*Because of family obligations, I’m unable to give you new content this week. But fear not! I have lots of content that nobody except for my mother (Hi Mom!) has ever seen, because nobody was reading my blog yet when it was published. So here’s a re-post from back in March. Enjoy!*
I think it’s really interesting to talk about Foucault in one chapter and smelling poop in the basement in the next. It seems to me that life is just that complicated. ~ Edmund White
Since becoming a mom I’ve developed a possibly unhealthy fascination with all things excrement, at least with regard to my own offspring (and, let’s face it, with other people’s offspring of a similar age to my own.) Frequency, density, color, scent — all are things that I’ve become far, far more interested in than my pre-baby self would have thought to be appropriate.
For example, did you know that an exclusively breast-fed baby might only poop once a week? I didn’t. How about the fact that this same baby, after a full week of no poo, will produce a FLOOD of runny yuck that looks like you’ve mixed cottage cheese and yellow mustard and smells like it’s been fermenting in someone’s ass for a week? BECAUSE IT HAS BEEN. And that no diaper known to mommy kind is capable of fully containing this flood — the best you can hope for is to minimize the damage and have a recovery plan in place.
Another interesting tidbit, which if I had ever thought about I would have realized: what you feed your baby will have a direct and visible effect on what is produced from The Other End. Beets, for example, produce purple poo. Increased quantities of solid foods produce poo that is both easier to clean up and infinitely smellier. The poo of an exclusively breast-fed baby has been said to smell like buttered popcorn — the poo of a baby eating three meals a day of purees and finger foods smells like SHIT.
Now, poo is not the only thing that comes out at that end, and people who do not have kids may shake their heads in disgust when they overhear two mommies in a grocery store loudly discussing their babies’ peeing frequency, color, and scent. What? How else do you determine if the child is well enough hydrated? A dirty diaper is like a car’s dashboard — that is where you find your baby’s check engine indicator, as well as his fluid levels and fuel gauge. Seems reasonable to me that you’d discuss these things.
And it is reasonable. I may think about my child’s defecation habits more than my previous, No-Kid incarnation may think is normal, but that’s just one thing that I think about, and no more than any other person who spends most of their time physically caring for another person does.
It’s when things go wrong, though, that it really becomes terrifying. My son has only been sick once in his life at this point, and the experience was far more traumatic for me than for him (at least, that’s what I tell myself).
He had a stomach virus.
Stomach viruses manifest a little differently in babies than they do in adults. He vomited a little for about a day, and simultaneously began having diarrhea.
He had diarrhea for ten days.
(Yes, I called the pediatrician. We chatted. It was fine.)
At its peak, he had ten poopy diapers in a day. For most of the ten days, he had about eight poopy diapers.
You’ve had diarrhea (admit it, you have) so you know what it looks — and smells — like. The smell filled the house and crept into my dreams. But that isn’t the worst of it.
See, diarrhea eats away at flesh. This is also something that you’re likely aware of — the fabled Ring of Fire — though you certainly don’t remember a time when you spent the better part of every day not just producing it but SITTING IN it. This made for red, raw, excruciatingly painful diaper rash.
Really, all I can say for that time is thank goodness for All-Natural Beaudreaux’s Butt Paste. Yes, yes, the baby was hurting and screamed whenever I tried to clean the area. I have great sympathy for him. But the thing I remember most about that time (other than the smell, because seriously, it was intense) is having nightmares in which I was drowning in diarrhea and unable to get to my child who was screaming because his butt was ROTTING AWAY. Until that child was well again, complete with an unmarred bottom, I thought of absolutely nothing but his poo and the issues immediately surrounding it.
And this is why mommies think, talk, and obsess about excrement.
*This does not refer to the lovely coffee house at Drew University, at which I worked for two years and almost never had to clean up pee or poo.