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Cover Story: My EC Evolution

by Lisa Tunick Boward

I began my journey with EC about 9 months after my first daughter was born. I must confess that, at the time, I was watching a close friend struggle with her potty learning 3 year old and hoped that EC might be a way for my child and me to avoid such struggles. I had always checked my daughter's cloth diapers frequently and changed her as soon as I was aware that she was wet or dirty rather than every few hours the way many parents I knew did. So EC seemed like the perfect next step, and a good way for her to gently and slowly learn what the potty was for and how to use it.

The very first time I put my daughter on the potty, she peed. She looked so happy - it was if she'd been waiting her whole life for me to do it! I guess, looking back, she probably had. Even though she caught on quickly, we practiced part-time (mostly upon waking and whenever I had to go to the bathroom), and continued using cloth diapers the rest of the time, keeping her without a diaper cover while at home so I could change her immediately. As I watched more and more friends struggle to help their obstinate toddlers learn to use the potty, bribing them with M&M's and stickers (often to no avail), the more convinced I became that EC was much more in line with my gentle, attachment parenting style. I wanted my baby to trust that I would feed her when hungry, cuddle her when sleepy, and hold her when sad, and so taking her to the potty when she needed to go seemed a logical extension. Full-time EC seemed like so much work, somehow, though, and we were having such success with part-time. She was an at-home graduate at 20 months, I got brave enough to ditch diapers out and about around her 2nd birthday, and she was dry at night by 28 months.

Though my attempts at late-start, part-time EC had been so successful (or perhaps because they'd been so successful), I decided to wait until my second child, a son, was about 6 months old to begin EC, and began the same way I had with my daughter. But EC'ing my son was very different than it had been with my daughter. He nursed less frequently, yet peed more. He was dry at night long before he was during the day, even though I did not EC at night. And he was much more easily distracted and needed me to offer/remind him about the potty for a lot longer than his sister did. EC'ing with him made me appreciate fully what a different person he was from his sister. It helped me understand his personality more deeply, and to understand what he needed from me not only in terms of his elimination, but as his mother in general. His path to toilet independence differed from his sister's as well. From about 20 months on, as long as I offered with frequency, we didn't miss. I was much more confident out and about than I had been with his older sister. And he often did ask for the potty or take himself by that age. But true independence - a time after which I knew he would not need to be reminded and after which even the rare but occasional misses had ceased - did not come until he was 3 years old.

Our EC relationships had been just as uniquely different as our nursing relationships had been. Having these two very different experiences while practicing basically the same EC strategies gave me great insight into my children and their personalities. I was hooked. When I found out I was pregnant with my third, I decided I would try to start EC at an earlier age, though I was not sure what age that would be. The idea of full-time EC still seemed daunting to me, and I wasn't sure how it would be possible with two other children to care for. But I was willing to give it a try.

An amazing thing happened when my baby girl was born. I discovered that she had extremely obvious signals each and every time she had to eliminate! At first, I thought it must be a fluke. I thought with astonishment, all those times that my other babies had fussed for what seemed like no reason - it was just because they had had to pee? When they had been completely content in a sling, only to suddenly start squirming and fussing - it was because they had had to pee? All those times they had woken up "to nurse" in the night, only to pass out seconds after they had latched on - they had only been waking up to pee? It was as though someone had turned on the lights and I found that missing piece to the parenting puzzle that I'd been trying to solve for 5 years! It seemed as though virtually every previously unexplained behavior was related to elimination.

My husband and I were stunned that the answer had been so easy and obvious all this time. We were relieved that this time, we no longer had to wonder what was causing our baby's discomfort, no longer had to feel helpless while our baby was in apparent distress. And we were amazed by how easily full-time EC fit into our day-to-day routines. More easily, in fact, that changing diapers had ever been.

It might sound a little hippie-dippie, but I feel so in tune with this baby. I have such a strong intuition about her needs and I am virtually never wrong. She is deeply content - and while I know that some of this is just her laid-back personality, I also know that some of it is because she trusts that I will meet her every need immediately, and therefore has very little reason to fuss or to cry in order to get my attention.

She is only 6 months old, so it is impossible to say when we might declare her a graduate. But whether it happens at 18 months or 3 years doesn't matter at all to me. While the goal of potty independence was the reason I began EC with my first child, it is not the reason I continue. I simply can't imagine parenting without this tool, and can't imagine why I'd want to try.


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