It was a phase that made me nearly certain it would be the new normal. Know the kind? Sure, he’s never been a napper, but all the way up to his first birthday, Paris was a happy baby who was a champion breastfeeder, an adventurous eater, and would rouse peacefully to nurse midway through the night. As we’d done Elimination Communication since five months, he was asking and signing to use the washroom, sometimes going right up to a toilet and lifting the lid, meaning my signal-reading had paid off and he’d taken the reins. BUT THEN, a belated birthday hangover of sorts. I woke up to a totally different baby. The kind that screamed at me relentlessly. And that was only the beginning.
WHAT WAS HE TRYING TO TELL US? I really tried to figure it out, but neither my husband nor I had a clue: not hungry, didn’t have to use a washroom, didn’t want to nurse… the one word he could get out sometimes was “down!” so we’d try to put him down but guess what? That wasn’t what he wanted either. To this day, I don’t think he knows what he was asking for! These episodes lasted an hour or so and my husband and I took shifts to try to help him through his over-the-top feelings be it middle of the night (bad dream?) or middle of the day (overtired?). We tried dancing to different kinds of music, redirecting his attention, asking questions we couldn’t even hear over his yelling, and googling like mad but still, he screamed. Now, since I’m a believer in babies crying to communicate, ignoring him wasn’t an option so there we were, holding a screaming child and trying everything that wasn’t working.
Up until these tantrums, I could normally calm Paris by nursing him but, sigh, yet another change had occurred: he was rejecting me. I only fed him once a day for about a week and then, one day, not at all. He would squirm away, push me back, and shake his head “no”. There really couldn’t have been a clearer sign unless he wrote one out for me. In my mind, that was it. I was done breastfeeding and I began to mourn those bonding moments immediately.
Paris had recently learned the sign for “cracker” and would stand at the pantry doing his approximation, yelling “ca!”, all of which I wouldn’t have minded except that he was also throwing away foods he didn’t want. Toast and peanut butter, which he would have relished days earlier, would get unceremoniously tossed from his high chair with a side of direct eye contact. I played it cool and used my disappointed-but-not-shaken face but inside I was absolutely cringing with frustration.
And the icing on the cake, he pooped his pants! The first time, I thought I’d missed his cue but the second time, I realized he was *defying me*. I know Paris is only a year old so this sounds petty but lemme tell you, if you’ve had a child on the potty for over half their lives and suddenly they’re rebelling, it’s a heartbreaker. After three or four days of scraping sh*t out of cloth diapers, my husband wondered if we should switch to disposables. I consulted a friend with elimination communication experience who suggested switching up where the potty is and just keeping on with it (thanks, Allison!), so that’s what we did. He kept on his soiling mission like he’d never seen a toilet in his life. “Where do you poop?” I asked him. “Da-buh,” he said, straightfaced. He was pointing at a diaper. OMG.
Finally, maybe ten days or two weeks in, we got a good night’s sleep where Paris didn’t wake up screaming, and in the morning he wanted to go to the potty. I almost cried, I was so happy! It was like a switch had flipped and over the next couple of days, things went back to normal. He wanted to nurse, he was eating vegetables… it was all just a phase after all.
I’ve talked about it with my parents about it who told me Petra went through the same kind of thing, which I can honestly say I do not recall. I guess that’s the thing about phases: when you’re in them, they seem never-ending and when you exit that tunnel, it’s full force ahead into whatever’s next. I’m writing in hopes I catch someone in the middle— no matter the regression or frustrating phase, it’s deflating as a parent when you can’t affect much change in the moment. Patience, persistence, and understanding are sometimes hard to muster but, in my experience, they’re key in getting through unscathed. I wasn’t perfect but I sure tried.