Parenting Scared the Crap Out of Me...Mostly Because of the Crap
My daughter pooped on the floor the other day.
It was a proud moment for us all. And not just because it was a first -admittedly not entirely perfectly executed - step on the road to potty training. The fact is that it was a big step for Daddy too.
Because Daddy didn't throw up.
It's weird to look back on it now, but before I became a parent, one of the things I worried about most was not sleepless nights, not dealing with teething, not even my child running off to join a Satanist cult (although I may start to worry about that in 15 years time...).
What worried me the most was poop.
An Infantile Concern?
To be more precise, dealing with bodily functions of all kinds grossed me out. Despite the fact that I briefly considered diaper-free infant potty training, the prospect of the years ahead wiping up someone else's poop, pee and God-know-what-else was intimidating to say the least for this Dad-to-be. And yet it seemed like such an immature and trivial concern that I could hardly bring it up.
Given that my wife was facing months of nurturing a new life inside of her, morning sickness, and the seemingly unbelievable challenge of child birth, the idea of a guy sniveling about his fear of poop seemed too clichéd for words. I mean, everybody poops. (I think I read that in a book somewhere...)
I've come to terms with my cowardice though. What's odd to me now is not that I spend a good deal of my time dealing with these things. But rather, that I ever worried about it at all in the first place.
Nowadays a week doesn't go by without getting poop on some part of our clothing, or under the finger nails. (Yup, that one is always particularly fun...) Add to that the pee, the spit up, the saliva, the snot, and we parents serve as a veritable petri dish for sticky, sometimes foul smelling secretions coming from our beautiful little bundles of joy. In fact, as Marla noted in her excellent post on new moms in bikinis, digging out crusty snot, rinsing your baby's vomit from your own mouth, and wiping away poop that's crawled up your baby's back are all a normal, if humiliating, part of being a new parent.
The other day I found myself at a party during the height of March Madness.
Being an Englishman not clued in on the finer points of college basketball, I nodded politely as the boys discussed stats and I swigged my PBR. At some point the new Dad next to me was handed a baby to change - and I caught a glimpse of that unmistakable cottage cheese mustard poop that can only come from a newborn butt.
Without thinking, the nostalgia got the better of me:
"Dude. I'd forgotten how great newborn poop is."
Thinking I'd just committed the ultimate guy-talk sin, I promptly turned bright purple, and tried to say something sensible about effective field goal percentages. But rather than laugh, or turn away in embarrassment, my newfound confidant nodded sagely:
"You are so right. I am savoring it now before the solid food kicks in."
I knew exactly what he meant.
Everything is Different
When I think about it, this topic is about so much more than poop, however much it feels good to let it all out... no pun intended.
In reality, it is just one reminder among many that what constitutes our lives before parenthood - and what comes after, are so vastly, unimaginably different - and yet both are so totally normal.
Prior to Lilia being born, the idea of getting up 4 times a night to comfort a screaming baby - and then wake up and go to work - would sound like a horror show. Likewise the concept of putting somebody else's needs first for decades to come was at minimum a daunting prospect. And dealing with stinky, sticky, soiled diapers for years was just the icing on the cake.
However much other Dads who had already been there would tell me "you just figure it out", I couldn't help but hear that little voice inside me screaming "how!!???"
But, lo and behold, 18 months into parenthood and all of it seems like the most natural thing in the world. I can't imagine a world without screaming. Without stepping on toys in the middle of the night. Without that ever-present desire for just a little more sleep. And without my beautiful daughter or her amazing mother.
And I can't even imagine a world without dirty diapers.
The non-Dad me would have no doubt found this inconceivable, but barring catastrophes, the things we worry about most in parenthood seem - once we are thrown into it - like the most normal things in the world. We adapt, we adjust, we wash our hands, and we do it all over again.
People have been doing this for years. I don't know why I was ever worried.
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