“Mom, you’re still in the bathroom!?”
“You have to go again?”
“I’ve paused the movie twice already — this is really annoying.”
Oh the joys of having kids and a diagnosis of Irritable Bowel Syndrome. A delicate balancing act of parenting and participating in my children’s lives while needing to know if there’s a restroom where we are going, and its precise location.
I’ve sh*t myself. More than once.
I’ve clogged toilets, used up the last of the air freshener, and created long waiting lines of people on ferries. (Why don’t they have more than two bathrooms on a ferry?)
Once I almost missed a flight home from a vacation in Turks and Caicos. It’s hard to forget the frantic look in my then-fiancé’s eyes as I finally emerged from the airport bathroom.
“I was about to come in after you, the plane takes off in 6 minutes!”
Recently I was getting my 17-year-old fitted for a suit and felt that dreaded familiar rumble in my gut. Of course there was no bathroom in the store. I whispered to my son I would be right back.
“Ugh, what do I say to the lady with the measuring tape if she comes over?”
“32X32, slim fit,” I yelled, power walking past the display of paisley ascots, into the mall frantically dodging shoppers and those God-awful kiosk salespeople selling $60 phone cases, while making every effort to keep my cheeks clenched.
I have IBS. The kind that comes with explosive diarrhea. Rectal urgency is the proper term. Having IBS is difficult and gets in the way of life.
Obviously there are far more serious medical issues people deal with, but still, this is no picnic. It can really put a cramp in my plans and be downright embarrassing.
IBS is usually chronic, the cause is hard to pinpoint, and there is no cure. It’s not always taken seriously and support is hard to find.
In addition, insurance companies balk at covering treatment medications and copayments are high. It’s challenging enough managing work responsibilities with IBS, but throw kids in the mix and now we’re talking a whole new level of stress.
In a perfect world, I wouldn’t leave my house, making being chained to a toilet a bit easier. And some days I can get away with this. With the instant world we live in, I can rely on DoorDash, Grubhub, and Amazon to bring me what I need. In less than an hour, you can have Preparation H, Imodium, and flushable wipes delivered to your front porch.
But one needs to take the kids out for an occasional airing. Otherwise someone starts yelling, something gets broken, and everyone gets really cranky. This requires great finesse and impeccable planning.
Driving routes and estimated times of arrival must be carefully factored. Restrooms are mapped out. This goes double if the event relies on Port-A-Johns.
Chain restaurants, and movies prove to be the lesser of evils. They have adequate facilities in close proximity. Malls come in at a solid B due to the modern, large bathrooms, but lose points because they are always located on the opposite ends of the building.
Concert venues can be tricky. Depending on the popularity of the band we are seeing, restrooms can range from abundant, to one dinky stall with a faulty lock.
If me or my kid is a mega fan, there’s a good chance I am first row, smooshed between the barricade and tons of screaming concert goers. Twenty One Pilots just will not delay their show because mom has the trots.
These situations always call for a double dose of medication and a prayer.
Festivals and fairs are the worst. Food options are questionable, and trying to bring your own stash of healthy fare requires two things — enormous willpower and an equally enormous purse, often considered contraband at music festivals.
The unsightly row of mobile toilets, located far away from the action, seems to be set up in the muddiest, bumpiest terrain. If it’s nighttime, using the loo can go from being mildly vexing to full blown panic.
I once spent 34 agonizing minutes in a PortaJohn while my teenagers enjoyed gyros and fried Oreos from food trucks. Eleven solid minutes were dedicated trying to figure out how to turn on my phone flashlight so I could see in the pitch dark. No one came looking for me, or offered me a Tums when I came back.
My gastroenterologist and I are on a first name basis.
An understanding doctor is vital for managing IBS. I am prescribed medication that cuts down toilet time considerably. Unfortunately there is zero allowance for alcohol while on this medicine. Even one small drink is potentially dangerous, so I’ve missed out on the whole “mom-wine culture” thing.
The unpredictability of IBS coupled with the unpredictability of kids is stressful, but there are ways to make life a little smoother, even if it involves carrying spare underpants in the glove compartment.
In some states you can obtain an “I Can’t Wait” card which states there is a medical condition that allows immediate access to a restroom in a store or other public place.
There are also Facebook groups, recipe ideas, and my personal favorite, a food delivery service that caters to individuals with IBS.
Because I have enough crap to worry about.