Having given birth to a force of nature

This morning I was lucky enough to wake up to this refreshing email from a lovely woman named Catherine:

Leta’s room looks like a room that was cleaned and organized after a child had died. It is the saddest, most boring and depressing children’s room I have ever seen.

Btw, when you showed the pics of your house on a previous post, I had thought the same thing.
Your house is so sterile and boring. Browse catalogs much? Every hear of having your own style?

I have 2 kids (boys – [name withheld] 2yrs and [name withheld] 5 months), not that you care, and believe me
I am a cleaning fanatic, like you. I am very concerned about germs, bacteria, etc. But you are out of control sterile. It is shocking.

One more thing, my son is 2 yrs old and potty trained. Potty training is probably the easiest thing to do.
Why are you waiting so long to train Leta? You work at home don’t you?

I go to work every day and he is trained on the potty.

Such a thoughtful letter, full of very useful suggestions, ones I am right this minute taking very seriously. This is also a welcome reminder of how other mothers are not the most judgmental people on Earth. Her compassion is enveloping me like a hot rotten vegetable fart.

Many other concerned women have written to inquire why the hell I have not yet taught Leta how to use the toilet, and I’m not sure I have ever been asked a question that has so many possible answers. Is it that I’m lazy? I don’t know, maybe I’ll have Jon answer that one since I’m busy over here growing hair.

Maybe I like changing diapers. Did you ever think of that? How could that be any worse of a preference than liking licorice? Or choosing to wear gnome shoes? Maybe changing diapers keeps me young and nimble. Maybe it’s the one thing in this world that I am the best at, and who doesn’t need that one thing? I could do it blind-folded with my hands tied behind my back while dangling upside down from a rope tied to a helicopter, I am that good. I dazzle.

But if you want me to be totally honest, and this is from the perspective of someone who lives in the same house as my daughter, of someone who has dressed her and fed her and tucked her into bed for the last three years, I’m thinking that the reason she isn’t yet potty trained is because she isn’t ready. And this is not just a hunch. This is something very real, something we live with every day.

Leta has suffered severe constipation for the last two years of her life, and we have seen her pediatrician repeatedly over this problem. A little over a year ago he gave her a prescription for a mild children’s laxative that we have been adding to her water ever since. And it worked like magic for several months, worked so well that we thought we had solved the problem. And then, well, then she suddenly decided that she did not ever want to go number two again, just like that, like someone might decide one morning to stop eating chocolate because it just wasn’t worth it anymore. And so she started holding it for days and days and days, long enough that she started to get sick, started to lie on the ground and moan because she was in so much pain.

But no matter what we said to her, no matter the coaxing or the clever bargaining, we could not talk her into going to the bathroom. She wouldn’t have it, would turn her head and pretend that we didn’t even exist. The more we tried to convince her that she needed to poop, the more she resisted. And so for several weeks the only way we could get her to go was by giving her an enema. And it was horrible. Unimaginable. May you never have to do that to your child.

But we didn’t have any other choice. Her will was stronger than the laxative. That doesn’t seem possible, right? A child cannot possibly be so stubborn that she could, through the power of her will alone, immobilize her internal organs. World? Meet Leta Armstrong.

And then.


Jon and I left Leta with my mother when we traveled to New York last December, and we explained to her all of the ongoing problems. And as we had expected, my mother had to give Leta an enema while we were gone because at that point she had been holding it for over seven days. And I have tried to piece all of this together because I’m still trying to figure out how it all happened, but I think Leta pooped while she was sleeping one night and slept it in for several hours. Later the following morning her urine started to smell very weird, like a toxic, nuclear cloud, and the next day when we returned home she was screaming like I have never heard her scream before.

I knew immediately what was going on. Leta had a urinary tract infection, which, for those of you who are not familiar, makes it feel like you’re peeing fire every time you have to go. I could see the fear in her eyes. So we rushed her to her doctor, and because he wanted to rule out the possibility that she might have diabetes, we had to collect a urine sample from her, which can be rather difficult to do when the patient is still in diapers. And so what followed was one of the worst ten minute periods of my life, certainly the worst of Leta’s life.

Because the facility was short on staff that morning, I had to hold down Leta’s arms while Jon braced her legs so that the nurse could insert a catheter. And Leta, a child who is not normally very physical, someone who would much rather lounge on the bed and read books than throw a ball through a window, Leta fought us as if we were trying to kill her. We could barely keep her from throwing herself off that table. She struggled to make us stop until she was soaking in sweat and tears.

Within a few hours of her first dose of antibiotics she was acting like a happy child again, but now, even five weeks later, now she is afraid to pee. And so she holds it, and holds it, and holds it because she is afraid that it will hurt. Now she is afraid to go to the bathroom at all, and watching her battle her body every day is nothing short of maddening. Now the only time she will use the bathroom is when she is asleep, when she doesn’t know that it’s happening. And I have no idea what to do, which isn’t new for me, but is nonetheless exasperating.

If we can get her to go to the bathroom in her diaper these days we consider our efforts successful. The potty, right now, will have to wait.

Comments? I could use some encouragement.