My twin pregnancy was full of scary complications and more twist and turns than a Gillian Flynn novel. When my boys finally came into this world after three hours of pushing, a complication with my epidural during surgery that almost caused me to lose consciousness, and finally an emergency c-section delivery, my sons were seven weeks early. Experiencing contractions for the first time was, without a doubt, the most pain I've ever been in, and I hated feeling a lack of control over my body when they hit. But here is something they don't tell you when they hand over your beautifully adorable, perfect little babies: giving birth is nothing compared to potty training, because potty training is hell on earth. No, they save that secret as a special kind of hell for you to discover on your own.
Once I was sure my teeny, tiny boys were the good hands of the NICU and were going to pull through, I remember having two very distinct (but equally important) thoughts: the first being whether my husband would be willing to go get me a burger and fries, because I was starving, and the second was that as scared as I was to become a parent, there's no way anything about raising two boys could be as bad as delivering them.
I was so, so wrong.
Up until recently, this was true. In the past three years I've handled round-the-clock feedings, both kids being hospitalized for RSV (a respiratory infection), an ER visit for stitches after a run in with the edge of the bath tub, countless colds and stomach bugs, nightmares, the particular breed of torture that is a tantrumming 2 year old (times two), and still, I would go through all of that forever, Groundhog Day-style over reliving my labor. Nothing I've handled so far as a mom was difficult for me as labor was. That is, of course, until the boys started potty training.
I've been trying to interest my kids in using the potty since they turned 2, but it's only recently that they've viewed the plastic potty as anything other than a hat. Even though our monthly diaper budget and underwear accidents are ever so slowly declining, there are days when I worry I'll have to interrupt their college graduation ceremonies to ask if they need to use the potty, and if not, to just, "try for me and I'll give you a cookie."
We can't have a laundry line at our condo and I hate using the dryer for less than a full load, so our entire front hall is strung up with what looks, from a distance, like Tibetan prayer flags, only it's toddler underwear... covered in cartoon-inspired prints.
The lazy part of me loved that, during labor, I wasn't responsible for cleaning any messes. Even with a sheet covering my lower half, I have a good idea of what on down there: like one of Dexter's kill rooms when all was said and done, and I'm grateful that it wasn't on me to clean it up. Thanks to those disposable mesh underwear my nurses sent me home with, I managed to get off without scrubbing out panties post-delivery. And even though I like to clean when I'm in the mood, now that we're in the thick of potty training my boys, my home will never, ever be confused for the ones you'd find in a magazine spread.
I've had to hand wash so many pairs of colorful briefs that I find myself unconsciously humming the soundtrack from Cinderella whenever one of my boys has an accident. We can't have a laundry line at our condo and I hate using the dryer for less than a full load, so our entire front hall is strung up with what looks from a distance like Tibetan prayer flags, only it's toddler underwear... covered in cartoon-inspired prints. (And if anyone knows how to get the smell of dried urine out of a floor heating vent, please let me know, because so far my method of squirting room-freshening spray down there and lighting a candle isn't doing much.)
Last week I went to the bathroom and came out to find the boys had opened an umbrella indoors and were, as they put it, "splashing in puddles." I'll let you figure out where those puddles came from. I suppose it could have been worse. At least they weren't playing with "mud."
Here's the thing, though. When I was in the throes of labor, I felt relatively no judgment. I was free to moan, pace, rock, scream, and even poop on the table, though, in my case, I stuck to telling my husband (who thought it was a good idea to eat a garlic pizza for dinner and not brush his teeth before we left for the hospital) to stay far, far away from me. I was lucky enough to feel little to no embarrassment in birth. But potty training 3 year olds, as it turns out, is full of 'tude, especially when you're trying to wrangle two judge-y little twerps.
I've been teaching the boys the bathroom process, not just using the toilet but flushing and washing your hands too. The other day we were in a crowded store bathroom and, seeing a long line for the sinks, I decided to use the hand sanitizer in my purse instead of wait. My boys were having none of it. "Mommy, you need to wash your hands after you potty," Lolo yelled at me. "Right now, Mister!" added Remy. With the entire bathroom starting at me in disgust, I made the walk of shame to the end of the line.
I also took for granted how much downtime you have during labor compared to potty training. The few hours I labored without an epidural were something I never want to experience ever again, but once the beautiful angel known as the anesthesiologist came to see me, things were pretty chill for a while. My parents and partner and I sat around waiting for me to dilate. Were it not for all the monitors and cords and my brief contractions, you'd think we were hanging out at home. I even spent some time watching House Hunters, and I was mad that I was wheeled into push before seeing what house they picked, though I hope they went with number two because that kitchen was amazing.
When friends and family found out that my water broke and I was in labor, I was inundated with messages, posts, and phone calls wishing me good luck. I would've put on a pair of sunglasses and demanded for my assistant to hold my calls had I not been busy with the whole contractions and labor thing. But, as it turns out, no one wants to hear about how potty training is going on social media — not even my kids' grandparents.
With potty training, there is no relaxing. All it takes is turning my attention to my phone for three minutes to answer a work email and suddenly the Mississippi is flowing through my living room. Last week I went to the bathroom and came out to find the boys had opened an umbrella indoors and were, as they put it, "splashing in puddles." I'll let you figure out where those puddles came from. I suppose it could have been worse. At least they weren't playing with "mud."
When I was in labor, there was a team of nurses (not to mention my partner) cheering me on and trying to keep my spirits up. I thought I had turned in my pom poms when I graduated, but potty training kids requires praise, and lots of it. There's only so much enthusiasm one can fake over poop, especially when you know you're the one who has to scrub out the plastic potty that smell is coming from. Lately I've been keeping myself entertained by changing the lyrics to songs and making them potty-themed. For instance, in my house Justin Bieber's "Sorry" now sounds like this:
Is it time for you to go potty? Cause I, think that you should come pee with Mommy. Is it too late now to go potty? Cause I want you to pull your diaper down; it's not to late to go potty now.
And potty training my kids is leaking (ugh) into every aspect of my social life. My friends (both online and IRL) were way more excited to talk about my labor than they are potty training. When friends and family found out that my water broke and I was in labor, I was inundated with messages, posts, and phone calls wishing me good luck. I would've put on a pair of sunglasses and demanded for my assistant to hold my calls had I not been busy with the whole contractions and labor thing. But, as it turns out, no one wants to hear about how potty training is going on social media — not even my kids' grandparents. Honestly, I can't blame them.
Sometimes being a stay-at-home mom gives me tunnel vision and I forget that not everyone feels the same joy I feel when my kids do something mundane, which is exactly what happened when how I posted on Facebook to commemorate both boys for finally getting all their poop in the potty. (Yeah, it's been like that.) I knew better than to post a photo (though the boys insisted I take one to show Daddy later), but I did post a Facebook status about their accomplishment. My mom swears she didn't know what she was doing when she unfollowed me, but I have my suspicions.
I'm sure once my kids are past the potty training stage (assuming we ever get there), just like labor, the details will start to fade and it won't seem that bad in retrospect. Or the horror of teaching them to drive will replace potty training as my least favorite parenting task. But until then I'm here with my rain boots and bleach spray, thinking about how good the chocolate pudding was in the maternity ward, disgusted by how that joke would play out now.