Friday, September 28, 2007

Some Thoughts on Poop

In response to my e-mail announcing le Petit's birth, a friend of mine wrote:

"I think the most striking thing that hit me about being a new parent was the focus on scatology. How much do they poop? How often do they poop? What does the poop look like (poop that looks exactly like deli mustard indicates a healthy baby). It was through this period that I realized I wasn't nearly as anally retentive as I thought, because all that thinking about poop was really starting to make me uncomfortable."

It's true. Thinking about poop almost seems comforting because it is so much less stressful than worrying about sleep, for example. And breast-fed baby poop is an entirely different substance altogether. It doesn't exactly smell good, but it doesn't exactly smell bad, either. For me, it is the easiest of the inevitabilities of parenthood to accept. He eats, he poops, I change his diaper, the cycle starts over again.

Poop makes an impression on parents. I remember that my mother used to describe the sickly orange-brown color of Seattle's Metro bus logo as "baby poop brown." I always thought it bizarre that the diapers that she'd changed all those years ago (and I am an only child) had made such a mark in her memory. Now I understand. Some days I'm afraid a good dirty diaper is the most exciting thing the mother of a newborn has to talk about. I'm not expecting to feel nostalgic, but still, this poopy phase is going to stick in my mind.

Of course, I can look at all this poop much more objectively now that I've found a reliable way to get the stains out of le Petit's clothing (and on rare and dramatic occasions, mine): my mother-in-law's secret laundry weapon, le savon de Marseille, a traditional French bar soap. Just rub the dry bar on the stain, throw the item in the laundry as usual, and voilà! The stain disappears magically on the first try! I think back to those first weeks when, using commercial stain removers, I washed the same baby blanket *three* times without getting the poop out. It felt like the same kind of fruitless lather-rinse-repeat cycle that I was going through at night trying to get le Petit to fall asleep in his crib. (Ever heard insanity defined as "trying the same thing repeatedly and expecting different results?" By that definition, we parents are all nuts.)

I've learned to appreciate diaper changing, at least when le Petit is in a good mood. I sing to him, I tickle his tummy and massage his feet, and talk to him in my ridiculous mommy voice. "You're Mister Poopy Pants, aren't you?" I tell him, and he grins at me, proud of himself.

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