Allison Planchak and her baby in CHKD's NICU

Praying for Poop: In the NICU, People Pray for Many Things

Author: Allison Planchak
Published Date: Thursday, May 31, 2018

I grew up in a household where we didn’t talk about … poop. Bodily functions totally grossed me out. My husband, on the other hand, seems to love talking about that stuff, the functionality, the humor, all of it. 

Over the years, he slowly desensitized me. Then our first son gave me a crash course on all things poop-related and I began to appreciate how healthy bowel movements are a great indicator of overall health.

I could occasionally even find the humor in it, because as it turns out “dirty potty words” are a matter of perspective.

When my second son, Will was born, I found myself asking family and friends across the country to literally pray for poop on a daily basis. Will was born unexpectedly at 24 weeks; he suffered a life-threatening bowel perforation three weeks later. 

After emergency drain placement, we were told the best possible outcome would be the bowel healing on its own. A good indication of the healing would be a healthy poop. If not, Will would require surgery, very scary considering he still hadn't hit two pounds.

We waited for weeks as Will's belly became more distended and his progress on other fronts stalled. His giant belly kept him on the ventilator for an extra month; his poor little lungs didn't have much room to operate. 

During that time, I asked for so many prayers for poop that, to this day, I have to be careful when I type the word "pray" in a text message. My phone learned to auto complete that word with the phrase "pray for poop."

One morning, after all that waiting and praying, we walked into Will's pod and our nurse was grinning from ear to ear.

"Will pooped!” she exclaimed. “I saved it for you because I knew you'd want to see it for yourself. He was like a Play-Doh factory. The more I lifted his legs, the more it kept coming."

I couldn't figure out whether to cry or laugh, so I did both. All the nurses in the pod shared a good-natured laugh at my joy over a dirty diaper.

While our NICU roller-coaster ride was far from over, our trend would be a much more upward path after this momentous day. After 138 days in the NICU, Will came home! 

Years ago I was absolutely horrified when my husband would talk about poop. Now I give him a thumb’s up.

And as for Will? Our happy, healthy guy is now approaching 2 years old. Soon, we will be praying for poop in a whole new sense: Wish us well with potty training!

About Allison Planchak

Allison Planchak is a Richmond native, but has lived in Virginia Beach for over a decade. She has two boys, Ryan (5), and Will (2), and she and her husband have a third child on the way. Will is a former 24 week micro-preemie who spent 4½ months in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at CHKD. Allison is a pediatric physical therapist who enjoys running and playing outside with her family. She is a member of the NICU Family Advisory Council.