I’ve had lower back pain sporadically, a few times a year, since about five years ago. I think it may have started when I fell on my butt snowboarding on Sugarbush resort in Vermont. I remember the mildly shell-shocked sensation of my tail bone hurting throughout that day.
Since then, I think my back hurt for a day or so every time I had my period and also when I wore high heels for several hours. So, I remember my back would hurt for 2-3 days every time after a firm holiday party at the end of each year, where I had to wear heels for 2+ hours. But the pain was never bad enough, or consistent enough, to get treated.
My sedentary job, rather than any snowboarding incident, could have been the genesis of what I would later discover is a disc problem. Or, the root of my disc problem could’ve been carrying 15 lbs of weight on my belly while pregnant. Maybe it’s snowboarding falls, law firm job, and pregnancy all combined that caused my back injury.
Then Dash happened. Weirdly, throughout the nine month pregnancy, the back pain had disappeared completely. Pregnancy hormones are powerful stuff.
I was also back pain free during labor and for four weeks after Dash’s birth.
But the lower back pain came back with a vengeance around four weeks post partum. It did not go away after a few days, as it used to for the past 4+ years. The pain did not go away and was there every day, day and night. I had to start taking Ibuprofen twice every day, not because of any post partum pain, but because of lower back pain.
The pain, in fact, spread down to my right leg. I researched online and quickly identified my symptoms as sciatica. Sciatica stems from a pinched nerve, which is when a nerve is pinched because a disc is bulging out or herniating out of the spine and touching the roots of the nerve lines.
When Dash was about six weeks old, I went to see a chiropractor three times. Her treatment was around 5-10 minutes and minimal. I think her treatment made my pain worse.
Early Jan. 2019:
So I went to see a family doctor, who agreed that I might have a pinched nerve and ordered me an MRI. I got the MRI test when Dash was around ten weeks old. The result was posted on my online health board as soon as I was leaving the MRI office. It confirmed that I had a bulging disk at the L5-S1 disk.
My family doctor then sent me to a Physical Rehabilitation and Medicines doctor. The PRM doctor made me move my knees and feet and confirmed that, fortunately, I have no nerve damage. She said I have a moderately bulging disk and that I just need to go to physical therapy and learn exercises to cope with the pain and to grow ab strength. She made it seem like a once bulged or herniated disc cannot easily be un-bulged or un-herniated.
I also started going to Bikram hot yoga every day when Dash was eight weeks old, to see if it would ease my back pain. To my delight, even after just one session of Bikram, my back and leg felt much better. I started alternating Bikram and hot pilates every day, to build more core strength. The pain became so much less that I was finally able to stop taking Ibuprofen completely.
I went to physical therapy twice a week for four weeks, as the PRM doctor prescribed me. Each session was an hour to an hour and a half.
Not sure if it is my daily hot yoga or hot pilates or the twice weekly PT, but my leg pain went away. But back pain remained, and sometimes got worse. I am now back to taking Ibuprofen twice daily.
We started elimination communication (EC) with Dash when he was 2.5 months (11 weeks) old. He pees or poops in a regular adult toilet (with a toilet seat reducer) 2-4 times a day almost every day. After he poops in the toilet, I just blot his butt with two squares of toilet paper, flush the toilet, diaper him, and I’m done! He is diapered 24/7.
What is EC?
EC refers to potty training an infant, including from birth. It involves making a pssst sound and holding the baby in a potty/toilet position whenever the baby pees or poops, thereby helping the baby associate that sound and that posture with bodily elimination. That way, when you hold the baby over the potty/toilet and make that sound, the baby will eliminate.
How Do I EC?
I seat Dash on a miniature infant potty or a toilet seat reducer and make the pssst sound a few times. I also make the sound when he actually starts peeing or pooping into the potty/toilet. After about 4-5 minutes on the potty/toilet, regardless of whether he went or not, I give him the ASL sign for “all done” and take him off the potty/toilet and diaper him.
What Got Me Into EC?
I first learned about EC when I read online that Gisele Bündchen potty trained her kids to be diaper-free by the time they were each six months old. At that time, I was skeptical and had assumed that EC would take much money and time to practice.
But I was wrong. I was able to EC with success, at least part time, using half-hearted effort and no nannies or money being poured into EC.
Thank you Gisele. I like that you worry about landfills. I do too.
How Did I Start EC’ing?
I read an EC book, then I ordered online a miniature infant potty (TinyUndies infant potty), which is somewhat difficult to find in this country. Then I just started seating him on the potty at the times that are known to be “easy catch” EC times, such as during diaper changes, during or after feeding, and before and after placing him in a car seat or a baby carrier.
I caught three pees and poops on his first day of EC’ing. On his fourth day of EC’ing, I caught 12! That was the most I’ve caught so far. EC was a smooth sailing success right from the beginning.
After a few days of doing EC and realizing that EC is completely doable, I ordered online a toilet seat reducer (Prince Lionheart weePOD), and that is what Care Bear and I primarily use for EC’ing. Much easier than cleaning up the potty.
I skipped the “observation” stage of EC, where you keep the baby diaper-free and half-naked for a few hours to learn what bodily and facial expressions the baby makes when the baby pees or poops. I didn’t want to deal with the clean up. It turns out the observation stage was not needed for Dash. He started peeing/pooping multiple times on the potty on his first day of EC’ing anyways.
How Do I Clean the Potty?
We dump the contents into the toilet, spray water into the potty over the toilet to get the remaining content out, spray the inside of the potty with a disinfectant, slush the disinfectant around with some water and discard, run the potty under hot water for a few seconds, and shake the water off the potty.
Suffice to say that we rarely use the infant potty any more, because flushing the toilet is less work than washing out the potty.
How Do I Know When to Take Him to the Potty?
The known “easy catch” times include: 1) During feeding or about 10 min after feeding. 2) During diaper changes. You take the diaper off, wipe him with a wet wipe if needed, then seat him on the toilet. 3) Before and after bath time. 4) Before and after Dash is in the car seat or the baby carrier, because babies don’t like to eliminate in that bucket seat or carrier position. 5) After waking in the morning and before bed time.
I usually don’t bother looking for whether Dash signals for potty. I focus on making “easy catches”, whenever I have time and energy, regardless of whether he signals. Signal reading is difficult because you are often not looking at him, for example, when you cook or do laundry. EC’ing using the “easy catch” times is simpler and more stress-free.
An exception is, during feeding, he sometimes signals for toilet. He pops off the nipple and looks at me with an “I need you” alarmed look. An easy and tell tale sign that he needs to poop, and I’m right much of the time (i.e., he poops when I potty him). Another potty signal I learned that Dash makes is going from quiet and not moving to loud and flailing around, or vice versa.
After starting EC for a few days, I’ve come to learn his poop pattern. His first or second poop in the morning is usually the largest (“poop storm”). It happens anywhere from 10 am to noon, though he once did not make his first big poop until 2:30 pm. The first big poop happens usually after eating two or three feedings.
By three months old, he was pooping only 3-5 times a day. The last one can be anywhere from 4:40 pm to 10 pm. But usually, his last poop is in the early evening.
I think doing EC helped me figure out his poop pattern pretty quickly. If I catch that first big poop in the morning, then I’m off to a good EC day start and feel happy and accomplished.
How Do I Know When Dash Is Done at the Potty?
When he is about to pee or poop on the potty/toilet, he is usually looking down and concentrating on eliminating. He has a concerned face and avoids my eye contact. When he is done with his pee or poop, he usually becomes talkative or starts making noises, looks around the bathroom, makes eye contact with me, becomes interested in the toilet paper, or smiles at me. A lot of times, we can’t tell if he is done. We usually wait about 4-5 minutes then take him off the potty/toilet.
What About Cloth Diapers or Compostable Diapers?
When Dash was born, we had signed up for a compostable diaper service, where they drop off diapers and pick up dirty diapers weekly. The service takes the dirty diapers to a special facility for composting, and not to landfills. But to my and Care Bear’s great disappointment, the compostable diapers leaked EVERY TIME, even in two different sizes.
As far as cloth diapers, I gave it a try, sort of, once. And got scared (of the clean up) and quit.
I made it a goal to make at least one catch every day. But, even when I don’t try hard, I automatically and easily end up catching one or two if I follow at least some of the “easy catch” times, e.g., during a diaper change or before bath time.
Times when we do not EC are when we have visitors, when we are out and about or traveling (although I caught a pee at an Airbnb in Tahoe yay), and when I am sick or Dash is sick.
What Happens When Dash Goes to Day Care?
We will probably EC him only in the morning and at night at home. That is less than ideal, but EC’ing part time will still help Dash keep in touch with his elimination sensation and help him know that his momma and pappa are there for him at home to tend to his elimination needs.
Once Dash starts crawling and walking, we will probably encourage him to use the infant potty again by himself and, when he is bigger, use toilet steps to use the toilet seat reducer by himself.
Cons of EC
More physical exertion for the parents than exclusively diapering. EC involves lifting the baby up and down to seat him on the toilet and waiting for him to eliminate. EC is #notforlazyparents.
When Care Bear and I are so engrossed on our laptops and are feeling lazy, even when we hear Dash fussing to be pottied, I just tell Dash “go in your diaper” and let him be. My goal is to just catch one catch a day anyways.
Pros of EC
1 – EC is yet another way to meet Dash’s needs.
Pottying Dash is one of the several ways to stop Dash from fussing when he fusses. In other words, sometimes Dash fusses because he wants to pee or poop and need our help in order to do so. Care Bear or I swoop in to meet his elimination needs and take him to the toilet. Dash is happy because he relieved himself, and without smearing dirty poop all over his butt, and parents are happy because we can see that the baby is satisfied with our effort.
We know Dash does not like the feeling of sitting on his poop, because he usually gets cranky 5-10 min after pooping in his diaper. If EC is going well that day and we catch the poops before they happen in his diaper, then the fuss and crankiness are altogether avoided.
2 – EC helps Dash be aware of, and control, his elimination sensation.
I believe Dash knows what is happening because sometimes he holds his pee or poop until we potty him. He has pretty much never peed or pooped during a diaper change since we started EC’ing him. And sometimes, he wakes up in the morning with a completely dry–no poop OR pee!–diaper. When we potty him first thing in the morning after he opens his eyes, he lets out a big, yellow pee into the potty. Again, Dash feels satisfied, and parents feel accomplished.
3 – Dash gets playful during potty time.
Dash smiles and coos a lot when I seat him on the toilet. It is part of our bonding time.
4 – EC just makes sense to us and maintains Dash’s dignity.
Once we started EC’ing, we could not go back. Care Bear was skeptical and did not EC with me the first few days of EC’ing. But he eventually started taking Dash to the potty voluntarily. Blotting Dash’s butt with just a bit of toiler paper is much easier than cleaning the nasty poop out of his reproductive and excretory organs and all the crevices on his thighs. How could we let Dash carry around his toilet in his diaper, when we could help him eliminate in the real toilet?
So, in a way, when we started EC’ing, we sometimes used more diapers than if we had not EC’ed, because we felt so bad about making him sit on his poop. We could not help but change his diaper as soon as he pooped. That still happens these days, when we “miss” (EC term for accidents) those big poops. But, for the most part, I think we use at least one or two less diapers a day on average, as a result of EC’ing part-time effectively.
Changing a blowout poopy diaper sometimes makes me make disgusted facial expressions and sounds even when Dash is looking at me. I don’t want him to think that I think he is disgusting. When I potty him, for the most part, Dash is a happy fella and we are all smiles, especially after a big poop into the toilet. More positive interaction and less negative interaction.
Growth: Started wearing size 1 diapers at the beginning of the second month.
Height – 0.6 m (1′ 11”) (46th percentile)
Weight – 5.8 kg (12 lb 11 oz) (57th percentile)
Head circumference – 38.5 cm (15.2″) (27th percentile)
Developmental milestones: Smiles back; coos profusely at toys; can grab my hair (but the hair pulling did not get painful for me until he was three months old).
Loves: Staring at lights, including screens (e.g., when I work on my laptop, TVs at restaurants).
Sleeps: 7-8 hours at night in one stretch. He usually gets swaddled in the velcro Ollie swaddle (the best and the only swaddle blanket you need) around 9:30 pm – 12 am and wakes up around 5:30 am. The fullness of my chest started to wake me up around 5:30 am as well because by that time they feel like they are about to explode. So Dash and I wake up together, needing each other, Dash for food and me for pain relief.
Dash is such a good sleeper that he does not need to be “put to sleep” by us. He puts himself to sleep. Sometimes we have to rock his Dock-a-Tot or sing to him (at most, three songs) for him to fall asleep. But, the majority of the time, we lay him down in his Dock-a-Tot in his crib when he is still awake but drowsy (e.g., he yawned or rubbed his eyes or he has sleepy, heavy-lidded eyes), turn off the light and leave the room. Then he just falls asleep. We turn on the air filter for white noise when he sleeps and turn it off in the morning when he awakes.
Feeding: Still exclusively breast fed. He is a good eater. His latch is sometimes still bad, i.e., not wide enough, so my breasts are sore sometimes. I realized that two of my nursing bras are too tight and hurt my breasts. It took me a while to realize that the small bras were sometimes the culprit for my sore breasts.
I had used regular pillows for nursing. But I got a used My Brest Friend pillow a few days before Dash turned two months old, and oh boy, I was silly to not have used it earlier. It makes breast feeding go a lot smoother and more efficient.
Highlights: Four-day trip to LA for his first X-mas, NYE slumber party at friend’s.
Our favorite facial expressions of Dash: Thankfully, he still POUTS (the nurse at the pediatrician’s office said “Aww, he still pouts!”); the silent, breathless, red scream face he made when he got his first vaccination shot; still sleeps with his arms up in superman position or DJ position.
Nicknames we call Dash: chunkster, chubster, stinker (when he fusses at night), sleeping champ. Old ones we still call him: package, old man, 고객님 (“dear customer”).
Miscellanous: Must cut fingernails every 4-5 days, but still have yet to cut his toe nails since birth. He still has yet to cry us a river.
Umma’s recovery: Went to chiropractice three times for lower back pain. Started doing Bikram yoga and hot Pilates seven weeks post partum, to build core strength to alleviate lower back pain.
Memorable moments or thoughts:
1. I love that Dash looks at least a little bit like Care Bear. Care Bear’s face makes me happy, so to have one more face that looks like Care Bear makes my life even happier. Double the face, double the love!
2. When I took him to the pediatrician’s office for his first vaccinations, the nurse came in with a tray of needles and other supplies. As I was holding Dash down on the bed to get him ready for the shots, I said to Dash “I’m glad I’m not you.” And the nurse cracked up! She said she did not hear anyone say that before. She is probably used to mothers saying things like “I wish I could take the shots in your place my baby!” I hated needles when I was a kid.
“I am grateful for a easy, happy baby . . . “
3. I am grateful for a easy, happy baby, who sleeps and eats well and does not cry much. We are blessed. We are spoiled parents.
Dash has been hiking in the bay area with us since he was two weeks old. I try to take him out every day, sometimes for two hours at a time. Sometimes I use the car seat stroller. Sometimes I use the baby carrier.
There are several trails within walking distance from our apartment. Below are pictures from when we walked to the Shoreline Golf Links and the Bay Trail, taking a pedestrian overpass over Highway 101.
For Christmas holidays, we decided to take a road trip down the famed, scenic “All-American Road” State Route 1 to LA. Dash was six weeks old.
We left on Friday evening after Care Bear’s work. We stayed overnight at a hotel in Carmel-by-the-Sea.
The next day, we spent the whole day sight seeing different parks, beaches, and places on State Route 1, including at Big Sur. We had a late dinner at Santa Barbara at a New Orleans cajun joint, where I had amazing shrimp scampi, one of my favorite Western dishes. Then we arrived in LA and spent four nights at an Airbnb in Korean Town in LA.