By Steve Hodges, M.D.
I once had a bedwetting patient whose giant poops clogged the toilet so often that her folks established a rule: summon Mom or Dad before you flush, so an adult can stand ready with a plunger. Once, her parents even had to cut the poop down to size with a butcher knife.
I am not making this up!
When parents tell me about their kids’ XXL toilet cloggers, they are stunned to learn that 1.) so much poop can be hiding in a child so small, 2.) giant poops are the number-one sign of constipation, and 3.) constipation is what’s causing their child’s bedwetting.
There are so many misconceptions floating around (pardon the pun!) about poop and about constipation. As a result, constipation goes undiagnosed or is undertreated, and kids feel crummy — or worse, suffer a host of stressful problems.
Constipation is by far the top cause of stomachache, potty-training difficulties, bedwetting, daytime pee and poop accidents (encopresis), recurrent urinary tract infections, frequent peeing, and urgency to pee. Yet many families and even physicians are unfamiliar with the signs of constipation. I hope Jane and the Giant Poop will help change all that!
The pooper was Jane/a strong girl who said/“Pooping is hard!”/and almost turned red.
The star of the book is Jane, a strong girl who loves karate and telling jokes. But lately she hasn’t been her sunny self. It hurts for her to poop, and often she has to pee really badly. And then one day her giant poop clogs the toilet:
Jane called for her mom
to come fix the blockage.
“Holy cow!” her mom cried,
“It’s a jumbo sausage!”
Soon Jane and her mom visit Dr. Pooper, who explains why Jane’s belly has been hurting, how she can fix the problem, and what healthy poop looks like.
“What you want to come out
is a soft, gloopy mound,
like a heap of frozen yogurt
that swirls round and round.”
Naturally, the book lends itself to some great visuals, and nobody illustrates poop like our artist, Cristina Acosta.
“Usually I paint beautiful creatures — bears and horses and hummingbirds,” says Cristina, whose works hang in galleries across the Northwest. “So painting poop was kind of a challenge. I didn’t want to gross people out. Or myself.”
While working on Jane, Cristina would post her paintings on Instagram. “People were mystified,” she says. “They’d say, ‘What is this crazy thing you’re doing?’”
But Cristina, who comes from a large family, got reassurance from the various nieces and nephews who previewed her illustrations. “They’re all under 10, and they thought the poop frozen yogurt and poop milkshakes were hilarious.”
They also learned a lot from the book, Cristina says. “They said, ‘Is that what my poop is really supposed to look like?’”
Some parents have asked me how Jane and the Giant Poop differs from our first children’s book, Bedwetting and Accidents Aren’t Your Fault.
For one thing, Jane is aimed at a broader audience — not just kids who have accidents (although they’ll have fun with it, too) but any child who is even occasionally constipated or is learning to use the toilet.
Potty training is prime time for children to develop the holding habit, so it’s important for kids and parents alike to start the process knowing the red flags. You can literally change the course of a child’s life by nipping constipation in the bud during potty training.
Jane and the Giant Poop should suit most kids ages 3 to 10. As one mom in our testing group put it, “The story was simple enough for my 4-year-old to follow while my 6-year-old was able to read it herself and ask questions along the way.” While younger children won’t be familiar with all the words, they’ll be able to follow along with Cristina’s illustrations.
My favorites are Jane trying to karate kick the toilet handle, Jane’s mom hurtling toward the toilet with a giant plunger, and our poop chart hanging in a museum, between the Mona Lisa and an Andy Warhol Soup Can.
Cristina is clever!
Jane and the Giant Poop is a goofy book, but the subject is no joke. Children in the developed world have exceedingly high rates of constipation, up to 30% in some populations, studies show, though I suspect that’s an underestimation.
I hope Jane and the Giant Poop finds its way into preschool classrooms and elementary school libraries and will get families talking about poop. It’s a big topic in my family, that’s for sure. Of course, with me as a dad, my three girls have no choice but to talk about poop all the time!
I’ll leave you with the final stanzas of Jane (spoiler alert!):
Jane was proud when she’d poop
a squishy cow patty.
“I bet it’s softer than yours!”
she’d say to her daddy.
It wasn’t long before
Jane’s poop turned to mush.
And forever after,
the toilet would flush.