You know that moment when you pull up to your house, take one last drag of your latte, and slide open the minivan door, only to find your child swimming in his own feces?
The sludge of a lactose-intolerant, milkshake-drinking plumber had pooled around Tophs’ shorts, seeping into the cracks of his car seat.
My single thought that morning: Would turkey vultures eat the crap off Tophs but leave his legs intact?
I didn’t have time to wait and see. I needed proof—something that would rise to the top of Facebook newsfeeds and guilt friends into sending me Starbucks gift cards. As I focused Tophs’ face on my iPhone’s screen, he did the unthinkable. He brought his hand up from under his leg and lifted it to his mouth. The child ate his poop.
“No! Don’t! Don’t eat your poop!”
I waited for the grimace. It might look like avocado, buddy, but… He didn’t hate it. He calmly looked at me with those dark eyes and lashes, like a limited edition Precious Moments doll from India.
I searched for anything—baby wipes, paint thinner, scotch with roofies.
Meanwhile, Eliot chimed in from her car seat. “He poop? He eat poop? He eat it?”
I wiped one of his hands, then the other, and before I could figure out how to hogtie him, he ate some more. Beads of excrement squished between his top and bottom teeth.
What dentist will take him now?
Will he ever find a wife?
How much do gold fronts cost?
I was caught in a vicious Tophs-eats-poop-cycle: I wiped his mouth, he put his hand back in. I wiped his hand, then his mouth, and shoved the paci in. I loaded him into the stroller. When I checked his face, the paci was out, and the poop was in. The man was an addict.
I shouldn’t have been surprised. In a sense, we’d been waiting for the blowout—or at least a shy turtlehead. You see, my children don’t poop on their own. They start life out fine, squirting that breast milk-laced yellow goo into their newborn diapers. But as soon as we introduce solids into their diet, they get stopped up, make wrestler faces, and grunt out dry pellets.
It’s like somewhere between their intestines and anal cavities, their crap gets outsourced to a desert in Iran. And the camels choke on it. And die.
Paul and I don’t even mess around with prunes or watered-down juice anymore. Call us over-prescribed Americans, but we fight constipation with Miralax. These miraculous anti-constipation pearls dissolve into oatmeal, milk, even the new Twinkies. If we’re feeling really aggressive, we’ll put the Miralax in the pureed prunes. We call it a double shot.
Then we wait. For the babysitter to come. We leave the kids, pumped full of dynamite, and enjoy a night on the town.
This time around, we’d waited seven days for Tophs to poop. The poor guy sat on the floor with his back curved, straining.
“He try to poop,” Elie would say, making her sad face, which is also her singing face, which triples as her You can share some of my milk, baby Jesus, face.
In our family, your first blowout is a milestone. Sometimes our kids just need the right motivation to hit those developmental markers. For instance, Tophs first crawled at his birthday party when he saw his friends arriving with gifts. Two weeks later, he spewed sewage everywhere because his pint-size torso couldn’t handle the amount of poop regularly stored in Shaq’s colon.
But before I could celebrate loose stools, I had to clean them up. You need to know that walking up a three-part ramp in the heat from your permit parking spot to your apartment—with one kid eating his poop and the other asking if he is still eating his poop—is a whole new level of hell. Naturally, I thought of ways to escape. I could roll into the storm sewer at the bottom of the hill, but the garden interns would save me with a pitchfork. I could fling myself down the hill, but at best, I would contract tetanus from a squirrel bite and make the construction workers laugh. So I continued my trek, coveting every house I’d ever seen with a driveway. Or washer and dryer.
I have to admit, I don’t miss doing laundry. But a blowout is one of those occasions when you’d love to have the option of throwing the car seat cover into the washer, watching an episode of The Wendy Williams Show, and returning to find a machine full of baby rainbows.
Instead of sharing the students’ laundry room and praying we never find Paul’s jockstrap flung over a chair, we drop our clothes off at a nearby laundromat. We’re friendly with the staff, and it’s one thing to make polite conversation, knowing we’ve all seen my granny panties and push-up bras. It’s quite another to hand over a load of crap-encrusted clothing and run. I couldn’t do it. Not only because I like them, but also because I could never go back to the other laundromat in town where the woman told me, “We (as in Black people) don’t use laundry services.” I don’t think she hated me, but I was always scared she’d find out how much I hate seafood and drop a prawn in my jeans.
Once inside the dorm, I took a minute to do what any responsible mother would do: I Googled “kid ate poop.” That way, I could text pictures to my family with the caption “LOL” and not feel guilty if he later developed mealworms. Turns out, if your child eats less than a mouthful, he’s safe. Whose kid ate more than a mouthful?!
As I held Tophs away from me and walked down the hall toward the bathtub, Eliot began to share what concerned her the most about her brother’s accident: his hair. “Need hair milk? Need hair milk?” she asked, referring to the white conditioner that helps to hold his curls. When he cried, she threw in a sympathetic “I know, bud. I know,” complete with her how precious is the baby Jesus face.
After I washed and hair-milked Tophs, changed his clothes, and drowned his car seat cover in Pantene Pro-V shampoo, I still couldn’t relax. POOP. Poop was everywhere. At first, it was real. I’d find a turd here, a turd there. One under the play mat, another under the couch. Then I became obsessed. I saw an NBA Finals commercial, and Tim Duncan’s eyes looked like frantic balls of poop. LeBron? A giant turd with a headband. Chris Bosh? A T-Rex sculpted from feces.
Yet even with the very real threat of tetanus or gold fronts or poop-induced paranoia, there’s something sweet, redeeming even about a baby’s first blowout. Like if an old woman eats her feces, she will smell. Forever. Crap will be all up in her denture glue, and she’ll spend the rest of her days slurping thinned mash potatoes through a straw. With a baby, things are totally different. Later that afternoon, when I couldn’t find any more droppings, I reached down from the couch and picked up Tophs. He drooled and smiled, showing off his teeth. And as he babbled, I smelled his breath. I braced for the worst, knowing how what a twenty-minute catnap can do to an adult’s breath. But when he exhaled, all I smelled were cherries. Chocolate-covered cherries.