I call our days living with encopresis The Nightmare I Lived Through. Even thinking about those days is something I don't like to do. My little guy was 5 when it started and it all happened without me really realizing what was going on. At the time I thought it was a daily problem, but looking back I realize now that he went over a year without pooping in the toilet, he held it so much that it leaked out bit by bit.
I toilet trained him between 2 and 3 and he was fully able to use the bathroom without any help. At 4 he gained a little sister and six months later we bought a house and moved into it. We moved locally so I didn't think it was traumatic, we kept all our friends, he just had a new and bigger house to play in.
One day he had an accident and soiled his pants. I did what any mom would do and cleaned up the mess, but then he had another and another. Soon I realized that he was never pooping in the toilet, all the excrement coming out of him was in the form of an accident.
In many respects he was a normal boy, he was somewhat hyperactive, but aren't all boys that age? What I did notice was that when he needed to have a bowel movement he would start to run around, as if he thought the movement of his body would somehow stop the movement of the fecal matter. The problem was it didn't. It slowly leaked out in liquid form making my child smell of poop.
When he did have an accident I would soak his underwear in the washer, which is fairly central in the house. Eventually there was always underwear soaking and so my house always smelled. It became impossible to invite anyone over. I would make sure I was up to date with the laundry and then just before a friend arrived my son would have an accident and the house would smell again.
He would get so engrossed playing that he would forget to use the bathroom, so when he played with his friends they would realize that he frequently smelled bad and so didn't want to play with him. He became unpopular as no one his own age wanted to play with him.
To start with I cleaned up the mess, and the next mess and even more mess. The accidents were multiple times a day because small amounts leaked out at a time. I couldn't go out in case he soiled himself in public and we had to deal with it. I began to resent this little person with the big problem. I felt I had too much to cope with and got upset with him every time he had an accident. I thought he could control it when in reality he couldn't. Somehow I imagined this little 5 year old was doing it on purpose just to be mean to me. I hated that problem, I hated him and I hated myself for being in the middle of it all.
My mother-in-law died and I was unable to go to the funeral because I couldn't leave my child with anyone else, but I couldn't take him with me. She was in a different country so it would have meant leaving my children with someone else for a week, or coping with them on a plane flight, neither of which I could do. My husband went, but I stayed, left alone to cope with the children and my own grief.
I began to wonder what exactly was wrong with my child. I tried laxatives, I increased his fiber intake but it didn't work. I somehow stumbled across the word encopresis and found others online with children with the same problem. I decided to talk to his doctor, but my son was embarrassed about the condition. He asked that we didn't talk to the doctor about it. I respected his wishes and searched for a solution online. Finally an online group gave me hope, I learned that it didn't last forever and also learned of some ways that I could help my son. Many people on the group had children with encopresis and ADHD, seemingly the two can be related. The more the child holds the bowel movement the more toxins stay in his body and so the ADHD symptoms multiply.
Realizing that my child wasn't doing it on purpose was a turning point. Also it was a big help for me to learn to stay emotionally neutral when dealing with him. Inside I was angry, but I didn't let him see that anger. I started to act as if it were not a big issue when it was huge. I stopped blaming him for the problem that he had no control over.
The encopresis group gave me hope as well as tricks and techniques to deal with the problem. The most important was the knowledge that it didn't last forever. Hope was in sight. I made the bathroom a pleasant place to be, there were books and little video games that he could only use in there. I encouraged him to try after ever meal. I helped him take time to sit and relax in the bathroom, just in case anything should happen in there.
I massaged his tummy, encouraged him to cough while sitting and gave him balloons to blow up while sitting on the pot. Slowly it became a fun thing that if he was constipated and he blew up a balloon, a poo would come out. Apparently blowing into a balloon or coughing relaxes other muscles that children with encopresis hold tight.
My son was homeschooled through Kindergarten and 1st Grade, but in 2nd grade he started school. He did have occasional relapses but most of the time he was able to cope, make friends and not have them reject him for lack of bodily functions.
The nightmare was over.
For more details read this article How to Deal with Encopresis in Children