First things first, a disclaimer. This is a post about poo. The giveaway is right there in the title. I can not be deemed responsible if you are made to feel nauseous or grossed out or repulsed or indignant because it is dinner time and you are trying to eat a steaming bowl full of hot beef casserole or whatever. I promise you there are no nauseating images involved.
IT’S ABOUT POO.
Consider yourself appropriately warned.
This is post number two in the fairly self-explanatory series, “Things I Never Knew Before Having Children”, and as such I find it rather appropriate that it is all about, well, “number twos”. I can hear all the gestating first-timers and yet-to-breeders harrumphing with haughty suspicion right now. Poo needs its own special category? Reeeeally?
You’re damn right it does.
As a full-grown adult you don’t think much about poo, you don’t have prolonged interactions with it and you certainly don’t have anything approaching an intimate relationship with it. You sit, you release, you wipe, you flush. Once you have a baby, you soon find out that your long-awaited welcome to parenthood involves being elbow deep in shit pretty much all day long, every day. If you’re anything like me you will learn a heck of a lot more about poo than you ever wished to know.
I had no idea what this was. If you had asked me before I had kids, I probably would have guessed that meconium was one of the lesser-known elements on the periodic table or the name of some kind of toxic nuclear material. I wasn’t far wrong. Meconium is the substance produced by the first bowel movements a baby ever does, a thick, brown, tar-like substance that oozes out of your newborn for the first 48 hours of its life. Its only redeeming feature is that it’s odourless, because that shit is a bitch to clean and generally entails flapping about ineffectually with half a packet of baby wipes while your squalling newborn flails around until they are covered in sticky brown muck. If you are in dire need of a good laugh after going through labour and birth, handball this one to daddy, sit back and enjoy the show.
Babies are so full of shit. It’s quite extraordinary. I’d never really given it much thought before I had one, but I guess maybe I just assumed they’d poo once a day or something. On the contrary, babies are round-the-clock little poo-producers, and if you happen to catch one in action it’s rather hypnotic, like watching caramel-coloured ice-cream swirling out of a soft-serve machine. As a side note, it was a very long time before I was sufficiently detached from that delightful mental image to be able to resume eating caramel sundaes again.
Not only do they poo all the time, they can literally poo across the room. I still remember lifting the legs of my two month old baby to change his nappy when he ripped out a fart as loud as a supersonic jet breaking through the sound barrier, immediately followed by a projectile poo expelled with such violent force that it travelled two metres through the air and exploded all over the bedroom door. It was only sheer luck that saw me manage to jump out of its trajectory in time. I still remember staring at that tiny little backside, mouth agape and shaking my head in bewildered yet appreciative awe. I always stood slightly to the side after that.
I also never knew that babies could poo so forcefully it exploded right out of their nappy, spreading up to the neck and down to their knees. Pooplosions, poo-namis, “number threes”. Such cutesy little names for bodily events of sheer, explosive magnitude. The worst ones always seem to happen when you go out. I can’t even count the number of times we arrived at our destination only to have to clear out the back of the car, strip down several poo-soaked layers of clothing, and plough through half a pack of baby wipes to contain the mess.
Pre-kids I always thought those women who needed a sherpa and a donkey with saddle-bags to cart around their assorted piles of baby-related crap were being precious and over the top, until I had one of my own and realised that taking them out anywhere for any length of time in those early months involved toting around several change of outfits as a bare minimum. No better way to attract the baleful stares of the general public than to have to carry your baby around in the middle of winter wearing nothing but a poo-stained singlet and a nappy because every other garment they have on hand is saturated with bright yellow shit.
Solids vs Milk Poo
Another thing I didn’t know about poo before having kids was how much I would come to enjoy breastmilk poos. Yes, I just said that. I enjoy baby poo. I never could have imagined that I would miss those early, mustard-yellow poos that were so sweet to the nose and so easy to clean. I certainly never saw myself reminiscing about them with weepy-eyed nostalgia once my kid started eating solid food, but the transition to solids brought with it ever-increasing levels of nausea-inducing repulsion. They get bigger, smellier, lumpier, weightier, stickier. More like actual human poo, so it’s much harder to disconnect from the fact that you are cleaning up a little person’s faecal matter like you are some sort of over-sized serf.
On the other hand, baby stools do get to be a lot more fun in other ways. You can play the awesome nappy-change quiz game “What Did You Eat Yesterday?”, because you soon realise that things like corn kernels, grapes, berries, olives and spinach can pass through the gastro-intestinal tract fully-formed. Poo can change colour too. Beetroot always yields interesting results. And milk poo can run the gamut of shades from wheatgerm green through to mustard seed yellow, butternut pumpkin orange and crème brulee brown.
You might also be confronted by the fact that the uber-hip, laid back parent you always anticipated you would be has been replaced by one who is neurotically hunched over the contents of a dirty nappy, scrutinising and googling different varieties of poo because your baby keeps passing frothy green stools.
Then there was other stuff I was never expecting either, the concerns and behaviours associated with the lack of poo.
Being on “poo watch”. Nervously counting the days between bowel movements. Racing in anticipation to check a smelly nappy only to be met with bitter disappointment when you realise that you were fooled by a very potent fart. Fearing the state of the nappy I was going to have to deal with after eight long days on back-order. Dancing around a dirty nappy as you celebrate the long-awaited poo from a constipated baby.
Incredibly bizarre behaviours all, and I have done every single one of them.
Teething is hell. It came as no great surprise to me that teething is single-handedly responsible for some of the vilest–smelling faecal matter ever squeezed out of a human bowel, because it makes perfect sense that bone matter working its way through the upper and lower jaw of a human infant could impact on the colon. As if dealing with cranky, drooling, crying, non-sleeping babies wasn’t enough to contend with, try getting within five metres of one of these nappies after it’s been dumped with its toxic load. And the best part is that it goes on for weeks. And weeks. And weeks.
That’s poo. The stuff you never knew before you had kids.