On Poop and Humility

On Poop and Humility November 3, 2010

A few months ago, when I was still pregnant with Liam, my sister-in-law posted a note on facebook about poop. Here’s how she started it:

A few days ago I was talking with a couple friends (non-parents) and I told them that since I’ve become a parent, my idea of what constitutes a good day has drastically changed. I used to think that if I got up early, did some exercise, checked off x number of things on my to do list, etc, etc, it was a good day. Now, a good day is very simple and really requires only two things;
1. taking a shower
2. not getting pooped on

She goes on to talk about the explosive pooping habits of her then-newborn Louie, and the tendency of her oldest (my godson) William to poop and then remove his diaper and do any  number of creative things with the contents. The Ogre and I read the note and cracked up about it. Then the Ogre said to me, “Are you sure you’re ready for a boy?” 

I gave him a blank look. He said, “You do know that all boys do that, don’t you?” I shook my head. “Mine won’t.” The Ogre started laughing. “How exactly do you think you’ll keep them from pooping everywhere?” “Easy,” I said. “The first time they poop and take their diaper off to play with the poop, I’ll give them such a huge spanking that they’ll never, ever do that again.” The Ogre just laughed and shook his head and said, “Good luck with that.”

I was unperturbed. My girls had never taken off dirty diapers to explore the contents, and I really didn’t think my boys would either. And I meant what I said; I wouldn’t tolerate that kind of yuckiness.

After that I sort of put the whole thing out of my head. Every once in a while my mother-in-law would say “Boys are really different, you know” and I would smile and agree and remain convinced of my ability to handle male children as easily as I handled female children.

And then…

Today was a crazy day. I’m way behind on housework and kitchen preparations for the week, so after we picked Sienna up from school we ran to the grocery store, came home, I made the girls lunch and then got to work on the chicken stock and dinner prep while Liam slumbered away in his car seat. Every so often he let out some gaseous noises but I didn’t really worry about it. Once I finally got everything settled in the kitchen and the girls had finished eating and went down for their naps, I noticed that Liam was awake so I unbuckled him and pulled him out of his seat. I immediately smelled poop and went straight to the changing table to change him. I laid him down and grasped the end of his pants to pull them off, then immediately pulled my  hand back.

It was covered in poop.

I gasped. Then I gingerly lifted the corner of his pant leg and peeked inside.

It was covered in poop.

The entire leg of his pants…and his entire leg…was coated in poop. I gasped again. Then I steeled myself and pulled his pants off.

In the entire five years that I have been a mother, not one single moment prepared me for what I saw. I have never even dreamed that so much poop could come out of a baby. Liam’s legs were covered in poop, his onesie was covered in poop, his diaper was covered in poop both inside and out, his stomach, his back, there was even poop in the neck folds on the back of his neck. There was poop in his hair. I stood there, poop-covered pants in my hands, and looked into my son’s eyes. I didn’t know what to do. I had no idea where to even start. Then he started crying, and I sprang into action.

I pulled his clothes and diaper off, getting my arms and shirt and the changing table covered in poop in the process. Then I wrapped him in a towel that was fortuitously lying nearby and ran to the kitchen sink, grabbing the baby soap on the way. I sat him in the sink and with one hand firmly gripping the poop-covered back of his wobbly neck, proceeded to awkwardly wash him while he screamed. Luckily he’s so fat that he almost completely filled up the sink, so there wasn’t a whole lot of sliding around going on, but it was still the most difficult sink-bath I’ve ever given a baby.

Once he was bathed I took him to the bathroom, got a towel, dried and dressed him and then laid him on the bed and went to wash all the poop off me. It occurred to me, as I was scrubbing my arms, that motherhood is an extremely humbling job.

Not only do I spend a lot of my day wiping various bottoms, but I’m also constantly being humbled by my children. When I was pregnant with Sienna I saw a little girl at the doctor’s office chewing on a chair leg and thought to myself, “I’m never going to let my kid do that.” Sienna went on to spend the first three years of her life eating everything in sight, including rocks, chairs, paper, dirt and the occasional worm or cricket. Sienna began speaking in nearly full sentences by the time she was about eighteen months old, so I always assumed that kids who didn’t speak by then were suffering the effects of parents who didn’t care enough about their kids to read to them or talk to them. Now I have a twenty-two month old who, despite our best efforts, only knows how to say about seven words. I assumed that explosive diapers in babies were just the result of parents not changing them enough, or not paying attention; now I have a washing machine that’s 20% clothes and 80% poop.

It’s humbling to realize that the things my children do that I’ve prided myself on are most likely not the result of my stellar mothering skills. Sure, there are things I’ve taught them, and perhaps even a few things I’ve taught them well, but every child is different, and sometimes even the best mother will find her little boy in the laundry room, painting the walls with his own poop. And she’ll grab a rag or twenty, clean it and him up, and finish her day a little humbler and a little wiser.

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