Potty Training Power Struggles: Part 1

You know that old expression, "it's not you, it's me?" I have reached the conclusion that when it comes to my children and potty training, I can honestly say to them, "it's not me, it's you."
After 3 children and 15 different tactics I still haven't seemed to master the art of potty training, but upon reflection I realized, it's not me.
The Husband and I are both so, so over changing diapers and pull-ups! We have been changing our children's diapers almost continuously since the end of 2005. Except for a small six month break, I have been changing diapers for over NINE YEARS!!! Yes, you heard that right, I have 3 children and I have been changing diapers and cleaning up crap, literally, for almost a decade of my life and I am over it!
If you just did the math you will already know what I am about to say, which is that each one of my children has potty trained WELL past 3 years old. Snowflake finally got it at 3 1/2, Raindrop at 4 (FOUR!!!!), and Starman.....well, *sigh* let's just hope it is sooner rather than later (but, we will discuss that in Part 2). But truthfully, I really don't feel like I can do this much longer. I am ready now.
Some smug parents out there will be reading this, chuckling and patting themselves on the back about how amazing they are, and how amazing it is that they potty trained their child at 18 months, or 2 years....or even before 3. I am here to burst your bubble. It wasn't you. Your child made that choice. Children do it when they are ready and no amount of parental desire or creative tactics will work. In fact, I suspect that this may simply be a nature over nurture thing. Some kids are more inclined than others.
I am basing that conclusion on the fact that we have had the exact same results with all three kids despite the fact that we have tackled the problem very differently all three times:
With our first we did what every first time parents do, we researched the holy heck out of the subject. I painstakingly filled out the checklists, such as "Is your child ready?," and we purchased everything we needed in preparation. At 2 years we started mentioning the potty and taking her with us when we went so we could model.
At 2 1/2 we did the three days program, and taking two days off of work, I made sure I was home for 5 straight days to accomplish this. At the end of the 3 days it was a miracle! She was totally potty trained.....right up until a week later when she said, "Mommy, me no like the potty. Me all done, K?"
Ummm......no, it is very much NOT ok.
But true to her word, despite being in underwear (and me on my hands and knees cleaning), she refused to budge. Four weeks later I finally caved and put her back in pull-ups. Back to research mode. This time we had the family over and we threw a "potty party" (you can roll your eyes now, I usually do) and celebrated throwing away her diapers. We hung up a sticker chart and bought a giant train and put it up where she could see it, but couldn't touch it. She used the potty and we all cheered. The party was over and she stayed dry for a whole 3 weeks right up until the day she completed her sticker chart and got her train. The next day she had an accident, which was chalked up to the learning process....a week later, she had stopped going in the potty completely. Repeating the whole process from sticker chart, to reward (Chuck-E-Cheese this time) to regression, our frustration level was rising.
I took the train.
I was so frustrated at this point. She COULD do it. She just WOULDN'T. They say don't do negative consequences but after 3 months of regression and refusal, I tried taking privileges or putting her in her room after accidents, making her clean herself up, changing her less often. Nothing worked.
It took a year, but one day after we moved into our new house she woke up one day, just shy of 3 1/2 and said to me over breakfast, "Ok Mom. I think I will use the potty now." And that was it. Just like that it was all over.
Along comes Raindrop. We decided to change tactics, saying we weren't going to push potty training at all until she reached 3. Figuring that maybe by changing tactics, we would have more success the second time around. Oh, how foolish we were.
Right before her third birthday, Raindrop started using the potty to pee. Yay! Success! I did nothing, She figured it all out on her own. I finally had one that got it right!
Then I found out I was pregnant and became violently "morning" sick from sun-up to sun-down. Raindrop stopped using the potty, but since we were in underwear by this point I wasn't willing to backtrack. I was committed and we were going to press on. 
From April to August I kept that girl in underwear. I was NOT giving in. I was on anti-nausea meds and even with them I was vomiting 2-5 times a day and miserable all the time, but still spent hours on my hands and knees steam cleaning poop and pee out of my carpet EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.
This went on for four months. Right before she started preschool I put her back in pull-ups. I gave up and waved the white flag. At seven months pregnant, I couldn't take it anymore. I put her in underwear to send her to school and hoped for the best, but as soon as she was back home she was back in a pull-up. She actually made it to February before the truth came out at school that she wasn't in fact truly potty trained (which we promptly blamed on the new baby).
The thing with Raindrop's journey was that the previous May, because she was pooping daily in her underwear (when it wasn't on my floor, which she did purposefully), she developed a horrible, horrible staph infection from a diaper rash. Despite multiple rounds of different antibiotics, it spread. It spread and spread until by August it went from the backs of her thighs all the way up to her mid-back. She was missing huge chunks of skin. (I still have pictures, but they are way too graphic and horrible to post on this blog.) Our church put our family on their prayer chain. It was bad. It was really, really bad. Every time I changed her diaper she bled....profusely. I cried a lot. I pleaded with her. I offered her the world if she would just go in the potty. Nothing worked.
In September (around the start of preschool and while I was still pregnant) we took her to a specialist and a dermatologist. They told me if she didn't potty train and soon, that the staph infection could spread to her bloodstream and she could be at risk for a fatal blood infection. (Two more churches added us to their prayer chains.)
Potty training had suddenly turned into an all-out battle to save my daughter's life. But, despite the doctor's dire warnings to her that she would be hurting herself if she didn't potty train, she remained unmoved. We went back to the pediatrician. We established that she had a food dye allergy, and that helped us clear up the staph infection a little bit, but it continued on in a milder form. Then she got a strep infection in her open sores. We managed to clear that up quickly, but the damage was beginning to leave scars.  
The pediatrician commented in January that she had been practicing for decades and had never seen a child as stubborn as my daughter. We were recommended to get a counselor. After that she worried that there was something physically wrong and we were referred to a special department at Children's Hospital.  Miraculously, a week before her fourth birthday, and two weeks before our appointment at Children's, she woke up one day and said "Mommy, I am going to use the potty today." And with that declaration we never looked back. We cancelled the appointment at the hospital 5 days shy of the appointment. The staph infection cleared up, and her scarring has almost totally faded now.

Both girls potty trained on their own time, regardless of anything we did. Tips and tricks may work for some kids, but only if they are really truly on-board. Much like sending an addict to rehab, unless they are absolutely committed to the process they may succeed for a while, but inevitably they will relapse.
Next Week 
Here ends Part 1. Look for Part 2 on Friday. Find out how Starman's potty training trials are going, what tips and tricks we have found worthwhile, despite our lack of success with them, and why you shouldn't ever hand out unsolicited potty training advice (or judgment).