the smell of my desperation has become a stench

Frightened now of our child’s adolescence, as if we weren’t before

Lately we have been sprinkling magic fairy dust into Leta’s food to help combat her constipation. It’s called MiraLax and looks suspiciously like artificial sweetener. MiraLax has to be taken with food which is all sorts of frustrating since we told the doctor that Leta doesn’t eat food. He nodded and said, “Sprinkle this on the food she doesn’t eat.” What then? Is she supposed to stand near it? Spread it on her body so that it soaks in like moisturizer?

Because she still refuses to eat anything we’ve been supplementing the MiraLax with a few mild laxative drops every morning just to get things moving along. Part of Leta’s problem is that she has become terrified of pooping and whenever she feels the urge she holds it in. Her whole body shakes as she forcibly subverts nature, her face a mess of red bulging veins, a pig-tailed spectacle caught in a desperate mid-clench battle with her colon, and she looks around wildly at nothing in an attempt to fool you, to get you to look elsewhere. What? Why are you looking at her? There is nothing to see here. Move along so she can fully concentrate on denying the act of defecation out of existence.

The laxative drops have thrown a wrench into her master plan, and now when she is unable to hold it in she throws her arms out and calls for help. “Mama, I’m pooping,” she’ll whimper and then cling to my neck like a life raft. It’s incredibly heartbreaking, and both Jon and I have spent hours holding her like this in an attempt to convince her that everything is going to be okay. Let it out, I’ll say, or Look! I poop and I’m not dead. Yet.

Yesterday I was sitting on the bed trying to work when Leta wandered into the room and began slamming the bedroom door. Jon had been watching her and when he heard the noise he came running in to see what was going on. Leta promptly slammed the door again, and Jon caught it before it tore off its hinges. “LETA!” he yelled, and the second she heard the angry rise in his voice she dropped to the floor, shot out her arms and chirped, “Daddy, I’m pooping.”

Right. Daddy, you can’t be mad at me if, conveniently, my bowels are in distress.

  • marian

    2006/03/10 at 11:35 am

    Oy. Well, no advice for Leta’s poop phobia, except to say that it’s amazing what kids grow out of. Loved King Chuck, the best dog ever.

  • summer

    2006/03/10 at 11:24 am

    Reading through the comments reminded me of something I had log–er, I mean, long suppressed: giving my toddling son a glycerin suppository. Ew, ew, ew. Like the other commenter, he was able to voice his concern about the whole mess, which basically sounded like this: “NOT THE BUTT MEDICINE, MOMMY! I DON’T WANT THE BUTT MEDICINE!”

    Never had I felt more unworthy of motherhood than when I had to foist a tiny capsule of colon lube up my son’s ass.


    But, yeah: thanks for the reminder.

  • Bird Lover

    2006/03/10 at 11:35 am

    That same tactic works just as well for adults. When confronted with an uncomfortable situation I just drop to the floor, flail my arms and announce that I am pooping. Come to think of it, maybe that’s why the situation is uncomfortable.

  • Mimimom

    2006/03/10 at 11:16 am

    Oh, it just breaks my heart to read this entry because my daughter, Emma had the same problem when she was 1 – 2.5. It went on forever it seemed! She would cry and cry and cry when she had to go. And every time she avoided pooping, the problem just became worse.
    Her dad and I took her so a special butt-doctor and they perscribed Miralax as well. This basically worked, but never without the pain and the agony.
    We also tried “Smooth Move” tea – have you ever seen that before? It worked pretty well and was gentle.
    Poor Leta! I feel for you – it is so hard to watch them struggle, especially when you know what it’s like (after having gone through the awful pain of the 1st BM after childbearth – ay carumba!)
    The weird thing is that the problem just seems to go away on its own – not by use of laxatives. Seems as though they grow out of it to some extent.
    Good luck with your little one!

  • Kim

    2006/03/10 at 11:08 am

    Ah, poor Leta. I’ve watched my daughter struggle with constipation also and it can be heartbreaking. Hopefully the magic laxative dust (that will apparently enter her body via osmosis) will help at some point and she’ll lose her fear of pooping.
    By the way… OMG I’m loving King Chuck.

  • monkey

    2006/03/10 at 11:12 am

    My husband used that Miralax stuff. Or at least pretended to once. Poor Leta. I remember from psych class that some children have issues during the whole potty training with the bowel movements because they feel as if part of them is being flushed away. Kinda screwy to think about. Gabip, my son does the same thing with the poop. We’ve tried reversing the diaper, pull ups…nothing works. He flings poo and that’s what I get for having a child in the Year of the Monkey!

  • gabip

    2006/03/10 at 11:02 am

    Poor little Leta, I feel for her, I am sure it will pass…..eventually. At least she doesn’t take off her pants and diaper while supposedly napping in her crib and smear the poop all over the place only to surprise you when you go in to check and make sure the little angel is in fact napping, that’s my son’s little trick and so horribly disgusting. If I had my way we would no longer have to poop, just hit the delete key and it would vanish.

  • Vaguely Urban

    2006/03/10 at 11:01 am

    Ah, the “I’m pooping” ploy. That old chestnut.

    (I’m totally looking into this Miralax stuff. Sounds like heaven drops to me.)

  • Tami

    2006/03/10 at 10:53 am

    I was in SLC 2 weeks ago, and my sister took her 3-year-old daughter to the toilet, but didn’t meet with any success because, as my niece declared, “The poop is too scared to come out.” 30 minutes later, they again went to the bathroom, and after much effort, my niece pooped. She looked in the toilet and declared, “Those poops are BRAVE little poops. They were scared to come out, but they did.” I never thought I encourage the idea of poop with volition, but I’m of the opinion that it’s less icky than poop in pants.

  • truth

    2006/03/10 at 10:53 am

    Oh man Heather! I just saw the picks of “King Chuck” and I must tell you that people at the office must think I’m insane for laughing so damn loudly! I love Chuck! He’s hilarious!

    And poor Leta. I hope all goes well with her in the poop dept!

  • truth

    2006/03/10 at 10:54 am

    Oh man Heather! I just saw the pics of “King Chuck” and I must tell you that people at the office must think I’m insane for laughing so damn loudly! I love Chuck! He’s hilarious!

    And poor Leta. I hope all goes well with her in the poop dept!

  • Angela

    2006/03/10 at 10:38 am

    The these things I was refering to are Gerber’s Fruit Puffs. I apparently do not know how to add links.

  • Rhome

    2006/03/10 at 10:40 am

    no poop here, just its favorite Dooce co-stars – a toddler and a dog.

  • Elizabeth Dillow

    2006/03/10 at 10:51 am

    will she drink from a straw? if so, smoothies are the answer. you can sneak all sorts of stuff into yogurt smoothies… they’ve gotten us through some major food strikes around here.

  • Amy

    2006/03/10 at 10:52 am

    My daughter has entered this stage of life where she, too, does not want to poop. She does the red-face trying to hold it in thing too. When she poops she wants to look at it and says that it is hers and she doesn’t want to say bye-bye to it. Alas, I know this stage will pass! And it leads to potty training!!! Hooray!

  • Irina

    2006/03/10 at 10:52 am

    Poor poor Leta…constipation should only be for ugly people (wait, I didn’t really mean that).

    Has Leta seen King Chuck? Have you tried crowning him while she’s in the throes of anti-nature?

  • Jule Ann

    2006/03/10 at 10:37 am

    That sounds just like me. For my entire life. Well, except for the last month or so when the coffee that I reintroduced to my diet after many years apart has been forcing me to be regular. I’m sure the novelty will wear off soon, though, and I’ll be back to my normal, poopless self.

    This entry totally reminded me of a conversation I had with my husband the other day.

    “Is it possible that I’m pooping more because I’m drinking coffee again?”

    “Um, you know how some laxatives say ‘Without any harsh chemicals’? Do you know what those chemicals are?”



    “So why was I constipated in high school when I drank three cups of coffee every day?”


    “I guess it probably helps that I’m actually eating food now, too.”

  • Tiggerlane

    2006/03/10 at 10:37 am

    Heather, I can totally relate. Our daughter had problems with toilet-training and pooping. She just couldn’t bring herself to poop in the toilet, so she would hold it. This was horribly worrisome for us, especially since she went AN ENTIRE WEEK without pooping. Her father is a nurse, and knows of the magic of child suppositories. Needless to say, after a week of non-pooping, something had to be done. So the ordeal of holding her down and “administering” the suppository was something to behold, but by golly, she FINALLY pooped. Turds that you would not BELIEVE came out of anything smaller than an NBA player flew out of the child.

    She got even, though, weeks later. Right in the middle of the nation’s largest retail establishment. I had expressed anger in the aisle — something about her not getting something she wanted. I evidently got rather emphatic about it, and the kid hollered out, “Please don’t get mad, Mommy, and stick that thing in my butt again!” Classic.

  • Adrianne

    2006/03/10 at 10:29 am

    OOO poor little Leta!!! I feel sorry for her! I hope she feels better soon!!!! She is a doll baby!

  • schadenfreudette

    2006/03/10 at 10:30 am

    ah, the sweet bygone days of fecalphobia. my now 3-year old went through this during the past summer and it was distressing for both of us. i finally had to resort to giving her a glycerin suppository, which worked like magic. unfortunately, i then returned her to her pre-school where she loudly proclaimed to all within earshot that “mommy put the bad medicine in my butt”. i miss the days of no talking…

  • Angela

    2006/03/10 at 10:36 am

    Awwww. Poor little Leta.

    My niece is only a few months younger than Leta and she is doing the SAME THING with her food. I see her everyday since they live so close and she will drink juice and water and eat these things, but other than that? Nothing! Very frusterating. Hopefully they will both start eating agian. I am very greatful for the vitamins. Oh yeah that is the other thing she will eat. Kids. haha.

    Cute that she is using the poop thing to her advantage. Oh! There is an upside!

  • Amy

    2006/03/10 at 10:27 am

    My 20 month old has a similar issue. It’s so sad to see her stuggle to poop! She loves bananas and cheese, but they just don’t love her. We haven’t gotten to the Miralax phase yet, but I think we’re almost there. Tell Leta my Olivia feels her pain!

  • Jennifer

    2006/03/10 at 10:28 am

    I’m so sorry for you and for Leta. No advice here. Just sympathy.

  • kim from germany

    2006/03/10 at 10:26 am

    i’m sorry she’s having such a hard time. i really hope she will have fun pooping again soon!

    PS: having a smoke works wonders for me btw… ups, did i just [say that out loud] actually write that?

  • Amy Brown

    2006/03/10 at 10:24 am

    My two-and-a-half year old went through a anti-pooping stage. She, too, would try and make like she wasn’t pooping, but it manifested itself as walking around rapidly in circles. Smooth. She wasn’t actually constipated, just poo-averse. After about a week and a half of daily poo-denial, she decided to poop on the toilet instead of in her diaper, and we haven’t had any trouble since. In fact, she is quite enamoured of her poo now: “I like this poop. I am happy of it. It is going home to its mummy and daddy.” (I told her when you flush the poo goes to be with all the other poos.)

  • ManicMommyK

    2006/03/10 at 10:23 am

    Poor Leta. My son had chronic constipation. We tried Miralax, removing bananas from his diet, stuffing him full of bran. It was terrible! He would be so torn between his need to poop and his fear of pooping. Such a dilemma.

    And to make it worse, he did the same thing – using pooping as his trump card. All things stopped – yelling, crying, demands – when Anders needed to poop.

    Here’s a piece of advice (I know, you didn’t ask for it) – we solved the constipation problem by removing dairy from his diet. Turns out my kids inherited an intolerance to dairy proteins from me – that and a cranium that is too big for his skinny body. Sorry buddy.

    Good luck!

  • MaggieBelle

    2006/03/10 at 10:26 am

    Maybe Jon startled the poop out of her when he yelled? Just a thought.

  • Kelly

    2006/03/10 at 10:19 am

    First of all, I absolutely adore your blog. It makes me giggle.

    My daughter, who is about to turn 10 years old (ACK), had that exact same problem when she was a toddler. Pooping was entirely too dramatic for her, and she was just going to keep it in there, thank you very much.
    It got so bad that we usually ended up having to give her enimas, which is a horrible thing to have to do to your child.

    I bought a bunch of small toys… some worth less than a dollar… little cars, stickers, etc. and put them into a bag. I told Casey she wasn’t allowed to even look in the bag. When she made a poopy, she could look and then pick one toy. This worked miracles and she was a pooping fool before we knew it! Good luck.

  • whoorl

    2006/03/10 at 10:22 am

    Sounds exactly like my childhood.

    However, I’m very happy to report there will be a day when she looks forward to pooping with absolute glee. Let’s just hope that day comes sooner than later…

  • katem9579

    2006/03/10 at 10:21 am

    So much like Baby G’s poop pattern right now. She is not as constipated but we do have to give her the drops every few days if she hasnt gone. She is so super focused when she is pooping and you can always tell as she will just get something and stand really still and act like is is so seriously looking at say a napkin for 5 mins. Dont dare ask if she is pooping she will shoot you the slant eye and scream NOOOOOOO!!!! Sometimes she sneaks over to the dining room table and stands next to one of the chairs and kind of hides while she poops. Poor thing. Wouldnt it just be easier to get on the potty and close the door? Dont they know its easier to squat and poop then stand and poop?

  • Joana

    2006/03/10 at 10:19 am

    You’re doomed! When is her first date, next saturday? 😉

  • HiFromTexas

    2006/03/10 at 10:20 am

    Poor Leta! My daughter (who is now 4) went through a no pooping phase at around 2 years old. It was awful. When she felt the urge, she would run around the house w/ her buttcheeks squeezed as tight as possible. Often, the running turned into skipping. Yes, skipping. It was hilarious but at the same time so sad. She was terrified to poop.
    Hopefully, for you guys and Leta’s sake…this too shall pass! Pun fully intended!

  • jes

    2006/03/10 at 10:16 am

    Afraid of pooping? I get excited every time I do it, because I think of that King(?) who had forty pounds of feces in his colon when he died, because he would hold it in instead of just go.

    And so when I poop, I think to myself, “That’s two pounds less of feces that I’m going to have in my colon when I die.”

  • Zach C

    2006/03/10 at 10:15 am

    I had a dream last night that I was on a blind date with some fictitious woman. She told me she used to be married to Jon, but she didn’t hate you or anything because you two are just SO IN LOVE. I can’t believe I’m having dreams about a blog I read.

  • Maiken

    2006/03/10 at 10:09 am

    My daughter, Lucia, who is 21 mo. old will go into a corner or in another room and crouch down when having a bowel movement. I have asked her if she is pooping and she looks at me and says, “No.” Well, I know the look on her face when she is pooping and I can smell it. (Baby diapers have nothing on toddler diapers!)

    So, now I say something like, “It looks like you have to poop. Let’s go into the bathroom.” (My mom says not to ask a child a question when you don’t intend to give them a choice. Very difficult.) Sometimes I can sit her on the toilet in time, but mostly not. I don’t know how to bridge this gap between her knowing she is pooping and being able to acknowledge it. Perhaps I should get the book about everyone pooping or the Elmo doll. Elmo is like crack for kids.

  • Jane-Marie

    2006/03/10 at 10:10 am

    Bless her heart. I’d so be worries, she’s a smart cookie!!

  • 72feetabovesealevel

    2006/03/10 at 10:11 am

    One of my nieces was afraid of pooping at about Leta’s age. We tried everything we could think of to make it OK for her. Nothing we did ever helped, but she eventually got over it on her own.

  • Molicious

    2006/03/10 at 10:05 am

    I wonder if that would work on my husband. Hmmmm…

  • Rebecca

    2006/03/10 at 9:58 am

    You could probably write The Big Book of Conspitation, the amount of wonderful tales that you have…

  • choice

    2006/03/10 at 9:59 am

    Wow. That story made me laugh so hard the quaking of my belly almost released my own bowels. It was kind of like doing crunches at the gym.

    Public farting and constipated toddler posts all in the same week. I love, Heather. So very much.

  • hopefulloser

    2006/03/10 at 10:01 am

    How cute! We have the opposite problem with my daughter. It’s a complete poo fest. We’re starting the potty training now and to encourage her we bribe her with toys. She refers to them as poo toys. She’s currently running around in the “nudes nudes” playing her “poo flute”. That sounds kinda bad but it’s really cute.

  • Beachgal

    2006/03/10 at 10:04 am

    Aww poor little Leta. But also, so adorable Leta. Hope things work out for you all soon. And I also love how Chuck just sits there and lets you pose pants on his head. “King Chuck” indeed!

  • Amanda Paige

    2006/03/10 at 10:04 am

    I have a crazy mother-in-law who was once pulled over by a cop for speeding. He came to the driver’s side of the car to talk to her and she rolled the window down and said, “I have REALLY BAD diarrhea!” Then she sped off. He didn’t chase after her.
    Seems to me that distressed bowels can get a person out of many bad situations.

  • Nothing But Bonfires

    2006/03/10 at 9:57 am

    MiraLax looks suspiciously like artificial sweetener, you say? Veeeery interesting…… I hope the next person who screws me over takes A LOT of Splenda in their coffee.

  • liznboys

    2006/03/10 at 9:58 am

    Too funny! My 2 1/2 y/o uses the “I’m poopin’ ” line to get “alone time” (i.e., to get into mischief!). He’ll run into our bedroom and I’ll tell him that he can’t play in anyone’s bedroom but his own and he’ll say “go away, Mom, I’m poopin’ “…BTW, little boy, I can tell if you’re randomly opening drawers, applying make-up, band-aids and lotion OR poopin’.

    Leta is SO CUTE…keep up the great writing!

  • DDM

    2006/03/10 at 9:52 am

    Way to go LETA!!! Work it girl!!!

  • Democutie

    2006/03/10 at 9:56 am

    Be careful with her fear of pooping. I went through a horrible ordeal when I was young and honestly had pooping problems until I was about 14.. pooping problems that are too embarrassing to mention.. pooping problems that NO ONE but my family knows about, if you get my drift. I would hate for Leta to have to go through that.

  • John Foltz

    2006/03/10 at 9:56 am

    That’s like my son saying ‘thwuble’ when he’s in trouble. It’s so cute that I immediately bust up and he’s not in trouble anymore. It’s his trump card, and he knows when to play it.

  • Lora

    2006/03/10 at 9:49 am

    MiraLax is just a miracle drug in my opinion. You can mix it with water and you can’t even tell it’s in there! Try it in her milk or juice…again, she’ll be none the wiser. My son had to take it when he swallowed pennies to be sure they moved through the system quickly and that stuff is great.

  • Peggy

    2006/03/10 at 9:48 am

    Faith takes that wonderful mixture of food and MiraLax also and I know you say she won’t eat but get that into her system one way or another – it’s a God send! Can’t you use a drink and spread out her dose throughout the day? A little here – a little there. Bribe her for Christ’s sake!

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Heather B. Armstrong

Hi. I’m Heather B. Armstrong, and this used to be called mommy blogging. But then they started calling it Influencer Marketing: hashtag ad, hashtag sponsored, hashtag you know you want me to slap your product on my kid and exploit her for millions and millions of dollars. That’s how this shit works. Now? Well… sit back, buckle up, and enjoy the ride.

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