by Elizabeth Beller
We hit the ground running in late November with no less than 8 doctor visits, includng 1 urgent care, 2 ER, and 1 hospital stay. We made it through this barrage all good and well, but in hindsight, one of the maladies stands out. Evangeline came down with a mysterious stomach ailment the Friday after Thanksgiving. It was off and on. She was completely herself, still eating well, and I figured it was due to a disproportionate butterscotch pumpkin pie vs. real food ratio. But by Sunday morning she wasn’t herself, or rather she was, but a self writhing on the floor in pain.
I freaked out and took her to the emergency room. They took x-rays and then proceeded to give Evangeline a preliminary diagnosis that needed to be followed up with her pediatrician, who in turn wanted things followed up with ultrasounds and stool samples. Yay! Who doesn’t love holding a pan under their child’s bottom, then using what looks like a play kitchen’s spatula to carve and scrape some of that poop into a plastic cup? But we all know the visceral goop of caring for our sick child doesn’t phase a mom.
Maybe a dad, though. For example, Tom really can’t bear when I suck snot out of the baby’s nose with the Nosefrieda, but I think it’s the greatest thing since dirty martinis. A mom is single-mindedly consumed with finding, treating and eviscerating whatever ails her child. Many appointments later (one of which I’m convinced is where I contracted the scarlet fever that was an interesting part of our holiday reenactment of The Andromeda Strain) I found my target. Evangeline had constipation.
What? What??? 5 days of stomach pain. Losing her appetite. Actual crying from incapacitating pain by day 3, which I had seen her do less than a handful on times (thank GOD) in her life. From constipation? I thought that was just for my mom (sorry, mom) and Nordic peoples who weren’t reaching their daily vodka intake (sorry Nordic peoples).
Nope, I was assured by four nice doctors and nine fellow parents—because talking shit, literally, is what becomes of our conversational skills as parents—that kids often get constipation in Kindergarten, where they are so swept up in the whirlwind of their day, the newness of school, and perhaps not wanting to call attention to their need to poop, that they hold it. Every day. For months. Which culminates in writhing on the floor.
As we administered apple juice, Miralax and yes, other unspeakables, we told ourselves that at least our most recent debacle was common. For once one of our many emergency room visits wasn’t expressly our fault. Even Dr. Combs in the ER affirmed this after the examination, which first required that he roll his eyes back in their sockets at the sight of us. I was relieved it didn’t have anything to do with our potty training tactics, which were at best, curious, and at worst, probably warping to a degree Freud would find appalling if they weren’t so laughable.
Right from the beginning, in my endeavors to be the mom who soothed any ill, I gave Evangeline tons of Mylicon when she had gas, which eventually turned into Grunting Baby Syndrome. Heard of it? Probably not, because most babies don’t have a mom who medicates their gas to the point that when baby finally becomes aware they are pooing, they don’t know how. Yes, we were merrily fretting about my inability to use a breast pump and therefore never leaving the house when we suddenly heard a “uuuuuuuuuuuuuhhhhhhh” from our sweet baby girl. Then deeper and louder,
“UUUUUUUUUHHHHHHHHHHGGGGGG. UUUUUUUUUGGGGHHHHHH. UUUUUGGH. UGH”
Once, when Evangeline was producing such sounds while we had her parked outside the 11th Street Cafe, some guy started looking around anxiously.
“It’s the baby,” Tom said.
“Oh,” said the guy. “It sounded like a cell phone on vibrate lying on the ground.”
This was in the general era of women tennis players grunting so loudly that people started to complain. Evangeline was the Maria Sharapova of pooping. She did of course, learn to poop without these theatrics.
When we decided to potty train we got her a plastic pink throne. We just put it in front of her, and were nonplussed when she didn’t simply pull off her diaper, wriggle down and take her first dump.
So we decide to do a demonstration. With a particularly loved stuffed white bear and had him sit on the princess potty for his own Grunting Bear Syndrome. Bear would do this for a few minutes every day while Evangeline watched, rapt. Then, while one of us distracted her (one of the few happily easy things to do with a 20-month-old), the other would toss a partially melted, now poo-shaped piece of chocolate in the toilet. Everyone would be delighted with Bear, and Freud turned in his grave because we had procured the stuffed, cheaply made, now chocolate-stained white animal at Coney Island on the day my husband first pronounced his love for me and long term intentions for us, eons before babies and poop entered our vernacular. Freud turned back around when we rewarded Grunting Bear with M&M’s.
So then we’ve got it made, no? No. Since pooping with Bear was such an event, there needed to be another production when it was time for her to go. Before her “go time” we watched Elmo’s Potty Time video, now rife with more Freudian implications than any of us care to go into. Of course, there’s not always time for YouTube before hitting the can, so we eventually we end up conducting our own “Poo Poo Show.” We cast two puppets, Duckie and Flamingo, in this musical, and they played their part with a gusto that put Anne Hathaway and her Les Miserables bisquit flashing Oscar campaign to shame.
Yet all good things come to an end, pun shamefully intended. Evangeline now asks for privacy, and the show has had its run. She had graduated on to Self Pooping. Tom and I, for once, hadn’t worked our inimitable blundering on this process.
So we ask our lovely Kindergartener who, probably like many of her classmates, was holding her caca all day, why? Is class too much fun? You don’t want to raise your hand to stop?
“Mmm. No, I mean I have fun in class. But really I just don’t like the toilet paper at school, and also, it’s just that going to the potty there is no fun.”
100% our fault. Again.
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