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The topic for our DiaperFreeBaby meeting this month is EC’ing through transitions. Transitions are a big deal in our house. They’re hard for any kid, but they’re especially hard for my daughter.

When she was born, this was hard for me to adjust to. I’m a roll-with-the-punches kind of girl. I love to be spontaneous. But you can’t be very spontaneous when your child can only handle one outing per day and it has to happen between 10 am and 1 pm. Especially not if you want the outing to actually involve, you know, other people. And said child doesn’t wake up till 9:30, because she won’t fall asleep at night till after 11.

When I was pregnant with her, I planned for her to be a portable baby. The kind of baby you just pop in the sling and take with you anywhere. And she did have stages like that, but it was never really easy. She was always more affected by the environment than you’d expect of a child who never actually saw the environment because she was always enclosed in a sling. She’s a sensitive kid, and she’s aware of everything. Traveling, having visitors, even meeting new friends–any kind of change affects her strongly.

This past week, for example, my mother-in-law was visiting. My mother-in-law is wonderful (really!–I love her), and she is brilliant and creative and patient with my daughter, and my daughter adores her. We were all thrilled to have her and sad when she left. (And thanks again for folding all that laundry, Mom! You’re the best!) But despite the fact that her being here meant Anastasia got lots more adult attention than usual, despite the fact that someone was playing with her pretty much all day every day, despite the fact that Grandma brought lots of crafts and activities that Anastasia loves for them to do together–it still stressed her a little bit to have a visitor. Just because it’s different. Change is always hard, even good change.

And right now, our family is facing a big change–the biggest one in my daughter’s life so far. In a month or so, she’ll become a big sister. And even though she’s really excited about this, even though she’s old enough to handle it and to be a real help, even though she adores babies and can’t wait to have one she’s allowed to help with and play with–she’s still scared. Right now I’m seeing that on a daily basis. Which is okay. Of course she’s nervous–I am too. And she’ll need a lot of time and help to process this transition.

What does all this have to do with EC? For us–and I think for many kids–elimination is an early indicator. It’s the canary in the coal mine, so to speak: it tells you first when something is a little off. This week, for example, my daughter peed on the bed four times (and she’s been out of diapers at night for a year). I don’t know exactly why she suddenly had trouble with nighttime pees. It could have been because Grandma was visiting, or it could have been the time change. It could have been that the reality of becoming a big sister is starting to sink in. Or it could have been because she was coming down with a cold. I think after you’ve been doing EC for a while, you stop thinking of misses as related to pottying, and instead you see them as a symptom of something else. Figuring out what that something else is is the hard part. And usually you don’t know until after it passes.

Which brings up the question: what’s the point? How does EC help if it doesn’t actually give you a clue what’s wrong?

That’s easy: it’s because it tells you something is wrong. Of course there are lots of ways you can figure that out–EC is only one of them. But frequently, for us anyway, it’s the first one. When a toddler who’s usually continent suddenly starts having lots of misses, you know something is going on with her system. It’s an obvious signal that something is going on. So you become more patient. You become more attentive. You become more accepting of behavior that you wouldn’t normally tolerate. You watch and wait it out, and eventually it passes. At some point in retrospect, you realize what caused it. You learn a little more about your child, and you learn a little more about parenting. And you do it again the next time.

And in the meantime, well, you wash the sheets.