Unfortunately, like MANY families, we’ve had to contend with childhood constipation. While both had their moments, one of my little ones (at around three years of age), suffered terribly. Poo anxiety led to withholding, which led to painful and frequent constipation. To the extent that play dates, family outings, and even travel plans to visit relatives were being canceled.
Seeking Digestive Information for Young Readers
It occurred to me that providing a clear explanation of what exactly was happening inside (and coming out) of the body, as we eliminate waste, might help reduce the anxiety. I looked for an age-appropriate book that would deliver this important information in a clear, accessible way. Surprisingly, I could not find a single one. While there was no shortage of “poop books”, most were silly, fun books. These are great in their own way, but not so helpful for educating little ones on an important topic.
Creating My Own Source, Out of Necessity
Any books that accurately addressed digestion were geared toward much older children. Unable to find what I was looking for, I drew my own, very rough diagram of the process. It began with a little kid eating, then going about their day. Next, it showed what was happening to the food, as it broke down inside the body. The process ended with the kid sitting on the potty. I reviewed this diagram with my little one on the toilet.
Though it wasn’t an immediate cure, there was no doubt that the drawings and discussion about digestion led to greatly reduced poo anxiety. This successful outcome ultimately inspired me to write:
My goal was to offer an easy way for the caregivers of all little ones to provide a reassuring explanation about what’s going on inside their growing bodies. This needed to be written in a language that young readers could understand. The book pairs light-hearted, simple rhymes with whimsical illustrations to keep little ones engaged, ensuring the message gets across.
Enlisting Support Along the Way
After consulting with family, friends, and many pediatricians, it became apparent that there was definitely a need for a book like mine. However, it felt crucial to have participation from a medical professional (not being one myself) to ensure all of the information was accurate. Enter my mother-in-law, 40+ year career pediatrician, Natalie Gehringer. Her participation in this project gave me the confidence I needed to self-publish From Chewing to Pooing and put it out into the world. In addition to ensuring the book’s accuracy, Natalie also contributed the highly praised “Doctor’s Tips For Healthy Digestion,” at the back of the book. These tips, directed at caregivers, provide specific steps for battling childhood constipation. And, as the title suggests, they help little ones achieve healthy digestion.
Since I’m a first-time author and self-publisher, I knew I wanted to work with an experienced illustrator, so From Chewing to Pooing would at least look professional. I hit the jackpot when I came across award-winning children’s illustrator, Maile McCarthy. As soon as I saw her portfolio, I knew she was the perfect artist for my book.
Her work was joyful, colorful, and exuded curiosity. Her style of layering cut paper results in a unique, textured appearance, that is both simple and warm. This was JUST the look I wanted for From Chewing to Pooing. It was hugely important to me that the book’s illustrations convey its sterile, clinical content in a way that was appealing and non-threatening to young readers.
Tweak & Release
Maile and I hit it off right away, and I was over the moon when she agreed to collaborate on the book. It was immediately apparent that she understood exactly why I was writing it, and the helpful role it could play for many children who struggle with poo anxiety. Beyond her amazing illustrations, Maile played a big role in helping me revise my original manuscript. Being both a children’s illustrator and writer, Maile shared some invaluable guidelines for tightening up rhymes, which I was able to apply to significantly improve my writing.
Since launching From Chewing to Pooing in June, 2019, I’ve been thrilled with the positive feedback from parents, educators, physicians, and most importantly, children. It’s extremely rewarding to know that this book has been embraced by such a wide array of professionals, and it’s beyond gratifying every time I hear that it’s been helpful to a little one. While there are many causes for childhood constipation, withholding due to anxiety is undeniably a leading culprit. In my opinion, as a parent, fear – due to a lack of understanding of digestive processes – heavily contributes to this anxiety.
Squashing Potty Talk, Poo Anxiety, and Potty Training Success
While kids are potty training, going to the bathroom becomes the dominant focus of life. Simultaneously, their body awareness is emerging. Caregivers are hyperfocused on achieving potty training success. Once this milestone is achieved, they may feel outside pressure, or internal desire, to immediately squash all “potty talk”, so their kid won’t be out at the playground yelling about “pee-pee” and “poo-poo”.
Children are often given plenty of stickers, treats, or other incentives, but not necessarily much information. Between the fervor of trying to successfully potty train, and the ensuing effort to stifle “potty talk”, discussing the process of digestion – a major bodily function – often gets lost in the mix.
Truly, I am so grateful that From Chewing to Pooing: Food’s Journey Through Your Body to the Potty is a useful tool for helping every kid, having poo anxiety or not, gain a deeper understanding of how their body works.