Lizzie has been free of tummy owies for exactly two weeks now...and by no coincidence, it has also been exactly two weeks since we (hopefully) put an end to her soap-eating habit!
Lizzie has loved washing her hands since she and Seth came home from Ethiopia. Seriously, that girl could spend a full hour just smearing soap on her hands and arms up to her elbows, washing it off, and then doing it all over again. She slowly and lovingly rubs the foamy white stuff into her skin and looks very peaceful while doing it. For the longest time after coming to Canada she would use only cold water (both kids had a huge aversion to anything that smacked of even the most tepid of water) and she would come out of the bathroom with hands that and arms felt more like icicles than warm blooded limbs. Now, she has a mild preference for warm water, but regardless of the temperature, she just loves washing herself. Hygiene is not an issue with this girl.
What we struggled with in the early months was her desire to eat the foamy pump soap that we have in all of our bathrooms. Over and over we came upon her shovelling the stuff into her mouth and we really worked hard to curb her of the habit. By late August, the problem was solved.
Or so we thought.
In late November or early December, we were concerned that Lizzie was regularly experiencing stomach pain. It was such a regular occurrence that I started tracking when it was happening; but there seemed to be no pattern to it...before meals, after meals, at nighttime, in the middle of the afternoon. Multiple times every day she would come to me whimpering, complaining of stomach pain; it would come upon her suddenly, and then disappear just as suddenly 2 - 30 minutes later.
We started to worry that maybe her parasites had come back (ie. had gone dormant, hidden away in her intestines, instead of being entirely vanquished by the meds she'd taken in summer). I took her to the doctor to get her checked out and, after Christmas, obtained more of the poop-testing paraphernalia in order to have her stool tested for parasites again.
But I never did do the testing. Something didn't seem right to me. I spent the first 2.5 months of their being home in Canada dealing with the most horrid of parasites with this girl and I really knew the symptoms: she had terrible diarrhea from the parasites; and the smell of her poop was the worst, most gag-producing, thing I had ever inhaled in my entire life. Even her morning breath, and sometimes her skin would reek as a result of those darn parasites. Within a week of her completion of the parasite meds, all of these symptoms stopped and everything has seemed perfectly normal since. It was a pretty dramatic change. So I was skeptical about the return of parasites. My inclination was to think that, like Matthew, she was a girl with a fragile/sensitive stomach (which Matthew thankfully seems to be outgrowing) and that we'd have to learn by process of elimination what was causing the stomach pain. We'd already tried dairy and there seemed to be no connection.
So, I started monitoring what she was eating so that I could figure out more precisely when she was having pain. I was getting frustrated by the seeming lack of pattern, and had determined that we probably should just test her for parasites again. I didn't know what else to do, and our doctor didn't really have any other suggestions.
And then, just over two weeks ago I walked into the house unloading groceries, and happened to walk past a bathroom where Lizzie was washing up. I passed by the bathroom door just in time to see Lizzie stuffing two huge handfuls of foam soap into her mouth. I stopped dead and just looked at her in shock.
She saw me just as she was swallowing the soap.
"Sorry, Mommy. Sorry. I not eat soap any more," was her instantaneous response. She knew full well that she wasn't supposed to be doing that. Suddenly I remembered her desire for "privacy" at times when she was washing up, and her saying she wanted to be like the boys in this regard; suddenly I remembered noticing that our soap consumption had gone way up sometime before Christmas (but had attributed it to the fact that we've been really careful about hand-washing); suddenly I remembered the soap-eating issue we'd struggled with last summer. The wheels began to click into place.
Lizzie was instantly barred from using soap without supervision - something that greatly upset her. I asked he if she had been doing this regularly again and it was Seth who answered for her, in the affirmative.
"All the time," he said about her soap consumption. How did he know this and I did not??
Two mornings later, Seth came running towards me in the kitchen, yelling something. I couldn't hear what he was saying at first, because Lizzie was running behind him repeatedly yelling "don't tell Mommy, Seth!"
Thankfully, when the mayhem died down, Seth told me anyway: He had just seen her eating more soap! No wonder she didn't want him to tell me - she knew I'd be mad.
That was two weeks ago. Until today, she was not allowed in the bathroom by herself, and we have been telling her over and over how harmful soap could be for her system. Even though the soap we use is environmentally-friendly, low-toxin, and non-antibacterial, it still must have ingredients in it that would not be good for the human system. I am completely sure that no soap has entered her system in the past two weeks.
And I guess the proof is in the pudding because all of the sudden the mystery of Lizzie's stomach aches has also been solved. Since the morning that Seth caught her using soap two weeks ago, Lizzie has not. had. even. one. stomach. ache. After months of wondering what was up with her, trying to track a needle in a haystack, after comforting her several times every day for her tummy aches, there have been no more from the day she stopped eating soap.
I shake my head just thinking about it, but I feel grateful nonetheless to have found the rather bizarre answer to the problem. Additional bonus: I don't have to go through the yucky poop-collecting process and have her tested for parasites all over again. Oh, and there's been a cost-reducing benefit as well: I now have to fill that soap pump dispenser in our most-used bathroom about once every ten days instead of about ever five or six days! Yay on all counts!!