Sampling and the Sensory-Rich Anal Canal, or 'On (not) Pooping in the Bath'

My sister sent me this video yesterday.

And I thought, how à propos. First, because she used to poop in our bath when we were little. And second, because just that day I had jumped out of the bath in a fit of terror, holding Sweet Baby James at arms' length and saying (ever-so-sweetly, I'm sure), "Do you need to go pooping? Would you like the potty?"

You see, in our family we do a modified sort of elimination communication (yes, I said 'in our family'. Everyone in our family communicates about elimination, it happens as soon as you get married). I was supposed to write about EC a year ago when we were doing it with SBJ and it was really working, but by the time I got around to it, he had stopped. He started crawling and exploring the world and suddenly, no matter how many funny song-and-dance routines I did, sitting on the toilet just wasn't entertaining anymore.

But he hasn't pooped in the bath since he was three months old and we bathe together every day. I don't know why I was scared. I guess it was the toots I heard/felt. They seemed serious. But no poop was forthcoming. False alarm, Maman!

But I started thinking, how do we know when it's just going to be a toot, not a poop?

For answers to questions like these, I turn to Ingrid Bauer. I have a huge mama-crush on Ingrid. She lives on Salt Spring Island (I used to live there!) and she speaks French (I used to speak French!), she coaches parents (I'm judgmental!) and she must be the most amazing mother. I read her book, Natural Infant Hygiene when I took it out of the library and then I decided had to have it.


Only problem is, it's out of print and second-hand copies are going for over $200. 
Whaaaat? At least it's available on Kindle for $11. Anyway.

Here's what she says:

"Like urination, defecation involves a series of events that include muscles under both voluntary and involuntary control. As food is digested and leaves the stomach, it moves through first the small and then the large intestine. The descending colon of the large intestine empties into the sigmoid colon and then into the rectum. As the rectum fills, stretch receptors (similar to those in the bladder) produce signals that lead to an awareness of the urge to defecate. The distension of the rectum initiates the rectoanal inhibitory response. An involuntary reflex relaxes the internal anal sphincter, while the external sphincter contracts.
This process allows for the sampling reflex in the sensory-rich anal canal. Sampling, which occurs throughout the day, helps the individual determine whether the rectal contents are gas, diarrhea, or normal stool." (pp.100-101)

First of all, I would like to thank Ms. Bauer for the opportunity to use the words "sensory-rich anal canal" in a mama blog post. I don't think that would have been possible without her.

On another blog, maybe.

And second, I had totally forgotten the sigmoid colon exists! I love that little guy! In case any of this confuses (confeces?) you, here's a diagram. This is one medical image about which I'm happy there's little context included.

Image brought to you by Sitting Toilets: The Secret Very Few Know Today

So there you have it, folks. Sensors in the anal canal let you know how much it's stretching to hold in that poop. And if they're telling you it's not stretching very much, then you know it's just gas.

Aren't you glad you asked?

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