Sunday, September 16, 2012

"I'm Leaking!": A Potty Training Tale

One evening shortly after Oliver came home from the hospital, Emma decided she wanted to go pee on the cute, pink princess potty chair that has been in her bathroom for nearly a year. Despite feeling like this was a bit soon after the huge, life-altering change of gaining a baby brother, I was ecstatic. The next day I ran out and bought big girl underwear and pull-ups, ready to give the whole potty training thing a go.

Alas, it was not to be. I put the underwear on Emma, who then peed in them and started yelling “Oh no, I’m leaking!” while crying hysterically. I decided not to push the issue, due to Oliver’s recent arrival, but decided to use the pull-ups. For several weeks Emma refused to get on the potty and treated the pull-ups as if they were diapers.

Then one day a friend, whose daughter is nine months younger and about a third the size of Emma, came over to visit and play. When I watched this adorable, tiny little girl sit on my full-sized toilet and go, I decided Emma had had enough time to adjust. We needed to potty train for real. This friend sent me some tips she’d been given on potty training, which I used to help me come up with a plan.

The first step was to tell Emma that we weren’t using pull-ups anymore. She needed to pee on the potty or she would make a mess on herself and the floor. We also let Emma pick out a toddler seat that fit on the regular potty to give her another option of where to go. I know Emma, and she likes to feel like she has some control over things, so I thought this might help. We also used teeny M&Ms as a reward. Because again, I know Emma, and there isn’t much she won’t do for candy. And then the training began.

The first day was stressful. There was little pee in the potty and lots of pee everywhere else. There were tears. There was even some poop on the playroom carpet. But we persevered. I decided that once we started we couldn’t go back. Each day got a little better. I started insisting that she use the big potty because she won’t try to get down by herself so she is essentially stuck there, which helped to make sure she stayed on the potty until she was completely finished. By the fourth day we went the entire day with no major accidents other than a few drips in her underwear. And then we hit a plateau.

For weeks it was necessary to change her underwear and often her pants or shorts each time she needed to potty. She would start to go before realizing she needed to. Every. Time. Leaving the house required packing several pairs of underwear and back up shorts. It was extremely frustrating. She peed in her car seat. She dripped through Target. She left several puddles across the Magic Kingdom. There was even a day where she went through all of her backups and had to ride home in just underwear. I constantly stressed about when and where she would pee next, and I’m sure Emma got tired of being asked “Do you need to go potty yet?” about every ten minutes. I started getting discouraged and worried that maybe potty training wasn’t going to work for Emma after all.

Then, a miracle. On Wednesday, the day after we celebrated her 2 1/2 birthday, Emma stayed dry almost the entire day. And every day since. Not to say that we have completely mastered the potty. We still end up with a few wet pairs of underwear before the day is through, though they are rarely wet enough to need to change her pants. She seems to do well throughout the day and then starts having more trouble in the late afternoon. She does not take a nap anymore, so I think when she starts getting tired she just has a harder time exercising control. The progress is enough to allow me to once again hope that Emma will eventually be someone who pees exclusively on the potty. I am excited again.

I had no expectations that Emmalee would potty train easily. She has rarely done anything easily her entire life. She operates in her own Emma-world, where things happen on her exclusive time frame. She didn’t roll over until after six months. She didn’t crawl until ten months and wasn’t walking until thirteen months. At fifteen months she was still drinking from a bottle that I had to hold her for her because she refused to do it on her own. Everything she’s accomplished has required a lot of pushing and prodding, as she always seems to be content with the way things already are. Perhaps she lacks the motivation to become independent, but she eventually gets there, on her time and in her way.

Emma has gone through some big changes over the past several months. She dealt with a very pregnant Mommy who could do little for her, a new baby brother, and now the monumental change of no more diapers. All she’s ever known is diapers, so its kind of a big deal. I am so proud of her for taking things as well as she has. She is still Emma, so there has, of course, been a fair share of tears, tantrums, and dramatics along the way, but we seem to be in a pretty good place now. She seems to have accepted that both Oliver and using the potty are here to stay. Hopefully the progress will continue and we will soon be masters of the day time potty. And then we can attempt staying dry at night.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Middle of the Night Musings

At 3:30 this morning I was on Pinterest while feeding Oliver a bottle.  He is three months old and still wakes up every night around this time, unlike his sister who had been sleeping soundly through the night for about 6 weeks by this age.  Anyway, I came across a blog with tips on how to get your baby to sleep 8 hours a night by 8 weeks and 12 hours a night by 12 weeks.  Obviously, this caught my interest so I read.  And what the blogger said made sense.  Keep to a schedule with feeding and naps.  Be diligent about putting baby down awake so he can learn to soothe himself to sleep.  Move baby to his crib at 1 month.  There are lots of other useful ideas as well.  (Link at bottom.) 

With Emma I did not do these things.  I kept to a feeding schedule, but I let her nap as she pleased as long as she didn’t sleep for longer than 2-3 hours at a time during the day.  I rocked her to sleep nightly.  And though she started sleeping through the night at only 7 weeks, we inevitably ended up having lots of sleeping issues later when she hit six months and started waking several times for me to rock her to sleep again.  At 9 months we tried some modified cry it out techniques which got her sleeping through the night again, but she is now 2½ and still cries unless I stay in her room with her until she falls asleep.  For the past 5 months or so she has been coming into my room at some point during the night and sleeping the rest of the night in my bed.  We definitely have some night time issues.

While I was pregnant with Oliver, I vowed that I would learn from the mistakes I made with Emma.  I would not rock him to sleep.  I would lay him down awake.  I would do whatever I could to avoid the heart wrenching nights of cry it out, the endless amount of time sitting by a toddler bed waiting for sleep to come, the constant middle of the night cries for Mommy.  And then Oliver was born and something odd happened.  I suddenly felt like the mistakes I made with Emma were not that I rocked her and coddled her too much, but that I didn’t do it enough.

Oliver falls asleep each night while drinking a bottle.  I do not lay him down awake.  In my defense, though, babies do not like to be laid down awake.  They do not soothe themselves to sleep, they fuss and cry.  Once he is asleep I put him in his crib in his room, but when he wakes up for a feeding in the wee hours of the morning I bring him to bed with me and keep him there the rest of the night.  I know, I know.  I’m practically doing the opposite of what any baby sleep expert would recommend.  But I love cuddling with Oliver; I love the way his warm, snugly little body feels pressed up against me with his little head resting in the crook of my arm.  Sometimes, despite being exhausted, I don’t fall asleep right away because I’m so busy watching his perfect, peaceful little face in the semi-dark light.  He is the most amazing little thing, and I feel like I wouldn’t trade those moments with him for all the uninterrupted nights of sleep in the world. 

It actually makes me a little sad that I didn’t do the same thing with Emmalee.  I now completely regret the whole cry it out experience I put us both through.  I wish I would have just brought her to bed with me and soaked up her littleness and yummy baby scent as much as I possibly could.  To make it up to her, I now allow her into my bed without complaint.  And to be completely honest, I kind of like it when she’s sleeping in the bed beside me. 

So here I am, two babies in and more of a push over than ever.  But what I’ve come to realize is that the moments when they are little are so fleeting.  They won’t need me at night forever.  Someday they will be preteens who are too big for hugs and cuddles.  Someday they will be teenagers who are too cool for Mommy.  Someday they will be adults living on their own.  I’ll have plenty of time to sleep then.  For now I don’t want to sleep, I just want to squeeze my babies for as long as they’ll let me.