When I first found out I was pregnant with Liv and told people there would be a two-and-a-half year age gap between my two kids, the universal feedback was: 'Well done - good age gap.'
'YES! I'm brilliant! I finally planned something and it makes sense!' I would secretly think, mentally giving myself a high-five.
Unfortunately, what no one bothered to tell my rather smug-feeling self is: 'Congrats, you are going to spend the next several weeks/months covered in poo because your toddler isn't potty trained yet.'
'You will find yourself on your knees, changing up to 10 nappies a day (while hunched over and carrying an infant or hunched over and trying to entertain a toddler), you may slip a disc or two and generally, all of those dirty nappies will be unpleasant and will most definitely affect your mood on a daily basis.'
And minimising nappy refuse isn't something my must-have placenta pills were going to help with, either.
Factor in picking up Bolshy the bulldog's poop twice a day, up to three times a walk, and my early days with two kids and a dog were starting to stink (literally).
Until the most amazing thing conceivable happened: Diana became potty-trained. Cue shrieks and hysterical running around the house from the sheer excitement I feel about this every time I think about D's amazing accomplishment.
And, more importantly, the relief it brings me on a multiple-times-a-day basis.
There are lots of different paths to the potty-trained toddler, and ours took a good six months of getting Diana used to doing wees (and occasionally more) on the potty or toilet several times a day, while still wearing nappies.
It took us several months mainly because the general advice is not to start potty-training a child if you are expecting a second one, since the toddler may decide that nappies are preferable since the baby is using them, so we were initially planning to wait until after Liv's birth to introduce D to the potty. She had other plans.
After our routine of random potty pees was well-established, one day, I impulse-bought Pull-Ups, convincing myself that this was the next stage of potty training before going cold turkey and switching D to panties. It wasn't.
Pull-Ups work for us now (we keep Diana in them at night since I'm not quite ready to go entirely nappy-free yet) because Diana is actually potty-trained; before she was, she never bothered telling me she needed to use the toilet since she had an ultra-absorbent bit of wadding doing the work for her.
So we spent several months in a sort-of limbo state of giving D lots of praise and stickers whenever she went on the loo (sometimes once a day, sometimes four) and slowly moving to the stage of using public toilets for the occasional wee (a portable potty/kids toilet seat called the Potette Plus was our saviour). We weren't really progressing, but there didn't seem to be any need to expedite things.Until one day, when poo fell out of D's nappy and onto the floor not once, but twice.
I lost it and after a mini-tantrum of tears I realised that my self-worth had somehow become intertwined with my children's toilet habits, which is deeply illogical and therefore a typical post-pregnancy issue to stress about and blame myself for.
But the breakdown led to an epiphany: Surely, if I'm already having to scrape poo off the floor, then potty training can't be any worse than this?
So that was it. The next day, D started wearing panties, and even though I was on tenterhooks in the beginning ('Do you need the bathroom? Do you need to PEE?!' I'd ask, every two-to-three minutes, before confiscating Diana's water bottle after only a few sips), we were on our way.
There were a few accidents in the beginning, and a few a couple of weeks later, but she was more or less ready. She was also excited about it (she had accumulated about 50 stickers at this point), and had by now realised that panties come in all sorts of lovely prints like hearts, stripes and most crucially, Disney princesses. Soon, she was asking to go to the bathroom and congratulating herself on doing poos and wees.
Yes, I have been so explosive with my posititivity about this that everyone who meets my daughter gets a play-by-play of her last bathroom session: 'I did a poo in the toilet. It was the biggest poo ever! My mummy says she's so proud of me!'
I didn't only throw heaps of praise at my daughter. I'm partly convinced this potty training thing went off without a hitch because I threw (the little/all of the) money (I had) at the problem.
On one of her first nappy-free days, D sat on the toilet and said, 'I think I need to poo' (at this stage, she was a bit confused about the difference between farting and pooing) and I, envisaging a new, less poo-filled life for myself, screeched:
'When you do a poo on the toilet, I will give you anything you want!'
D, perking up, said: 'I want a Cinderella costume!'
'Yes, sure, whatever. Cinderella costume it is!'
Then D started to negotiate: 'And a tiara? And a wand? And heels...' (these were currently banned after several 6am wake ups where she would beg for heels in a piercing sob).
As I pledged my every penny to the Disney store (Another bonus of going nappy-less? Better cash flow!), and cursed my weakness - I would have promised her stilettos if it meant the last pooey nappy ever - D did her first poop in the toilet. And we haven't looked back since.
So that's the story of how my toddler - apologies, my Cinderella, since that is what she is dressed as at least once a day - became a potty princess.
And, this week, she even learned to wipe herself.