Ask any doula, and they’ll likely tell you that the skills we use as doulas also come in handy in other areas of our lives.
Encouragement, support, compassion and innate skill of soothing fears. Some of us even excel at helping others overcome mental and physical obstacles. So imagine my surprise when I find myself applying my doula skills in one of the most unlikely places. Potty training my toddler.
While I have permission to share, I won’t name the child. They deserve a little privacy and dignity. So I’ll call her Jane.
Baby Jane was about two when she began potty training, all on her own. I’d bought a little potty chair for her and just left it out around the house with no pressure to use it. Sometimes she’d bring it into the bathroom and go pee when I did, other times she’d ignore it totally. What she would not do was poop in the darn thing.
By three Jane had peeing in the big potty down pat. But pooping, that was a totally different story. She was so committed to not pooping in the potty that she’d wait all day, until right before bed when we put an overnight diaper on her to unload that burden she’d been bearing all day long. It was impressive. LIke impress the daddy impressive.
I racked my brain for weeks trying to figure out how to get her to just relax and let her poo out on the potty.
I was a big believer in not forcing the issue. Not making potty time traumatic, so I hadn’t pushed her. But that was all about to change.
On that fateful summer day she told me loud and clear that she had to do #2. We rushed into the bathroom, she sat on the potty and then came those little words. “I can’t.” Here we were again. So close, yet so far. I was racking my brain to find a way to help her.
Way in the back of my doula brain, an idea emerged.
“OK baby, I know you’re a little scared to poop on the potty, but your poopie is so close. Let’s just hold hands and take a few deep breaths.”
As we breathed and her arms relaxed her eyes shot open with fear as her tushie felt that poop move closer to its exit. We were breathing that poopie down.
This was it! This was the moment. We were closer than we’d ever been!
The doula skills went into overdrive. “It’s ok baby, that’s just your poop and it wants to come out. Let’s breathe together again, ok?”
“No mommy, diaper.”
“Baby, we can do this together. I’m right here. I promise that it won’t hurt. If you just let it go it’ll slip right out.”
“I know baby. Can you growl with me. Grrrrrrrrrr!”
“Grrr, oh!” tears start to swell in her eyes.
“You pooped?! Let’s look!!!”
“Look baby you pooped in the potty! Hey, that poopie kinda looks like Goofy. Can you make a Max poopie?” The Goofy Movie was a huge favorite here at the time.
“Let’s growl a little and see if Max will come out and join Goofy!”
“Grrr, Oh! Max!”
And for the next few minutes we named every single poop that came out of that tiny body after Disney characters. By the end of the week we’d covered The Lion King, The Goofy Movie, Beauty and the Beast and the Aristocats.
But by the next week we’d totally conquered the fear of pooping in the potty and my sweet girl was diaper free.
Support, encouragement and creativity have helped me assist clients in releasing their babies into the world. I never thought those skills would work so well for potty training too!