Editor’s Note: This is a guest post from Christiana Warenda. I thought it would be cool to hear another mom’s EC story. It sounds SO MUCH LIKE MINE eight months ago. Hopefully her rough patch will end soon and things will take a turn for the awesome, as mine eventually did.
When I’m asked what it’s like to try Elimination Communication — a sort of infant potty training — my answer is usually something like “It’s half awesome, half frustrating.” And I can’t really think of a better way to explain it.
I’ve been taking my baby to the potty since she was about a week old (I would have started earlier but my mom was still visiting then and I didn’t want her to catch me at it). She’s now 11 months old and in no way is she even close to being potty trained. Looking back on it all and looking ahead to who-knows-how-long more of the same, I have some very mixed feelings about the project.
First, it was awesome. Magical even. The first poop I caught made me feel like I had superpowers. I had avoided changing a poopy diaper. We were late for church and I had to completely re-dress Constance and rinse out her little potty, but I was floating. I had avoided both the need to change and wash a poopy diaper. The world was mine.
All subsequent poops caught in the potty (big or little) have felt nearly as good.
Catching pees is great too, but common enough that the awe wears off a bit. Plus, changing a pee isn’t quite so bad. But then again, they’re so common it’s nice to avoid one here and there.
The frustration came in more recently. The real frustration. About two months ago, my girl started growing teeth, and with them a whole slew of new parenting struggles have become mine.
Before this, misses were my fault, I was too busy, not paying attention, lazy, etc. The need to change a peed-in diaper was annoying but I could only blame myself. On days where I was really on top of things, we could go a whole day and only have soiled one or two diapers. I relied on a combination of timing (about every 20 minutes in the morning and lengthening to every 45 minutes as the day progressed) and intuition (i.e. for the times I hadn’t been looking at the clock the last time I pottied her, so I just took her when it felt like it had been a while.)
Intuition was less reliable than timing, but I’m not a natural clock watcher. And, sadly, I never could decipher any signals Constance may have been sending about her need to use the potty. The books made it seem like it would be easy to figure out my kid’s bathroom habits and signals, but there was only a short stretch early on (until she was about 6 weeks) where Constance would get very wiggly and fussy when she had to pee. I think she was just adjusting to the new feeling and once she got it sorted, it didn’t worry her any more. After that when she had to go, as far as I could tell, she just…went. No communication, just elimination.
That was a little frustrating, too. The lack of signals which I had come to rely on. Coupled with how frequently a nursed-on-demand baby with a tiny bladder had to pee. There was no way I’d be up to pottying a two-month-old every 15 minutes.
Then there was the golden time. (I call it that now. I wish I knew it was at the time). Between 5 and 8 months she suddenly was able to go long stretches without wetting her diaper. She got comfortable going poo on the real toilet so there wasn’t even a middle-potty to clean out. And she went, reliably, every morning. I changed maybe 2 or 3 poopy diapers that whole time. We went on a vacation to visit my family and Constance pooped in the airport bathroom, peed in the airplane potty and more or less impressed my family with her toilet-using skills. Best of all, we went from 3 or 4 night-time pottying episodes per night to one. (Or less, if I went to bed late and pottied her just before I went to sleep.)
At the height of teething pain weeks, Constance resists the potty every other day. If she even suspects we’re headed for the toilet, she cries. In an effort to not breed a negative association with the bathroom, I’ve relaxed a lot of my EC-ing efforts lately. And that, my friends, is where it really gets hard.
Do I put her in a diaper — cover and all — and just try to forget? I find myself checking her often, and when she’s still dry, I try taking her to the potty. I’ll know, just know, she has to pee, but she won’t. She arches out of my arms, she cries, she wiggles and struggles. So I give up. I put her back in her diaper and set her loose. Moments later — sometimes it’s only seconds — she’s gone. Peed in that precious dry diaper.
On days where I’m changing diaper after diaper, I try to remind myself that it’s to keep my baby from sitting in her own waste. Not changing diapers and keeping laundry down are just nice sides to this process. Dry diapers, as wonderful as they are, are not the be all and end all of EC.
But it’s hard. And more and more these days I wonder if it’s worth the headache and frustration it’s causing me. If I conventionally diapered (still using cloth, of course), I’d change her probably half as much as I need to. I’d probably only need to wash my three-dozen diapers once or twice a week instead of every 2-3 days, and save time and a bit of cash for doing laundry less.
But I’d also have to deal with diaper rash. And washing diapers with more pee in them less often would mean needing to strip them or wash them extra long every so often. (As it is, they’re pretty much perfect with a pre-rinse and a regular hot wash.) Oh, and then I’d have to try potty-training the conventional way too. Waiting until my daughter is two or three and totally psychologically set on peeing in her diaper for the rest of her life, only to then try setting her on the toilet and telling her that this, in fact, is where she ought to be doing her business. Hey, that sounds pretty frustrating, too.
Keeping her familiar with using the toilet right from the start makes sense to me. No mixed elimination messages about where it’s appropriate to go. On days when I allow her to pee in her diaper just about every time, I’ll still offer her the potty before the clean diaper goes on. Sometimes I have to trick her, by running some water or hovering her over the bathtub instead of the toilet (it’s strange and surprising how effective that is.) Or I’ll do controlled diaper free time, where I’ll let her hang out in the bathroom and wait for her to pee on the floor then wipe it up and diaper her. (The things I’ll do to stretch that time between diaper changes sometimes. Sheesh.) And even when she’s not up to the effort, I’m not too worried about her losing that knowledge because I know that as soon as she’s feeling better, I’ll take her right back to using the potty.
Because, you see, I simply can’t stop.
Christiana is a 26-year-old Reformed Christian who lives in New Hampshire. She loves foraging, reading, and making her own everything, from clothes to deodorant. Up until her baby was born she blogged at The Magic of Seasons and Teatime. She has fantasies about resuming blogging there one day but may have to wait until her crazy, adventurous and incredibly adorable daughter turns 18 and moves away. Except then she’ll probably have more kids… She and her husband, John, have been married for 5 years.