5 moments in the life of a human litterbox

Y'all knew this was coming, right?

It was only a matter of time before I, Katie, your trusted friend, wrote about poop.

I haven't wanted to dip my toe into this particular pool for reasons both obvious and even more obvious: 

1. People expect mommy bloggers to write about the following things:

1. Crafting
2. Recipes
3. Wine
4. Being Tired
5. Poop

And I like to separate myself from the pack.

2. And  if you're reading this blog you've entrusted at least 90 seconds of your day to me and my storytelling, and I'd like to honor your attention by inviting you to engage with something that isn't a turd.

3. And I wasn't born in a barn. (It was a birthing center) (for cows) (in Salt Lake) (I still love the smell of hay). I know how to start a conversation like a milkfed mammal, and most of us don't follow hello with, "so, want to know what happens when you give a 10-month-old Wendy's chili?"

4. And I know that a lot of non-parents read this blog, and have probably been dreading this very post. "The signs have begun; the day is near. No, Belaraniel, King of Nargothrond, you must not follow... she has chosen the dark. From this day, this blog shall be nonstop crap stories and anti-vaxxer rage. Godspeed, KatyKatiKate. 'Twas once a pleasure to read thee. 'Twasn't I an Elfin oracle a minute ago? 'Twhy am I now a roaming minstrel? Oh, sha-lay-lee, oh, sha-lay-loo, hi-ya-dingo-billy-bob-cray. What ho, fair maiden, won't you prithee point me toward the giant turkey drumsticks?"*

*I'm sorry.

But despite all that, the time has come to talk shit.

I am, after all, a parent. Many shits pass through my life every day, each as mysterious and fleeting as a hummingbird, if hummingbirds were caked in human waste and stuffed, still flapping, into the ass end of a Thomas pull-up.

can i tell you something
about that shit-eating grin of yours?
it is super appropriate.

How many shits, you ask? Well, in the time it has taken me to write this post I have changed three shitty diapers. But to be fair, lunch and nap time might as well be renamed "Pause to Crap your Pants Time," or possibly just "Blastoff."

Parents expect to get up close and personal with poop on the regs once those big-eyed poop machines emerge on D-Day. Poop becomes a recurring theme of our days - the feet in our Tarantino movies, if you will . Most of our brushes with excrement are not worth commenting on; some are apocalyptic, some hilarious, some grotesque, but most are just another turd in the Genie.

Here, I humbly offer five moments in the life of this human litterbox.

1. Droppin Bombs on D-Day

The anesthesiologist took one look at my weathered skin and the state of my hair and thought, "this bitch lives hard. I'm bringing out the Beast." Ten seconds after he pumped an actual Big Gulp of epidural into my spine, the stabbing contractions vanished and I finally stopped barfing baked ziti and screaming MOUNT EVEREST - our password for GIVE ME THE DRUGS. I came back to the world, trembling but cracking wise, and blessing drugs, just drugs, all drugs, forever and ever, amen.

The other shoe dropped when it came time to push. My body was gone. They could have carved up my thigh to feed all the tigers in Bangkok and I would have really regretted not reading that consent form, but until I passed out from blood loss I'd have been quite comfortable.

From between my stirrups, the midwife said, "here comes a contraction. Okay, grab your legs, and puuuuuuuuuush! Go go go go go go go go go go go go! NOW, I said! It's time to push! Are you pushing?"

She looked back up at my face, probably to make sure I was awake. I was pushing all right - pushing my teeth together, pushing through the ropey veins of my neck, pushing my eyes closed tight, tight, tighter, as I searched for the muscles that I know were there an hour ago.

The next contraction came, and the midwife bellowed "NOW!"


Ten contractions later, the midwife stood up, sighed, and said to the nurse, "I'm going to make some tea." I was mid-push. I watched her walk to the door, pull it open, and leave. I turned to the nurse, whose jaw was hanging open. "Should I keep going?" The nurse said, "uh... let me just..." and darted out of the room.

The team regrouped. The midwife returned with a fragrant cup of orange tea in a blue stoneware mug, and the nurse took up her station at my side. We tried everything - changing positions, holding a towel, bending me in half.

With every contraction I could feel my heart race - I was a failure, I was weak. I was in deep trouble with the midwife, whose scowl had only grown more pronounced as we made small talk and she leaned back in a chair, her arms crossed, with the surly boredom of Bart Simpson in detention, watching absolutely nothing happen in or around my vagina (which, solely for the purposes of the Simpsons metaphor, we will call Edna Krabappel.)

Mrs. Krabappel held Bart Simpson hostage for three hours. The room grew silent. I gave up.

An OB arrived and recommended the vacuum. If it didn't work, she said, they'd have to take me for a c-section immediately. The room filled with people in anticipation of the surgery, each of whom seemed to have a single highly-specific job, like the human equivalents of NASA tools or manicure instruments.

"Toby, you hold the towels. Regina, you take the towels from Toby when the baby comes out, and hand one towel to Eloise. Eloise, you wrap the baby's legs in the bottom half of the towel, and Ned, you wrap the baby's torso in the top half of the same towel. Ahmed, you stand by with supplemental towels, but Ahmed, you WAIT for the password before just throwing another towel on that baby willy-nilly, you hear me? This isn't going to be another Schlessinger delivery. Towel Team, are we go for launch? Great. NEXT! Ice Chip Team, huddle up. YES, all of you."

Super-Long Surgical Clampy Scissor Team Roll Call!
Sheila, 9 and 1/16th inch dull super-long surgical clampy scissors?
Fauntleroy, 9 and 1/8th inch dull super-long surgical clampy scissors?
Carrie, on the 9 and 3/16ths inch dull super-long surgical clampy scissors?
I'm glad you're here, Carrie.
This could be a big one for you.
It feels like a 3/16ths night.

At the next contraction, I pushed as hard as I could so the OB could fasten the suction cup to Chicken's dome. I felt nothing. But as I pushed my little heart out, the whole room, the curved crowd of scrubbed-up onlookers, in perfect chorus, made that little, "whoops!" sound, the skippy little diphthong of a sound that can only mean "she just pooped. You guys all saw that right? She just pooped on the table. Sssshhhh guys. Be cool, be cool. Nobody act like you just saw a poop get born. Nobody act like that this woman just defecated in front of 96 strangers with Instagram accounts and camera phones."

I asked, "did I just poop?"

And the midwife, who by this time was smoking a cigar, sipping Courvoisier by the window, and shaving with a Crocodile Dundee knife, glanced over and said, "YEP."

I looked at the OB, still head-down between my legs, while a baker's dozen of PAs and nurses (The Poop Team) busily whisked away the turd before I could be embarrassed by it. Little did they know, it was the best news I would have until 10:36 pm.

"I pooped?"

The OB smiled gently at me and said, "it happens more often than not."

I said, "I pooped!" and high-fived Ryan.

At least I pushed something by myself that day.

2. Bon Appetit

Newborn poop - meconium - is bizarre, sticky, and swampy, like the stuff you'd scoop out of your drain after bathing a sea otter you rescued from an oil slick. If ever you needed proof that newborn babies aren't of this earth quite yet, just check the contents of those shorts, amigo. Their shit is extraterrestrial.

Breastmilk poop is bright yellow and comes out speckled with tiny white milk curds, and it smells like buttered popcorn. If ever you needed proof that babies are factories of goodness and delight, just check the contents of those shorts, amigo. Their shit smells like movie theater manna.

Whenever infant Buster screwed up his face, turned red, and trembled with the effort of moving his bowels, I would wait until the watery burbling sounds quieted, pick him up, and smell his warm diaper the way a South Dakotan would smell a warm baguette on her first trip to Paris - eyes closed, gulping breath after breath of the scent in ecstasy.

3. The Sixth Love Language

Chicken: (voice muffled through the bedroom door) Mommy, I pooped!

Me: (coming back into the room) You pooped?

Chicken: (his eyes downcast) I know it's nap time but... would you change my diap?

Me: Of course, babe! Come on over.

Chicken: Okay.

(I set him down on the changing table, pull down his pants, and pull out the first wipe.)

Me: Woah, nice one!

Chicken: Is there corn in it?

Me: Yep!

Chicken: Can I see?

(I show him a used wipe.)

Chicken: Oh! (giggles)

Me: Pretty silly, huh.

Chicken: Yeah, pretty silly. Mommy?

Me: Yeah, baby?

Chicken: If I poop again after this will you change me again?

Me: Yes.

Chicken: But what if it's bedtime?

Me: I will change you.

Chicken: But what if you're busy?

Me: I will always change your diaper, no matter what, no matter when, no matter what else I am doing. 

Chicken: But what if it's yucky?

Me: Any time you poop, I will change you, because I love you. People who love you will want to help you clean your yuckiest poops the most, so you can be comfortable. People who love you should love all of you. 

Chicken: Oh. Okay. But what if it's just a pee diap?

Me: Oh, no. No way, dude. Pee diaps can wait.

4. Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo

The other day Buster cooked up a monster, a hot beige paste with the aromatic topnotes of a month-old goat stew that has been doused with gasoline and set aflame to roast chestnuts behind the tannery.

From the other room, I smelled it. When I walked into the playroom, goggles in place and ventilator standing by, I found Buster with his back to me, standing at the train table, babbling softly as he clapped another Mega Blok on his tower. A lump in his diaper the size of a KFC biscuit cast a shadow on the ground.  Chicken lay unconscious in the corner, his foot still twitching. I dragged Chicken to an open window, looped my St. Christopher medallion around his neck, and whispered, "Mommy's got this."

I grabbed Buster, gagged, and said, "whew! We've gotta change your bottom, friend." He smiled and said, "poop cake!"

Well, he sure liked the sound of that and bounced merrily in my arms chanting "poop CAKE poop CAKE poop CAKE," as I walked down the hall - because in an emergency situation, walk, don't run.

By the time we got to the bedroom, Buster's chant had turned into an order, two syllables as imperative as GET OUT or SHUT UP or EL MO. I had a package of wipes in one hand and was shifting him to lay him on the table, but I wasn't fast enough.

Still in my arms, he plunged his hand into the back of his diaper. I gasped.

He pulled his hand back out, found it caked with poop, and said, again, "poop cake."

I keened his name, imagining cleaning under his fingernails later, imagining a day when I would ever be able to eat oatmeal again.

"Oh, nooooooooooo, Busteerrrrrrrrrrrr..."

Then he put his hand in my mouth.

I saw it coming.
I should have dropped him.
But a mother's love and blah blah blah.

He slipped his poop cake hand, warm and slick and lumpy, through my lips, and his fingers hooked my lower jaw.

I changed him.

The worst part was not trying to avoid the taste of human shit as I rinsed my mouth with hot tap water, then vinegar, then salt water, then ACT.

No. That wasn't the worst.

The worst part was flossing.

oh god
it was

5. That's My Boy

As I wiped Chicken's bottom the other day, just the last wipe, just the old buff-and-polish, we made eye contact.

His eyes are stunners, enormous and brown and sparkling. I smiled. He smiled.

He whispered, "you're welcome."

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