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  • Writer's pictureSarah Swindell

It's a Little Messy

Updated: Jan 30, 2021

I was going to write about something else, but changed my mind after thinking about it for a while today. It has been one of those weeks where Dawson isn't sleeping well, and seems be in some sort of discomfort on and off.

There are two things that are always front and center when it comes to Dawson, and the most challenging. They are sleep and poop.

I am sure most of you will quickly click off this page, which I totally understand. It is a messy subject, so hang with me if you can. This whole book is about being real, honest, and addressing subjects that are uncomfortable, and this is one of them.

Ever since Dawson was 2 years old, poop has always been a daily topic of conversation around our house. Our daughters' significant others would always ask,“why do you guys always talk about poop?” To our family, poop talk is no different than other people talking about having a running nose, a little cough, or heart burn.

Dawson was diagnosed with Inflammatory Bowel Disease around age three, shortly after the autism diagnosis. I will dive more into that, and what I believe was the cause in my book because it deserves more than a few sentences.

This poor child was in so much abdominal pain from his bowel disease, that he was covered in bruises for almost a year from beating his own body against any hard surface he could find. We were told he was probably doing that to deflect from the pain he was feeling.

Hurting himself made him feel better, and it was horrific to sit back and watch. We had to video tape him so people wouldn’t think we were the ones causing all those bruises. He wouldn’t let us hug him or comfort him while he was thrashing around, and as a mother, it hurt my soul when he would push me away.

The only thing that would bring him comfort, was when he would finally poop, but it was always either too much, or not enough it seemed like. It constantly felt like we were on DEFCON 5 poop alert. He pooped in the bathtub almost nightly, and his favorite place of all, swimming pools. I have purchased and tried every swim diaper ever made, and none would keep things "contained". Lets's just say we finally stopped getting invited to pool parties, and trust me, you never wanted to swim in ours.

He wore diapers until he was 11-years-old, and finally got out of wearing a night time diaper at sixteen. Most young men might get a new car when they turn sixteen, Dawson got big boy underwear!

For 14 years he was on a low dose chemotherapy pill, and other meds to try and control his disease, and for the most part he is finally better. But even today, his behavior is still centered around if he has pooped lately or not. He still seems to be in massive pain just before it happens, and his 6’3” frame will twist and contort in full Cirque du Soleil fashion, just not near as often as it used to. His current teacher lovingly will text me when he seems to be in pain at school, that she is on “poop patrol.” God bless her!

Ahhhh, moving on the next subject. As for the sleep portion in todays story, that is still my biggest complaint when it comes to our sweet, sleepless son. For some reason, this week has been rough as far as him sleeping. We have tried everything from melatonin, to hard core sleep medications over the years. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Last night, we heard him in the kitchen at 2:30am thinking it was time to rise and shine.

Some nights, he will do a full on Linda Blair imitation of the Exorcist, and I am not exaggerating in that you have to see it to believe it. Again, no idea why and no doctor can explain it, or help us.

The ONLY part that was good about the nine years Greg and I were divorced, was that we got to take turns with him, and briefly got to catch up on much needed mental and physical rest. For a few days we would get to experience what “normal” life is, a life that we forgot even existed. Because of our daughter Sophia, we are now able to get away every once in a while, when she is not in school. That amazing girl deserves a halo for sure!

So yes, I could write a book just on sleep and poop, as we are more experienced in these two subjects than we would like to be. This is a forever situation for us, and we never stop trying to help him be the happiest he can be, and for the most part, he is.

We talk and laugh about it a lot because we have to, there is no other way to deal with it. It is a huge part of our everyday life just like having heart burn is to others, it’s just a little messier.

Sarah Swindell's memoir, Rounding Home, is now available here!

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