[advert:mpu]Having recently written a jovial account on the trials and tribulations of potty training our youngest, Gabriel, I thought I should balance the scales and write something a little bit more serious, and hopefully helpful to others about constipation in babies and toddlers.
I am reminded of the awful time we had with our middle son Dan between the ages of 1 -2. He suffered from terrible constipation. He would go for on average 5 days (record 10 days) before doing a poo, and then he would literally give birth to the it. It was truly was like a labour scene. He would be lying on his back (obviously never made it to Lamaze class) legs akimbo, pushing with all this might. I would be on my knees, mopping his brow, holding his hand and telling him “You can do it, you can do it.”
Twenty minutes later, and after a lot of pushing it would arrive. The poo had been so big it simply could not come out. Put it this way if it had been giving birth he would have been offered an episiotomy! As it was I did have to physically intervene and help him ease the poo out. Joking aside, it was a horrible time and incredibly distressing for everyone involved.
Dan was such a quiet pale little boy. We thought that this is what he was like. He didn’t smile much, and he certainly didn’t laugh. He was very difficult company he moaned most of the time, cried, could not walk for more than 10 minutes before collapsing exhausted into a buggy. His stomach looked so bloated he looked like a famine child. He was a real challenge and I spent many hours trying to untangle my feelings towards a child, who gave very little back.
I knew the constipation was a problem, but I didn’t realise quite how much. People would be very well meaning and say why don’t you try some prunes, juice, chocolate, raisins and I would smile and grimace inside, and reply yes, yes we’ve tried that. Eventually we accepted this wasn’t just a mild case of constipation, but something that had to be dealt with medically. I was convinced that Dan had something far more serious. I would wake in the night, feeling the weight of guilt that I had inadvertently caused Dan to have some terrible terminal illness, because he was conceived shortly after I had had radio active iodine treatment. I honestly believed I had nuked him. I rang a paediatrician friend and broke down on the phone to him.
He was extremely kind and recommended a consultant to go and see. He also told me about the “poo clinic” that he runs. During Harry’s time as a community paediatrician he ran weeky poo clinics. He would see numerous children, with severe chronic constipation. One of the techniques they used was for the child to personify their poo.Give it a name, a character get to know it. At a later session the child would be invited to get up and talk to his poo inside his body. Tell the poo how he is feeling. It all sounded quite bizarre to me, a bit too ‘lets talk about it’ but I was willing to give anything a go at that stage.
So whilst we were waiting for the consultant appointment to come around, we started on our mission to meet Dan’s poo. I started referring to the poo, and trying to get Dan to imagine what it looked like, to give it a name. Dan finally introduced us to the creature living inside him called aptly “ Mr Mucky.” We started to have conversations about Mr Mucky, I would feel Dan’s tender tummy and pretend I could hear Mr Mucky calling, demanding to be let out. It is a strange phenomena but it started to work. When the poo came out, Dan would start admonishing it for being so naughty and hurting him. He would then take great pride in flushing him down the loo. We had started on the road to recovery. ( I told a friend about this method, who adapted it for her son who is a train addict. Her story had the poo come to the junction, the lights turning green, and the train pulling out of the station. Worked a treat).
Aside from the psychological angle, we also started on a new medicine (recommended by Grandpa - a paediatriction) which worked wonders and I would highly recommend. By the time we got to see the consultant two weeks later we had made huge improvements.
The consultant was lovely. She said that a large proportion of children that she sees suffer from chronic constipation. She confirmed that is can appear to take over your child. Leaving them exhausted, drained, fractious and sad. A perfect description of what Dan was like. She also gave us some additional advice – including the need to drink atleast 6 cups of water a day, using linseed as a natural fibre and that too much dairy can be constipating.
About a month later, Avi and I were putting the kids to bed and Barney was being his usual barmy self and for the first time since Dan was 5 months old, he laughed. Not a little smile, but a proper belly laugh, a rolling around on the floor this is so funny laugh.
I have never felt so relieved in my life. It was a pivotal moment in life as a mother. Dan had been returned to me. A happy child was really in there.
Two years later, Dan was off the medication and now Dan is like any 5 year old, fun, energetic, engaging (annoying) and delightful. Those days seem so far behind. But every night in his nighttime story, the main characters are the good and the naughty Mr Mucky. With good always winning over evil.
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