository.  Keep her active.  Maybe we should ease up on the bananas that she loves."

I wait for a response, handle a few work calls and can't concentrate.  No one understands I am distracted by the image of my baby leaning over the couch, gripping Cookie Monster in pain.  I keep eyeing the messenger for a response and my own stomach starts to hurt.  As an adult I was properly diagnosed as having a nervous tummy which, had we  known back then,  would've likely made both me and my mother less gray than we are now.

About twenty minutes later the screen blinks with a comforting:  "Someone feels better."  I feel the knot on my left side ease.  My husband gives me a full report: length, width, color.  Everything no one wants to know about unless they are a parent or lab tech.

I feel the urge to run to the toy store and get her a present for overcoming a most irritable bowel.  I wonder what would have happened had she been in someone else's care.  Would they just have thought it was her teeth and that she was being cranky?   I'm so thankful for my husband being with her, having the patience and  physical strength to make her feel better.

She is all smiles when I come home, running amongst the mess that is my living room.  It looks like a tornado came through and now I can see just how intense this afternoon's events were.  I give her the Sesame Street  book I naturally got to both make her laugh and ease my guilt.

I go to bed making a mental note of all of the foods we will avoid in the next few days. I consider getting her a potty to help during particularly difficult times even though she is too young for training.  I make a dozen lists in my head, trying to come up with an action plan to avoid this in the future.  But I know no matter how much I try to prepare, I can't predict what ailment is going to send us both over the edge.  Next time it could be a rash, a bee sting, a cough, or a stuffy nose.  It'll be something my husband and I will again have to manage using our instinct until she can tell us what is wrong.

So that leaves me facing my mortal enemy : ambiguity.  Whenever it comes around I'll have to jump right into managing my own discomfort with whatever it throws me.   This means singing a song in my head to mask my daughter's screams, saying "its okay," to both her and myself, and replacing mental images of her face in pain with those of her laughing .   All the while hoping one day I'll look back and  like my mother, realize I was much stronger than I gave myself credit for.


  1. I struggled with the same thing for awhile with my daughter, who was born with a lot of allergies. She was forced to "live on" lots of rice and bananas... Our answer was the prune juice. Consistently give her prune juice.. Even to this day, it's her preferred drink and it keeps her very regular. I can't tell you the last time she struggled with poop. We give about 75% water, 25% juice.. That formula seems to work great for us and doesn't give us the opposite result. Good luck!