Since my son was born five months ago, I like to think that I’ve learned something. Like about how to be a parent, or an adult, or even just a human being. But I don’t know, I’m thinking about it now, I want to be able to deliver all these poignant truths of learned wisdom, I want to sound like I’ve really grown and matured. But honestly, what I’ve taken most from the experience are a bunch of lessons in poop management.
Being a dad, for me it’s like a nonstop game of hot potato. When’s it going to go off? I don’t know. Maybe it won’t be for an hour. Maybe it won’t be until tomorrow. Sometimes the potato will be hot for days at a time, and at first I’ll get really worried. I’ll think, wow, if I couldn’t go to the bathroom for three days in a row, I’d be in a lot pain.
Because that’s something I never heard about before the baby was born, that when they’re little they can go for days at a time without doing anything. All of the baby books, all of the well-meaning and helpful advice doled out by friends and family, nobody ever told me that it was normal for a baby to go days and days without pooping.
And when I first start to notice that nothing’s happening, it’s initially all I can think about. He’s not going to the bathroom, I’m sitting around waiting for something to happen, and my mind starts fixating on something I’d really rather not be thinking about at all. When’s my baby going to poop? It’s like a watched pot never boiling, but instead of a pot, it’s my baby’s butt, and instead of boiling, it’s … well, you know.
So for a while I’m stressed out, only thinking about when he’s going to poop. But after a day or two, after I’m somewhat assured that nothing’s terribly wrong, that babies sometimes metabolize their food so completely that they don’t have to go to the bathroom, once I accept that fact, I start to get lulled into a false sense of security.
Because sure, it’s weird that he’s not going to the bathroom for three days, but once I get past my own anxiety, it’s actually kind of nice. That’s three days where I don’t have to deal with any of that poop management. And parents will tell you stuff like, come on, it’s just baby poop, it’s not a big deal. But it’s kind of a big deal. Just because you have to do something gross every day, yeah, maybe there’s going to be a little bit of desensitization, but it’s never going to be something pleasant.
And so when he’s staying clean for days at a time, I start to feel like my old self again. I start to get in touch with the guy I was five months ago, the guy who didn’t have to worry about explosive poops that somehow escape the confines of their diapers. Parents know I’m not exaggerating, but if you don’t have kids, you seriously have no idea what a twelve pound being is capable of expulsing from its body.
One time after a three-day dry spell, I had my son in this head-to-toe onesie, it zipped up in the front, so only his hands and his head were visible. I was feeding him a bottle, he was kind of sprawled out across my arms, and then he sort of just let the bottle drop from his mouth. I should have known that something was coming, but I still wasn’t at the point where I could’ve associated a cue like this with an oncoming situation.
His legs curled up, and all at once he made this noise, it was like a cross between a guttural death-metal vocal track and an extremely self-satisfied sigh of relief. At the same time, the other end of his body attempted to outdo the performance, and after a low rumbling, my ears were met with the all too familiar chorus of an all-liquid diet struggling to escape from my son’s miniature-sized bowels.
Horrified, I looked down at my son. The hot potato had gone cold. He just kind of smiled up at me, as if he was communicating, like he was saying, “Hey dad. I just pooped, big time. Enjoy.”
No, this isn’t fair. You haven’t pooped in three days now. Why do you have to poop when I’m holding you? Why couldn’t you have waited until it was your mother’s turn? Why me?
I didn’t have too much time to contemplate the injustice of my situation, because I immediately felt a warm sensation on my leg. I thought, no way, he’s got a diaper on, and he’s wearing a onesie. How bad could this have been? I brought him over to his changing table. Before I took action, I surveyed the scene from above to try to figure out exactly what I was dealing with.
Yes, the wet spot on my leg was real, so I assumed I was dealing with at least a level eight poop. But what was that on his wrist? You see, it was like I could sort of see something coming out of the wrist-holes in his little baby outfit. I tried arguing with the universe, I said, come on, there’s no way that a tiny little baby would be able to poop through his diaper, up his back, and down his arms.
But as I undid the zipper at the top of his neck, I soon realized that whatever it was that I was dealing with was much worse than I could have imagined. Yes, he pooped through his diaper. Yes, the poop somehow made its way up to his arms. But it didn’t stop there.
It was everywhere. Defying all laws of science, it was like there was more poop by volume than there was baby on the changing table. As I undid the zipper, as I tried to peel away the layer of clothing. I couldn’t see any skin. There was now a second onesie underneath my son’s regular onesie, one comprised entirely of poop. It was like he was now suspended in a pure poop solution, all barely contained by a thin layer of terry-cloth.
It was a nightmare to clean up. I didn’t even bother trying to save the clothes. And then as soon as I got him somewhat clean – and how clean can you ever really be after having been entirely covered in your own poop? – he pooped again. I should have seen it coming. Of course he was going to poop again.
This aftershock poop wasn’t as big of a disaster as the initial incident, but still, why did I even bother cleaning it up in the first place? Why do I even try to keep him clean at all? He’s just going to keep pooping. And I’m going to have to keep changing his diapers. And as a reward for my diligence, he’ll poop again, and the cycle continues.
So what have I learned after five months of being a dad? I wish I had something useful to say. But the answer is, unfortunately, nothing. I haven’t learned anything at all. I learned that poop is disgusting. But I already knew that.