LoveChild 28: The Problem We Didn’t Talk About
“Let’s be brief and frank about poop: It’s nothing to be ashamed of. Aside from eating and sleeping, it’s basically all we do in our early years."
“Pediatrician Dr. Benjamin Spock encouraged mothers to leave toilet training up to the child and to hold off starting until the child was physiologically ready.... In the 1950's nearly 100 percent of babies wore cloth diapers and were potty trained before they hit 18 months. Today, over 90 percent of babies wear disposable diapers and only around 10 percent complete potty training by 18 months. The average age a child completes potty training today is 30 months.”
My hot water bottle
I mentioned earlier that one of the presents my parents were given when I first arrived was a child-sizes hot water bottle. While it was useful for warming my feet when the sheets were cold, or putting on my stomach when I had a tummy ache, it had another use that made me want to run and hide.
By the time I was around 18 months, I’d graduated from using cloth diapers to using the small pink potty my mother had bought for me. I was a big girl now!
However, my memories of the small potty involve me trying my hardest to “go” and not being able to. I can even remember my mother showing me in a mirror that I had a red ring around my bottom from sitting on the potty so long. As if that would somehow enable me to "go" faster.
When it was really bad, and my stomach hurt, Mom resorted to a number of solutions including:
- Milk of Magnesia (It tasted horrible.)
- Ex-lax (when I was a bit older. At least it tasted okay.)
- Suppositories (I hated them.)
- Enemas (The worst!) That's when Mom or Dad got out my pink hot water bottle and filled it with warm water and put the long tube on it while I tried to hide.
I should have stayed away from dairy products.
Someone should have realized that my tolerating buttermilk better than regular milk when I was a baby might suggest I would have an ongoing problem with milk as I got older. But no one associated my constipation with my earlier issues with milk. And I don't blame them. I wasn't throwing up as I had when I was a baby, so this seemed like a different problem.
It wasn't until fifty or so years later that studies showed the relationship between cow's milk and constipation.
"Cheese, ice cream, and other dairy products have a reputation of being "binding" or constipating foods. ... Dairy products made from milk can cause constipation in many individuals, particularly toddlers, he says. "To prevent constipation, try fruit sherbets instead."
Cow's Milk Protein Allergy (CMPA) is a food allergy caused by a baby's immune system reacting to proteins in cow's milk. Some babies may develop CMPA after eating or drinking products containing cow's milk protein, which can cause an immune reaction resulting in allergic symptoms, including vomiting and constipation (both of which I had).
Buttermilk is lower in lactose than regular milk, so people with lactose intolerance may find that they can tolerate it. But I have no idea why drinking buttermilk made a difference when I was young because it's actually a different issue.
But back to my problem...
When I was young, I drank milk, ate ice dream, loved milk shakes, and of course ate lots of cheese. Kraft dinner was one of my favourite foods, as was apple pie with cheddar cheese.
Then, of course, I'd sit on the potty or the toilet trying to "go." And when I couldn't, and my stomach hurt, Mom would insert a suppository, and I would cry and wish I could run away.
And when it got really bad, my dad would have to hold me while I cried and struggled, and Mom gave me the enema. And then I'd have to try to quickly get on the potty before the water all ran out, and we'd all hope that it would work this time.
Of course, we never talked about it. And if my mother mentioned it to our doctor, she didn't say anything to me. Plus, as far as I know, there was never any consideration that it might have something to do with what I was eating or drinking. It was just the normal way of life for us.
As a young child who had very little control over what happened, I occasionally felt that I wasn't a very good girl because so often, I just couldn't "go." But my parents never blamed me. They were just concerned for me. And because of that I believe I was fortunate because I was usually able to forget about the problem until it got really bad again. I didn't live in dread of what would happen, but could put it aside until "next time."
. . .
Can You Relate?
The digestive system is actually a key part of our body and has a lot to say about whether or not we're functioning properly and in good health. But until recently, digestion hasn't been something we talked about much. I do think it's much better now than it used to be.
Have you thought about how digestive issues might have affected you?
. . .
LoveChild: Life Lessons from an Ugly Duckling is the story of my struggle to adjust to the life I was given, and my eventual discovery that, not only had I become a swan but, contrary to my perceptions, I had always been one. Though I didn't realize it until many years later, my life was part of a much bigger plan that all made perfect sense.
I'll be blogging my story once a week.
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