The Milk of Magnesia Incident

You may have wondered why new parents no longer socialize with others.  Why do they only hang out with other parents?  It’s really not what you think.  New parents don’t believe they are better than you.  They are not tired of you or your random anecdotes.  They are simply constantly talking about poop, and have thoughtfully excluded you from the conversation.

No one tells you this as they coo over your swelling belly, and, later, over the squeaky drooler in the stroller.  No one talks about this at the baby shower, or in the pregnancy books, or at the obstetrician’s office.  No one.  My only inkling came from a wine-tasting event I once attended with a whole pile of new moms.  Three glasses into the evening, a woman I barely knew suddenly turned to me and shrieked, “I didn’t know that my whole life would revolve around FECAL MATTER!  I NEVER would have signed on for this job!”

I should have listened.

Hundreds of crap-tastrophes preceded The Milk of Magnesia Incident, of course, and many, many followed.  I have blowout stories.  I have double blowout stories. I have stories of Leila eating and excreting pachinko balls.  I have seen poop ingested.  I have seen it laid on the table on Easter.  I have power-hosed a screaming infant at a gas station in mid-winter, to the shock and dismay of the public at large. I have also had to yank half-digested seaweed salad from Josephine’s nether parts.  Even now that the girls are six and eight years old, few days go by without a reference to excrement, but the day I am about to describe was the one that nearly broke me.

Come to think of it, this was the same day I got my belly stuck in a play structure trying to rescue tiny Leila, who was teetering precariously 15 feet above the concrete.

I was seven or eight months pregnant and quite sick.  I was also completely exhausted from running after a non-napping toddler while lugging a six-pound parasite in my uterus.    In a moment of desperation, I did what politically correct parents are never supposed to do.  I plopped that kid in front of the television.

Please let mama lay down for twenty minutes or she is going to fall apart!”

Leila looked at me oddly, but she must have known how serious I was, because she readily acquiesced.  I headed upstairs.  “Whatever happens, whatever you need, it can all wait for TWENTY MINUTES,” I said repeatedly.  I closed the door and lay down.  What followed were the most amazingly peaceful three minutes of my life as a parent.

Then Leila started to call to me.  “Mama…” she whimpered.

I played dead.

“Mama.”

Silence.

“Mama!”

I refused to cave in.

After she called for a minute or two longer, I heard her footsteps on the stairs, and I broke into a feverish sweat.

The door slid open, and I continued to feign sleep, even as her little feet slapped closer and closer to the bed.  Lord knows how long I would have lain there like a corpse, but Leila said, very quietly, “Mama…something happened,” in a way that induced real terror.

I opened one eye.  “Where are your pants?” I wanted to know.

“Uh oh,” she said.  This was not good.

I noticed smudgy little footprints from Leila to the top of the stairs and, as I discovered, all the way down them and across to the couch, where her pants lay in a gooey pile.

I suddenly flashed back to a conversation I had had with my spouse a couple of days earlier, when we discovered that two teaspoons of Milk of Magnesia miraculously cured our constipated kid.  Now I wondered if, perhaps, after he said, “That works well,” did he then continue to put two teaspoons of it in EVERY SINGLE TIME HE FILLED HER SIPPY CUP?  Why, yes he did.  And at the time, Leila drank about a half gallon a day.

“Stay right here, honey,” I said.  “Mama is going to clean this up, and then we’ll give you a bath.”  Instead, she walked back through the mountain of poopy goop and continued to follow me as I went to get old towels and Pine Sol.  “No, no, Leila.  STAY RIGHT HERE FOR A MINUTE.”

“Mama!”  Even as she said it, I knew what was happening.  The second bout was starting before I had had the chance to win the first round.

“Sweetheart, STAY RIGHT HERE AND I WILL GET MORE TOWELS!”  Splat, splat, splat, she followed me wherever I went.  I have no idea what I said right then, but I am certain it was nothing to be proud of.

She tried, I’ll give her that.  But as soon as I would get a load in the washer, or disinfect another room of the house, one more travesty would occur and she would forget, running anxiously about, spraying and tracking poop like some raccoon with dysentery.  I bathed her and got her into clean clothes multiple times, but in desperation she would pry them off and leave large, runny deposits in any available nook or cranny.

The whole ordeal was simply foul, but the nadir was scraping the residual solids from the sides of the washing machine while hearing Round IV or V happening in the background. My hands were raw from disinfectant for days, and I was terrified to walk barefoot or eat anything brown.  Plus, everything smelled a bit funky.  Everything.

I’m sure I could have handled the incident more gracefully, and I probably could have done something to avoid the unending fountain of diarrhea from spewing over the entire house.  You might even have a few suggestions, but go ahead and keep them to yourself.  We don’t allow Milk of Magnesia in the house anymore.  If the kids are backed up, we give them a glass of water and a pat on the back.  That will have to suffice.

Day two: another excerpt

But baby was born and she was just perfectly beautiful. She latched on and started nursing eagerly, and I thought, “when she’s done, we’ll just sleep and sleep and sleep.” She didn’t finish, though. She was insatiable. And, it turns out you have to do stacks of paperwork before they let you go to the room. It took hours to fill it all out, administer exams, tests, shots, eye drops, the whole nine yards. When we finally headed to the room around 4 am for some sleep, guess what? Baby did not want to sleep. Baby wanted to scream. She wanted to nurse. She would not be put down. This frustrated me to no end. I had made a rational and informed decision that the baby would sleep in her own crib from day one so I wouldn’t ruin sleep patterns for the whole family as well as end my sex life. It had never occurred to me that the baby might have her own opinion on the matter. She wanted to be held. At all times. She nursed relentlessly, and when the colostrom was gone and my milk had not yet come in, she bit at me until my nipples bled. “See?” I thought to myself. “It’s because you weren’t well-centered enough throughout the pregnancy. You didn’t do enough yoga. You harbored bad thoughts about your hippie birthing coach. You didn’t sing stupid twinkle songs to the fetus. Now you’re fucked.”

Ooh! Today’s novel excerpt!

“My main concern about art school was a vision of quirky painter types, holing up in their studios and spewing arty masturbations about their tiny inner lives onto giant canvases.  What if I got sucked into their self-indulgent little cult?  Ugh.  But I was studying photography!  I would journey out into reality, recording lives legions away from my inner world.

Sadly, when I found out I was pregnant, I felt tremendous pressure to turn the lens on myself.  “If not now, when?” my teachers queried.  Here was this tremendous opportunity for self-exploration, they persisted, a once in a lifetime chance!  And so my work devolved into self-indulgent arty masturbations about my tiny inner life.  As I transformed into my own worst nightmare, at least I was too broke to make the ginormous prints that would have reified the accompanying self-loathing.”