The Dirty Side of Parenting

Poop-Saster: A Parents Worst Nightmare

There’s nothing like being dragged out of the middle of a strange dream by the sound of a needy 3-year-old only to walk into a nightmare… of poop. I thought it was the usual "woke up on the wrong side of the bed" call coming from Oliver’s room as he woke up that morning. But once I opened the door the rush of disaster hit me square in the nose. I could smell how bad that morning was going to be. I reluctantly asked if he had pooped (Was I in denial? What else could have made that awful smell?). As I pulled back the covers and I saw a big, dark puddle, he cried, "Mama, it hurts, it hurts!" I rushed into action and hauled him into the bathtub and striped him down. Rinsed him of and tried to scrub off the dried-on diarrhea chunks as gently as I could. I let the water drain and I got more water running. Once I had scrubbed the tub and Oliver clean and rinsed all the chunks down I drew a warm bath for the shivering boy. As he soaked I returned to the scene of the disaster to collect the laundry. I was relieved to remember that I doubled up his sheets and had not just one but two super waterproof mattress pads on his bed for nighttime accidents. But to my surprise, as I peeled off the first layer, I found the poop had soaked through the first mattress pad, and down to the second too. They were guaranteed to protect the mattress, at least that’s what the mattress salesman convinced me of, but two couldn’t even stop the poop smell from reaching the mattress. I didn't see a stain on the mattress, not even with UV light, but it stunk, and bad. Maybe it just needed to air out, I thought. I picked up every poop smelling item, including his favorite Big Doggie that he sleeps with, and put it all in the laundry room, it would have to wait. As I returned to the bathroom I could still smell the poop, it was still there, but where? I double-checked to make sure I got everything, which I did, but the smell was still there. It was the boy. The poop puddle in the bed had reached his shoulders and the scrub and soak wasn't enough. I had to wash him from head to toe, including his hair, a task that I almost never do. Bath-time is Daddy time and I know washing hair is a precise science and not easy for the inexperienced. I forged ahead; I had to get rid of that horrible smell. We got through it with only minor whining. I drew some more hot water and soaked a washcloth and set it on his back to keep him warm.

Meanwhile the baby was crying; I had to get her up. I gathered her clothes and changing pad and dragged it into the bathroom so I could tend to her while I watched Oliver in the bath. After a few more bathwater warm-ups, which gave me a chance to take a rest, get a snack (breakfast seemed like a far-off fantasy at that point) and texted the husband apprising him of my OMFG morning from hell; it was time to soldier on with the day. His hands had gotten too pruned and it was time to get out of the bath and get dressed. I offered pajamas, since we had entered “sick-day mode”, but he demanded jeans. Oliver didn’t like the shirt I picked so we entered the still stinky room for him to pick it out himself (Aargh! Why did it still stink?). He wanted to dress in our room but it's a place I couldn’t set the baby on the floor, it needed to be vacuumed, she was a fuzz-eating machine, so I convinced him to go into the baby's room. As I was dressing him Joy got too close to him, she loves her brother but now that she could crawl she tried to grab what she wanted, including her brothers hair. In an attempt to push her away Oliver knocked her over and I had to stop what I was doing to console her. Finally, I had the two kids dressed and ready to go down stairs.

I should have seen it coming. Oliver had given us signs the last few days with a dwindling appetite. He had gone two days with barely eating anything and I was trying to get him to drink anything just to get some fluids in him. He would spend meal times curled up on the couch under a blanket complaining how cold he was and then running off to play. His temperature was normal, no fever, hmmm.

So no breakfast for him again that morning, I tried to push the fluids, he asked for milk, no milk, I had just run out. No pedialyte either, he drank the last box the day before. The whining began again. “How about some juice?” I asked as I headed to the garage fridge. I asked if he wanted pink or purple juice. “Purple!” he yelled, even as I returned from the garage with the purple juice he was still yelling it. He had a major melt down. Something about how he didn't want to tell me which juice he wanted while I was in the garage. Oliver has a way with peculiar demands, especially when he’s cranky. He continued the incoherent sobbing and irrational reasoning. As much as I tried I couldn't make sense of what his problem was. The more I tried the more upset he got. Was he delirious from being sick or was it the mind of a three year old trying to sort through his feelings, I couldn't tell? On top of all that I was attempting to feed the baby and myself breakfast but making no headway with his interruptions. I could feel my crankies coming on. I had been jumping from one problem to the next for two hours on an empty stomach and I still had to clean all the pooped-up laundry and the Big Doggie. That was when I snapped, "Do you want juice or not!" Finally he came to his senses and I had gotten him some juice but, God forbid, it was in the wrong cup. After I got him to calmly tell me what he wanted and I had both kids with something in front of them at the table I jumped down to the laundry room to attack the pooped laundry.

I peeled the ball of sheets apart and reached ground zero containing pajamas and underwear. The Lightning McQueen underwear had no more whiteness showing, all brown, caked in slimy diarrhea, same with the pajamas. I wondered how long he had slept in the poop, poor thing. I even tried to see the bright side of that moment; if the smell made me vomit, at least I was conveniently located over a sink and clean up would be a cinch. Finally, all debris was rinsed off and set to go in the washer. Now it was my turn to eat breakfast. With the milk shortage, my usual cereal was not available; luckily, I had some toaster waffles in the freezer. In my rush to appease the sick child and fed up baby in the high chair I set the toaster too high and burned my waffles. It seemed the trouble would never end but I finally got something to eat, albeit, a little burned.

After multiple attempts of kindly asking him to cooperate for a thermometer reading to see if he had a fever he finally agreed to one after Daddy called and told him to be a good boy and to listen to Mommy. Despite him feeling hot he didn’t have a fever. In that moment I wished for a new, easier thermometer.

The boy’s bedroom still smelled so I washed the comforter for good measure, after all, it had been trying to trap in the smell all night. Oliver still had diarrhea the rest of the day but he made it to the potty each time (Although, he was full of sharts the next day and he went through about 5 underwear & pant changes). That day eventually calmed down and Joy and Oliver took turns taking naps. Oliver and I settled into a game of Mario Kart while Joy napped and eventually Oliver fell asleep during a couch cuddle. Afraid of another poop-in-my-sleep incident I snuck an incontinence pad under him as he lay on the couch, especially since couches won’t fit in the washer (I had a stash of incontinence bed pads I used as changing pads from Oliver’s messy diaper rash days back when he was an infant, Oliver has a sordid history of poop). Later, he was quite horrified to find a "diaper" under him after he woke up, being a big boy and all.

Like the image of the bright sun burned on my retinas the smell persisted everywhere I went that day, I couldn't shake it. Despite my phantom poop smells and over-sensitized olfactory nerves my husband confirmed that the poop smell was still there in the thrice-washed sheets that were soaked in vinegar. There is still the lingering smell of poop in the pajamas and Big Doggie and I am still searching for the right solution to remove the smell.

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    The Royal Treatment

    Oliver, as an infant, had horrible diaper rash, with open sores in odd, Rorschach type shapes that I mapped out in my mind to chart the progress.  After trying every diaper rash remedy the best solution was what I called “The Royal Treatment”.  I couldn’t wipe his bottom any more since the wiping action only scraped away the delicate new skin cells trying to repair the damage.  The treatment started with getting warm water running in the sink and then undressing and removing the dirty diaper.  Supporting his head and back with one hand and his ankles in the other I would carry him to the readied sink.  Of course, a check of the water temperature with one of the fingers holding the ankles to make sure the water temperature hadn’t changed.  Then I would hold his bottom under the stream of water and rinse it clean.  A look in the mirror above the sink (thank you large, unframed vanity mirrors of the 80’s) assisted us in assessing our progress.  Once he was clean I carried him, while still in the same ankle-hold position, back to the changing station.  This is where the incontinence pads came into play as he was still a bit wet after the run under the water and, this being a long process and all the while he is un-diapered, uncontained accidents are more likely to happen.  Although, I didn’t have the foresight to tape one to the wall, yes, a projectile poop escaped out during one of these sessions.  Wetness is no good for a sore behind and wiping is out of the question so this is where the “royal” part of the treatment happened.  With a blow dryer on low and pulsing the “cool-shot” button on and off, his hiney was dried but he gave us a lot of giggles so it must have felt quite nice.  After a generous smear of heavy duty Desitin he was ready for a clean diaper.

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      Poop Triage

      Oliver had a brief exploration of poop.  Oliver was just over two years old and I had been coaching him on potty training but it was also a time he was experimenting with skipping naptime.  Everyday I would set him up for naptime, read him a story and tuck him in to his bed.  But not every day he would stay in his bed.  Over time he learned that even if he didn’t nap he had to stay in his room, I was not ready to give up his naptime yet; I had things to get done.  When he didn’t sleep, his room would be a disaster.  Books torn off the shelves or clothes pulled out of drawers and, and of course, toys still in the toy basket.  Typically, the days he didn’t sleep he also had a poopy diaper.  One sleepless nap day I entered his room, since he was yelling “I have a poopie!”  He stood at the far wall without pants or a diaper on.  I asked where the diaper was and he pointed across the room to behind the door.  I began the poop triage, cleaned the boy (kept the mess from running around with him) then systematically cleaned the room from entrance to the far wall, (yes, even the wall where he backed up to it) and everything in between.  I couldn’t get an answer out of him as to why he did this.  A week later it happened again, poop and diaper strewn about his room during naptime.  The first time I was stunned and didn’t want to make a big deal about it in case he ever decided to use this as tool to push our buttons.  But this second time I was exasperated, why, oh why, was he doing this?  Was a mischievous troublemaker emerging out of his nice boy shell?  The next day he talked about how it was important to get poop out of the diaper ‘cause it could make his bum hurt.  He had such a sensitive tooshie and we coached him on telling us when he had a poopie diaper so we could change it as quickly as possible.  Ding! Ding! Ding!  He wasn’t misbehaving for the sake of it, he was just listening what we were telling him and solving a problem, albeit, not how I told him to, he was getting the poop out of the diaper himself.  Ever since then, when Oliver acted out in strange behaviors and made trouble, I considered that he may be telling himself some strange stuff that is getting him into the trouble.  The mind of a toddler or preschooler can be a very odd and illogical place and they may act out accordingly, but usually there’s a seed of reality buried somewhere inside.

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