Home > Attachment Parenting, Family, Parenting > Bringing back diapers

Bringing back diapers

I wish I didn’t have to write this.  I am so upset and disappointed in myself.  If you read my last post you already know the back story to our toilet learning process with M.  It has been very frustrating because we have gotten mixed signals.  He will work with his preschool teacher on sitting on the potty, but not us.  He likes wearing big boy underwear, but won’t potty in the potty or anything else, including diapers at school.  And finally, he ended up hitting a wall on Friday.  It was like the holding it in thing at school was just physical training for the main event.

On Friday, as I mentioned in the last post, he had an accident at school at about 9am and then didn’t go the rest of the day even though he had a diaper on.  Well, here is the kicker… he went to bed that night without going potty, woke up dry, and was dry the whole next day.  Friday night he woke up at 1:30am wiggling and whining.  I tried to tell him to just go in his diapers, let it out.  I tried rubbing his tummy, etc.  He fell back to sleep, but did the same thing at 2:45am, 4:30am, and 6:00am.  Between him and A’s snoring, I only managed 4 hours of sleep.  I had to be up for a work retreat that morning so I headed out.  I was stunned when I got a call from A asking if I had changed M’s diaper before I left because it was still dry.  We agreed to have A talk to M and tell him that we are not going to work on the potty stuff for a while and that it is totally fine for him to use his diaper.

My mom picked him up later and brought him to Brown County where I was so they could spend the day and then stay the night at the hotel with me.  I kept calling to see if he would finally let loose.  By 4 pm he still hadn’t and I was freaked out.  He was still begging to change his diaper even if he was dry and would sometimes do the pee pee dance.  At this point I asked A to call our doctor and see what we should do.  His text back made my heart sink!

“Not good baby.  We need to take him to the ER.  He said it is unheard of that a 3year old could hold it for close to 24 hours.  It doesn’t happen.  If he hasn’t had a wet diaper then something else is up. It’s not a UTI either.  He said, with a UTI he would automatically have spasms and it would be coming out even if it hurt when it did.  He said we need to get him to the ER to have an ultrasound done.”

Now, please keep in mind that by this point it had actually been 33 hours since he had peed!  And a full 2 days since a bowel movement.  I read this in my retreat and was instantly in tears.  Being me, I had been talking to everyone about him so they all knew what was going on when they saw my face and heard me say ER.  I remember hearing one person say “Hold it together Crystal cause it won’t do him any good”.  I gathered my composure, grabbed my mom and M and we set out for the ER in Bloomington.

I was very thankful that it was a slow night there.  We got right in and they started gathering information.  They took us to a room and brought in a special bladder ultrasound to measure the amount of urine in his bladder.  We had to restrain him for this because he wouldn’t lay still.  I felt so horrible just because I knew he was scared.  At least I knew they weren’t hurting him.  After it was done, which was very quick, I picked him up.  Suddenly I felt warmth radiating from his diaper and I shouted “He’s peeing he’s peeing!!!”  Sure enough, he let totally loose as we all (even the Nurse Practitioner) did the pee pee dance.  I think it was a mixture of the relief of not being restrained and the slight vibration of the ultrasound tool that did it.  I was so relieved.  It was a miracle.  They basically laughed and said he should be fine.  The doctor that came to see us just before we left said that there is always one that will prove you wrong (about the other doc saying he couldn’t be holding it) and that that was some determination (you’re telling me!!).  He also mentioned that his own grandson is 4 and just became daytime potty trained.  I got what he was saying… don’t worry about backing off, it will happen.

When we got back to the hotel he began insisting that I change his diaper even though it was dry.  After 3 hours of this, (at 1am!) I decided to make the 2 hour drive home, just to change the scene if nothing else.  I am glad I followed my gut.  About 30 minutes into the trip he peed and pooped.  He then slept the rest of the night.  He did the same thing in the morning, but each time the insisting was for shorter amounts of time before he produced something.  So, I feel we are on the right track now.

Can you believe this?  A 3.5 year old so persistent and stubborn that he would withhold urinating for 34 hours!?!?!?!  I told you he is MORE!  During all of this I was a mess of guilt and frustration.  I was crying to my mother that I felt so bad but was doing all I could do.  There are just no books for a kid like him.  The only books that talk about strong-willed kids talk about discipline or just living with them and understanding them.  No one talks about the other things, like the weaning off things, toilet learning, sleeping alone, etc.  There are no guides for parents like me.  I looked at her and said “They don’t make a book for him!”.  She looked at me and said “Maybe you are supposed to write it”.  Wow… what an amazing and scary thought.  So, maybe I will one day.  Until then, I will share these experiences as openly and honestly as I can here.

We have decided to remove the underwear (unless he requests them) and just stick with diapers, forget the potty, and just let him be.  We told him that he can tell us if he ever wants to try, and after a few weeks will begin the discussion again.  But for now, we are taking a total break.  There is nothing like the ER for a wake up call.  It doesn’t matter when he does it, just that he does it in a way that builds him up as a person.  It has to be on his schedule and his pace.  No one else matters.  And until he is done, when people ask us if he is potty trained, I will be confident in saying that a trip to the ER puts it all in perspective so no, not just yet.

EDIT: This post has been featured by Annie from PhDinParenting and Jennifer from Blogging ’bout Boys


  1. November 22, 2009 at 11:11 PM

    My nearly 3.5 yr old absolutely steadfastly refuses to use the potty too. He has never held it for that long, but this whole thing is so ridiculous to me. I have no idea what to do. People keep saying he won’t start kindergarten in diapers, but I don’t believe them one bit. I’m lost.

    • November 22, 2009 at 11:29 PM

      I so understand your frustration! I felt the same way until yesterday. Now, after going through that, I don’t even care if he does. Well, yeah, I do, but you know what I mean. I keep telling myself this:
      “He knew to tell me when he was hungry even before he could see me across the room. He has been able to get exactly what he needs from day one. He knows his body and is a smart little guy. When he feels ready he will tell me. He is very independent and there will be a day when he realizes that independence means the potty too.” That is what I am using to get me through the day.

  2. November 22, 2009 at 11:23 PM

    I think you are doing the exact thing your family needs.

    Forget how old he is, his needs are clearly being made. He isn’t ready.

    You are so very strong and I’m so honored to read your story. I’m waiting to hear that you’ve found a publisher and are getting this story out to families all over the world, if nothing else, to tell them they are not alone with a child that is MORE!

    How very scary and hard to know what to do.

    Sending you healing vibes, strength and patience for the coming months.

    Amber Morrisey

    • November 23, 2009 at 10:03 PM

      Thank you so much!!! I really appreciate your support!

  3. November 23, 2009 at 8:34 AM

    Crystal – wow, what a story. I don’t have experience with this yet, but I am feeling for you. Hang in there. When the time is right. And yes – you SHOULD write a book with all your experiences. You are doing a great job just following your mommy instincts!

  4. November 23, 2009 at 1:17 PM

    It doesn’t sound like you should be disappointed in yourself. It sounds like you are doing a great job in a difficult situation. I know a fellow mom who often describes her son much like you describe yours. He’s 5 now, I think, and I know potty training was very difficult for them too. She said he would hold it in and not go also. I can ask her for tips, although it sounds like you’ve tried it all and are doing the right thing now in giving him some more time. This parenting stuff is HARD, huh? (My son is only 2, so we haven’t even hit the potty stuff yet, but I’m not sure I’ll survive the sleep issues to make it to the potty issues some days).

    • November 24, 2009 at 10:13 PM

      I would love for her to visit and share any tips she has. This is part to just let moms of VERY strong willed children know they are not alone and part to allow a place for tips. Thanks so much!!

  5. November 23, 2009 at 3:11 PM

    How scary. Poor little guy. You are doing the right thing.

  6. November 23, 2009 at 9:57 PM

    Wow – what a story – when you said determined – I thought “that was my son” – but we had the opposite problem – he pooped in his pants for literally 8 months! He just didn’t care! He was good with the potty, but just didn’t care about poop – I even told him he could ask for a diaper – but he would just go in his pants. Those were the hardest 8 months of my life – thank god they are behind us! You will look back on this someday and say the same thing! My sister’s son went through a period where he refused to poop – wow – what a strong will!

    • November 23, 2009 at 10:06 PM

      Oh wow, I am sure that was frustrating!! It is amazing what little people will do when they get set in their minds. I am going crazy listening to him beg to have a perfectly clean diaper changed. JUST PEE FOR PETE’s SAKE!!

  7. Amy Brown
    November 23, 2009 at 9:59 PM

    Wow that sounds so scary! Just reading about it made me have to pee which made me realize how loooong 34 hours would be! Maybe you should write a book about it once you figure it out. My daughter is VERY stubborn and I bet I’ll be reading your book one day 😉
    I’d agree that you should take it as a cue from him that he’s clearly not ready. But like my sister told me once about walking.. you don’t see adults crawling around do you? One day she’ll walk (turns out she was waiting for her 1 year birthday party). You don’t see adults in diapers do you?
    good luck

    • November 23, 2009 at 10:05 PM

      I know, I have to pee just thinking about it!! haha It is crazy! In fact, as I sit here writing this, he is in bed begging me to change his dry diaper… this is our new thing. He whines and whines about for me to change his diaper but won’t let go and pee. It is not a whole day now, but he is still holding it. So frustrating! Ugh, I just hope he gets over this soon!!

  8. Kristi
    November 23, 2009 at 10:30 PM

    Wow I started crying when he peed. LOL You’re right, there aren’t any books out there for children like your son (& mine). It’s a shame because a lot of times I feel like no one understands. I’m glad that your little boy is doing much better. In time he’ll get there. Until then, it looks like he has everything he needs – the love & understanding of his mommy & daddy. -@TweetingMama

  9. November 23, 2009 at 10:38 PM

    Wow Crystal. That is a scary story.

    I’ve been feeling the same way a bit too…that none of the books, none of the advice really fit my child. I got a bit frustrated in a few conversations today that went along the lines of “all children [fill in the blank] and if they don’t it is the parents’ fault”. No. No. No.

    I agree that you should absolutely write a book.

    • November 24, 2009 at 10:16 PM

      Annie, that is something I battle all the time. It is a learning curve for me. I have had to grow (am still growing) a thicker skin. I have to KNOW in my heart that I am a good mother and he is a good kid because people definitely aren’t throwing out compliments at the grocery store. I know he is more rambunctious and a little wild and nutty, but he is perfectly fine. He is creative, smart, funny, sweet, and so inquisitive. The 5 minutes someone seems him making a mess or not sitting still in a restaurant is not the whole picture. It isn’t me being a bad mother, it is just who he is. I am getting really serious about this book idea. I have wanted to write one for a while… I have just been waiting for the topic to find me…

  10. Bre
    November 23, 2009 at 11:10 PM

    So glad he’s doing OK!!

  11. November 24, 2009 at 9:09 PM

    I have the female version of your child. No kidding. The only differences are that mine is only 2.5 and that her personality meshes nicely with mine. It’s very similar.

    My daughter WANTED out of diapers, so we switched to cloth trainers at her request. We used the cloth trainers for five or six days, and she never made a deposit in the toilet. Not ever. She’ll pee in her diaper and then tell us about it (as she did when she was naked or when she was in underwear), but she never tells ahead of time.

    We went back to diapers after a few days because she would hold her pee all day long. She peed one or two times a day. That’s it. She didn’t poop for eight days. 8 days! OMG, that is so much too long. It only happened on the 8th day because I used a glycerin suppository (after some discussion with her). So unfortunately, I don’t have any advice because I’m in the same boat. How do you not poop for 8 days? I can’t even imagine that.

    I’m really over the whole thing. She’s still young, and I’m going to wait it out. We’ll try again the next time she asks, but if she can’t relax and make a deposit in the potty, I’m not going to let it go for another week.

    • November 24, 2009 at 10:19 PM

      I am so sorry that you are facing this challenge too. On the positive, we will be even more battle ready next time! 🙂

      I am curious, is she pottying now in the diaper? We are facing this issue. He is still trying to hold it, just not so severely. He will beg (insist, demand, you name it) for us to change him even though he is dry. It is really maddening. I think it is getting better… will have to wait and see.

      I am over it all too. I am really hopeful that one day I will say “You want to try the potty” and he will say “yeah” and that will be it. Stay tuned… 🙂

  1. November 23, 2009 at 11:10 PM

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