Back in the summer, when the doctor diagnosed the stomach aches my daughter had been having intermittently for a year as chronic constipation, he warned us that, without making dramatic changes, it would come back. So she cried and retched her way through a box of chocolate medicine (and cured herself, thank goodness) and the doctor prescribed her another box to put away for a rainy day.
As a result of the tummy aches, my daughter made a small change to her diet – a daily banana and small carton of smoothie. Of course, she needs to do a a lot more, but she is both fussy and stubborn. She will sit at the table for hours pushing sweetcorn round her plate (and don’t even mention peas or, God forbid, carrots or broccoli – those things will never happen). I hope that, in time, she will eventually learn to like more foods and she can keep her stomach on track. But, in the meantime, a banana and a smoothie is as good as it gets. (And we do have to make an extra special effort to remember them at the weekend and in school holidays.)
On 22nd December, she had a bedtime tummy ache. She was crying and couldn’t get to sleep. She got out of bed and sat on the settee for a while. In the end, the only way to settle her was to let her drop off to sleep in our bed (before we went to bed) and move her to her own bed later. On 23rd December, again at bedtime, the tummy ache was much worse. There were more tears, there was a long time sat on the toilet and the sick bowl came out (although thankfully it wasn’t needed). Again, she ended up settling down to sleep in our bed.
I feared she might not make it for the Santa train on Christmas Eve, or even that she might be ill on Christmas day.
And I realised it was deja vu. We’d been here before – the tummy aches, the tears, the being unable to sleep, the settling down in Mummy and Daddy’s bed…
The chronic constipation was back.
The next day, I talked to her about how she needed to start taking the chocolate medicine again. And she cried. And I felt so cruel, because it was Christmas Eve, for goodness sake! Who wants to make their child do something that upsets them on Christmas Eve? But surely medicine has to be better than a tummy ache that is so bad it makes you cry?
But I didn’t push it.
There were more tummy aches, although not quite as bad. I gave her a couple of hot baths, which seemed to relieve them. But the problem wasn’t going away. There was only way it would go away. And it involved a small dose of chocolate flavour medicine.
On the evening of 27th December, she finally agreed, reluctantly, to take the medicine. But she was in bits. She was in floods of tears and shaking at the mere sight of it. She had a glass of water and a sweet to help wash it down. But she was terrified. Sobbing and gasping for breath. She kept counting herself down, but then finding she couldn’t actually do it.
Eventually she took it. Very slowly, with tears rolling down her cheeks. But she took it. She took it the next morning too. But we’d left it too late.
The tummy ache was back after lunch, it didn’t even wait for bedtime. It lingered all day. I knew the medicine would work, but it would take a few days. The only thing which would really help was sleep.
Way back before she was diagnosed, I always thought the tummy aches were to do with nerves. When they started getting really bad at the end of December, we were away at my mother-in-law’s and my boys were winding her up. And I realised that, although not caused by nerves, they are certainly made worse by them.
My girl has an irrational fear of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (the Johnny Depp version of the film). I have no idea why. She probably watched it when she was too young, although she wasn’t actually scared when she watched it, only afterwards. Every now and then, my boys say something about it to upset her. They were showing off to their second cousin by talking about Oompa Loompas and playing songs on YouTube. Later in the day, my eldest wrote a few words of the Oompa Loompa song on a bit of paper and chucked it at her.
And I was left with a girl in floods of tears, unable to get the film out of her head, sat on the toilet in terrible pain, begging to go home.
I thought the medicine would start to kick in, but on New Year’s Day she was still in pain and crying at bedtime. She didn’t manage to settle down to sleep until 11.20. I hoped the medicine would start to take effect soon because she wouldn’t manage school if she wasn’t getting to sleep until gone 11 at night. I started to question again whether it really was constipation or whether she might have IBS. I had noticed she had started to avoid certain foods which she had realised would be more likely to trigger her tummy aches – the exact sorts of foods I would avoid to minimise IBS.
I decided it was time to go back to the doctor’s.