an act of love

every kid has their issue.  sometimes it’s chosen for them.  sometimes they choose it themselves. sometimes they have multiple issues stemming from multiple experiences.  our little wilbur has a bathroom issue.  i am not sure if it came with him or if it started here, but he’s had it for about 2 1/2 years now.

he started getting potty trained at his foster home.  then when the foster mom heard he was coming to us in a month or two, she decided to stop the training and leave it in our hands.  in july of 2006, about 2 months after the kids came home, we realized wilbur was more than ready and able to use the toilet.

we started training him as i am assuming most people do.  go potty every couple hours to see if anything can come out.  go poopy after a meal, or after gas starts coming.  wilbur fought us every step of the way.  we could be kind-nothing.   we could be mean-nothing.  we could prompt him-nothing.  we could say nothing-nothing.

eventually, wilbur gave in and started using the toilet regularly.  but regularly for wilbur is potty about twice a day and poopy once every few days.  he’d be bloated. he’d be gassy.  he’d have marks in his underpants.  and he’d keep insisting he didn’t need to go.

we sought advice.  i googled a ton.  we read books.  we consulted friends.  i asked the pediatrician.  we tried mutiple suggestions from kind and loving people.  nothing worked.  nothing. for whatever reason, wilbur could be on the verge of wetting his pants, or pooping in his pants, and he do anything but go to the bathroom.

our most recent attempt to”help” him was to completely ignore the situation.  we wouldn’t ask if he needed to go.  we wouldn’t prompt him to go.  we wouldn’t remind him to go.  it would be up to him.  he could choose when to go all on his own.  we didn’t talk about this with him, we just stopped talking about it all together.

some days this went over well.  other days he’d spend most of his time walking funny, sitting down as much as possible, squeezing his legs together, etc.  i started to think this approach wasn’t working when on monday i realized wilbur hadn’t gone poopy since saturday.  josh and i talked about it and decided we’d just keep trying to ignore it.  then wilbur didn’t go tuesday.  and he didn’t go wednesday.  and then today came.

i have still been reading twenty things adopted kids want their adoptive parents to know by sherri eldridge.  an adoptee herself, sherrie is so insightful in sharing with adoptive parents that their children carry around so much in their heads that they don’t understand and can’t communicate.  most of this “stuff”  isn’t understood until adulthood and sometimes not even then.

today it got me thinking, which i have thought a few times over the past couple years, that maybe wilbur has such an issue with the bathroom because of all he’s been through.  leaving his birthmother at 1 1/2 and being neglected and possibly abused during that time.  leaving his foster mother at 2 1/2.  starting all over with a “new” mom and dad, in a strange home, with strange things.  this can have such a profound effect on a child.  and maybe one of the ways wilbur deals with this is by having control over when and how often he goes to the bathroom.

my sister and i had a chance to catch up on the phone today.  she lives nearby, but her little ones have been sick and we’ve been really busy, so we haven’t talked much the past couple weeks.  during our conversation my sister told me that she recently called focus on the family to get some advice on a sleeping issue with her almost three year old.  a counselor returned her call and gave her some pretty good advice.  i then shared with her that we are still concerned with wilbur’s bathroom issue and that we’ve tried everything.  she suggested i give focus a call, just to get another opinion.

i called.  i spoke to a very sweet lady.  she took some information from me and told me a counselor would call either today or tomorrow.  when i hung up the phone, the Lord shot straight into my heart.  “love him,” He said, “he just needs you to love him.  when he gets home from school, hold him.  tell him you love him.  tell him you’re concerned about his body.  tell him you want him to try to go poopy so his body won’t be hurt from holding the poopy in.  he’s a hurting little guy even though he can’t communicate that to you.  so let the bathroom issue go.  gently remind him.  gently prompt him.  he’ll eventually start to take care of it on his own.”

“i am going to do this,” i thought.  “oh Lord,” i said, “i hear You and i can feel in my heart that You are communicating this to me and i am so grateful.”  i reminded myself that the heart of a mother usually knows best for her child.  and i also reminded myself that i know my wilbur better than anyone else.  he’s lived with me longer than he did his birth mother and foster combined.  and i know i love him more than anyone else, except for his Heavenly Father.

i called josh and left him a message that we needed to talk.  i called a good  friend and ran the idea by her.  she was in agreement and too felt that the Lord had given me an answer.  once josh and i got to talk, he agreed with me too.

after school i held wilbur, told him i loved him, and that i was concerned.  i asked him to try to go poopy.  he literally looked and sounded relieved. almost like he had been waiting for me to love him through this.

he wanted me to be in the bathroom with him, but to not look at him when he was on the toilet.  so, i sat on the stool and looked at the opposite wall.  he told me when he is going poopy he likes to look at the shower curtain because it is so beautiful.  here it is…


wilbur also said he looks at the shower curtain and says daddy, mommy, amelia, wilbur, and orville.  i asked why he says our names.  he said, “because we are like the flowers.  daddy is the biggest, then next is you, and orville is the little one because he is little.”


do you see the 5 flowers inside of the paisley?  how cute is that!?!?

wilbur proceeded to tell me his poopy was coming out.  and it did, in 4 rather large pieces.  i reminded him that sometimes when he is having gas, it means his body is telling him to get the poopy out.  and he told me that his tummy has been hurting. and after he was all finished going to the bathroom, he said he felt much better.

i like our new way of doing things already.  i think wilbur needs to go through some of the bathroom training process again, the part where we remind him and prompt him to go.  i think he needs me to be the mommy of that little boy he was 2 1/2 years ago.  and i am so willing to do that.


  • Diana

    Yup – we deal with this issue, too. It’s so not fun.

    You are absolutely right about two things regarding it, though. #1 – This issue does have roots in attachment. Strong roots! And, sadly they are very likely tied to issues such as early abuse, neglect, and/or deprivation. It is so heartbreaking, isn’t it!?

    #2 – There is no more perfect way to deal with it than you did. Don’t you love how the Lord works? Yah, we’ve been through the gamut on this deal, too. It wasn’t until we loved our son through it just as you described (we were prompted by the Holy Spirit, too) and explained how sick this practice was making him that our son quit holding the poop. It was also about the time that we realized he’d been with our family longer than he was in the orphanage that he turned this corner.

    Very likely, your little one needs you to be the mommy he never had as an infant. Here’s a good test. Try feeding him some warm milk with a little chocolate syrup in it from a baby bottle. Wrap him in a blanket like a baby and YOU hold the bottle during the feeding. If he gobbles it up, he still needs you to help him through this missed phase. If he got that level of nurturing as an infant, he won’t really even take the bottle. He’ll just play with it at best.

    I would definately put him through the potty training process again. It will help stave off future issues – or at least the intensity of them. He may still use his bodily functions as a weapon or communication tool at times, but keep working with him and keep loving him (that reminder was for me, too :-). Also, make sure he’s getting enough fiber (about 13 grams daily) and drinking enough liquids. This will help a lot. We also give our little guys fish oil pills 2x daily (morning and night) to keep everything lubricated. That helps a lot, too. Plus they’re full of good, nutritious omega-3’s. A little olive oil in some orange juice will work too, but the fish oil pills are easier to get down.

    From one poopy Mama to the next, best wishes and happy training!

  • Lori

    I think you are right. Wilbur needs you to love the Wilbur that never got to be a baby, that never got to be a young toddler.

    We have had on and off issues with our DD ( adopted at 17 months). We were told that these kids often have potty issues because the feel so out of control. The CAN control when they go potty, they can control where they go potty etc.

    I think for any of us any extreme behavior is a sign of internal conflict.

    You might try letting Wilbur keep a small box of books etc by the toilet. Maybe even a small CD player or something. Maybe without the complete focus being on going potty it will be easier for him to go. ( tmi but I have problems relaxing enough to have a BM unless I am reading or something)

  • bri

    awwwwww…. this is such a sweet post! Thanks for sharing your mothering heart in the issues that arise! I am so glad that you listened to what God was prompting you to do! It was exactly what he needed!

    Bless you all!

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