I had forgotten what it was like to talk about poop over dinner.
Except for when our entire family is gathered and I intentionally launch into the subject matter to gross out my mother, I’m pretty sure I never had a conversation about poop at the supper table. And, once our twins were potty-trained — which was more than eight years ago — I’m pretty sure it stopped.
There are a lot of things that stopped eight or nine years ago that I’m being reminded of now that I’m a new father as I push 40. Our new addition — Cooper Dewayne — turned one month old earlier this week. Here are a few things I’ve remembered over the past four weeks:
It is inevitable — every time you hand off Baby to the other parent, the question is going to be asked: “Did he poop?”
It can be three o’clock in the morning, first thing after work, or dinner-time. As Baby is being passed from mother to father or vice-versa, the question will be posed.
I’m not exactly sure why there is so much interest in Baby’s bowel movements. I’m pretty sure I’ve never passed my wife in the hallway and said, “Hey…d’ya poop yet?” Because, you know, I really don’t care, if I’m being bluntly honest. The same is true with my other children. I don’t need to know. (Although my son is 11, and like any self-respecting 11-year-old male, he is squarely in the middle of the age range where he likes to yell, “Dude! You REALLY need to come check this out before I flush!”)
But, as the father of a newborn, it’s a fact: your life revolves around the tiniest of bowel movements. I had forgotten that.
I had also forgotten that babies can “poop up their back.” I’m pretty sure some long-ago midwife invented that terminology. I can’t imagine a group of fathers standing around the water cooler at work comparing notes about whose baby has pooped up his back lately. Yet, if I’ve heard the phrase one time in the past month, I’ve heard it a hundred times. You 20-somethings who are preparing for first-time parenthood, let me assure you of this: nothing can prepare you for when Baby poops up his back. This is just a fancy way of saying Baby had one of those especially squishy diapers that couldn’t be contained, and he is now covered in stinky goo.
Along the same lines, I had forgotten the art of feigning sleep when Baby has a dirty diaper in the middle of the night. But I remembered it really quickly. You guys who are seasoned vets know the trick. Your wife shakes your shoulder and says, “You awake? Baby needs his diaper changed. He pooped.” Five minutes earlier you were on YouTube watching Ten Greatest Football Trick Plays Of All Time, but suddenly you’re sleeping like Rip Van Winkle.
Especially if Baby pooped up his back.
I had forgotten how really amazingly gross that first diaper change is. (I’m sorry; I realize this is a really crappy column.)
Young guys, this is another of those things you can’t possibly be prepared for. In fact, I’m pretty sure high school sex ed classes are missing the boat by not bringing in those black, tarry newborn diapers and making the boys change them. Scare tactics make the best birth control.
Because nurses in the ob-gyn ward have just a touch of evil in them, they always make Dad change Baby’s first poopy diaper. (Yeah, Mr. 22-Year-Old Former Jock…I bet you never used the word “poopy” in general conversation without thinking twice about it, did you?)
You know, there’s a name for what’s in that first poopy diaper. It’s called meconium. I know because I googled it, and there are a lot of conniving mothers out there who put their husband’s first diaper change on YouTube for all the world to see. I’m not sure YouTube was a big thing when I was a first-time father 11 years ago, and fortunately my wife was still high on narcotics this time around and didn’t think to grab her phone. There are a lot of enviable ways to become YouTube-famous, but changing a meconium-filled diaper isn’t one of them.
Meconium doesn’t stink — it has that much going for it, at least — because it’s “sterile.” That’s what WebMD had to say about it. I hope you can sense my skepticism and sarcasm through my use of quotes. Because there were a lot of words that came to mind when I saw my first meconium-filled diaper, and “sterile” wasn’t one of them.
No, meconium doesn’t stink, but it certainly looks foul enough to offend the senses. It closely resembles the roofing tar that you would use to repair a hole in your shingles. And while there may be a lot of things that are like riding a bike — do it once and it’ll come back to you naturally a lot of years later — changing that first diaper isn’t one of them. I had forgotten what it was like to use a complete pack of wipes to change a single diaper. But I did. I also ruined Baby’s sleeper, his receiving blanket, and wound up with poop under my fingernails.
And as long as I’m talking to you first-time fathers, let me give you another crappy piece of advice: do not — I repeat, do NOT — make the mistake of assuming that because that first poopy diaper doesn’t stink, they’re all going to be that way. Oh, yes, all of us battle-tested fathers have been there. Once we get past that initial shock of changing a black, tarry meconium diaper, we puff out our chest a little. We’re thinking, “Huh. Every daddy thinks his baby’s poop don’t stink, but my baby’s poop really doesn’t stink!”
Famous last words of a fool. Two days later, when you’re at home and can’t push a button to summon a nurse to get you out of a jam, Baby will surprise you. Because Baby’s poop is no longer black and sticky, but it does look something like mustard mixed with poppy seeds. And, oh brother, does it ever stink. You’ll be amazed that something so cute and so little, so innocent, as Baby could produce such an offensive substance. Especially when he poops up his back.
A newborn baby is a joy to have around. That’s something else I had forgotten over the past 11 years, but it’s true. It’s just that your entire life is literally about to revolve around when Baby goes poo. There’s no escaping it. We were sitting in Outback over the weekend, having dinner. I flipped through the dessert menu and happened to see the title of one of the restaurant’s signature desserts: Chocolate Thunder From Down Under.
Any guesses as to what was the first thing that came to my mind? And, of course, I couldn’t keep my thoughts to myself. I had to say it, much to the delight of my 11-year-old son, who giggled about it for the next 10 minutes. My wife, on the other hand, wasn’t nearly as amused.
But there we were, again: talking about poop over dinner.