It is a wonderful thing when your kids are out of diapers and are completely self-sufficient in the bathroom. I did not realize however, that even after all of these milestones occur, you should still pay attention to your child’s poop. I assumed it was an automatic, daily bodily function. I was very wrong.
A Wrinkle in Time
It all started in a movie theater. My 8 year old daughter said she felt ill and ran to the restroom. She started shaking violently and was nauseated. She was scared. I had never seen her like this and did not know what to do. I assumed the movie was too scary for her, that she had a panic attack and I made a mental note to avoid having her watch scary movies.
The bouts of nausea continued. During the week, my daughter said she felt nauseated on our way to school every single morning. She would leave half her breakfast on her plate. Zofran did not help. She disliked school intensely, so I did not think too much of it. She was not being bullied, had friends and adored her teachers. I thought she was simply burned out. Summer was coming. She would just have to push through.
Something is terribly wrong
I finally realized something was terribly wrong when we had to pull over the car abruptly one afternoon, because the shaking episode happened again. We sat on the side of the road across from some seedy massage parlor while my daughter calmed down. A million thoughts ran through my mind. Was my daughter having anxiety attacks? Did I pass this on to her? What triggered it? She was in the car with her beloved grandmother. This should have been a safe space for her. I felt frustrated and helpless. I made an appointment with a therapist.
These nausea attacks became more frequent. She started staying inside and avoiding contact with the outside world. She only wanted to stay home and feared having a nausea attack in public. I imagined her growing into an adult recluse living alone. An agoraphobic pack rat, scared of the outside world. I always said I wanted her to live with me forever. Now, I regretted those words. What was happening to my daughter? I called the pediatrician. They thought it was anxiety and said to seek counseling. The pediatrician also recommended a blood test which turned out perfect.
Finally, an answer
One afternoon at school, my daughter had yet another nausea attack. I called the pediatrician again. I insisted that something physical was going on. This wasn’t just anxiety. The pediatrician listened to her stomach and thought something was off, so she recommended an X-ray. An X-ray revealed a fecal impaction the size of a baseball in her intestines! Finally, we had an answer. We tried enemas and laxatives, but that impaction would not budge. We ended up in the emergency room and they couldn’t move it either. She was admitted to Children’s Hospital for an NG tube. The NG tube was placed down her nose and into her stomach so that an enema could flush the impaction away. It was a long night, but the procedure worked.
Constipation made my daughter sick for a month. She lost weight and felt ill. The impaction was due to a lack of fiber and water in her diet. The doctor assured me that this was common but I still felt as though I failed my daughter.
The fecal impaction has left lingering issues, despite being removed months ago. My daughter is still nauseated daily and has been diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder. We have frequent gastroenterologist and psychologist visits. She takes MiraLAX daily. It is going to be a long road for her to mentally recover from this. My baby girl has not been the same since.
I say all of this to encourage you to pay more attention to your child’s bowel habits. Gross yes, but it could change your child’s life. I never in a million years thought poop could wreak this much havoc.