Today’s story is not for the squeamish. Please, I’m begging, don’t read any further if this describes you. If you can’t stand to hear the details of your neighbor’s latest bunion, sit through a gastric bypass surgery on the TLC channel, much less pick up your dog’s business in a plastic bag, turn back now because this story is not for you. (And, if you’re nodding your head to the latter, beware. I’m on to you. I know you’re the one who walks a small horse through my yard every Sunday morning. It’s not cute and I don’t care if it is the “black gold” of gardening compost.)
What I’m writing about today is difficult for me to divulge. And somewhere across town, three miles from my house, a woman is dying a thousand tiny deaths as she reads this. But I must come out with it as I’ve spent years of my life trying to pretend it away. Okay, here it goes. When I was a baby, I ate my own poo. There. I said it. I know, I know. Unbelievable, huh?
The details of the incident are a bit fuzzy in my mind. What I mean is, my mom has never been able to tell me exactly what happened. Why, what did you think I meant? Oh, for God’s sake, no! I don’t remember the incident myself, are you kidding me? And therapists have told me this is a classic case of traumatic memory suppression.
Apparently the ordeal played out as such. I was eight months old. My mom laid me on the floor and changed my diaper. She left me for just a moment to run “do something” – whatever “something” could be more important than protecting a defenseless baby from its own poo, Marcia will have to answer that for you. When she returned, mere seconds later, the damage had been done.
It might be relevant to tell you I was always the picky one in my family. Had it not been for mashed potatoes and Pop-Tarts, I would’ve perished by the age of nine. My husband will attest that even today I have incredibly discerning, highly sophisticated taste buds that won’t allow me to eat: 1.) chicken that has either been reheated or that appears “shiny” or segmented, 2.) store-brand butter, or 3.) anything that comes out of a box that includes a packet of powder and/or unidentifiable dehydrated vegetables. So where were my acute senses during that horrible, awful incident, I’ll never know. Okay, I’ll offer up an emerging theory. “The incident” is what led to a severe case of childhood pickiness. Yes, after such a horrendous encounter, I probably became petrified that everything I ate from there on out would taste, well…like crap.
Sometime near my thirteenth birthday, my mom sat me down to reveal this dark chapter of my past. Adult-me thinks, doesn’t this story fall well outside that “need to know” qualification for disclosure? For the sake of my child’s emotional well being, I’d bury this one out back under a two-ton anvil. And I can promise you, I practice what I preach. For instance, I did not recently record in my son’s baby book: July 12, 2011 (21 months) – What an imagination! Today you found your way into my purse and thoroughly enjoyed playing for much of the afternoon with a cardboard tampon applicator stuck on your finger. Later you named it BooBoo and pretended to feed it Cheerios.
Although, in Marcia’s defense, maybe she believed the incident did in fact fall into the “need to know” category. Maybe my mom feared the day would come when I would need to prepare myself for whatever health issues lie ahead. Because surely such an unnatural bodily occurrence (i.e. reverse plumbing) could cause shock to the system. Might my complexion one day grow sallow? Might organs suddenly go on strike? Might I sprout wings from my head, purple scales on my tongue, a toilet flusher from my clavicle bone?
My mom closed her painful admission to me with, “Never tell anyone.” Which is funny because I consider it a given that I wouldn’t be parading this bit of information up and down the halls of junior high. Kids are ostracized for not lacing their shoes the correct way, for not buying the proper wax flavor of dental floss – what would they do to a kid who once ate the contents of her diaper? Never tell anyone – why would I?
On the other hand, now that I’m raising a boy who thoroughly enjoys experimenting with the sounds of his flatulence, I can see there are those exceptional kids who would relish in a chance to unveil this story. Most likely while sitting around the cafeteria table on Super-Duper Taco Tuesday. And I once even knew a boy who collected his own boogers. Yes, on the wall behind his bed. Which he was happy to showcase to visiting friends. So, on second thought, you’re right here, Mom. There’s no such thing as “obvious” when instructing a pre-adolescent.
Certainly I fall into a minute sect of the human population. I might even know a thing or two about what a surviving member of the Donner party likely endured. A person walking around, seemingly normal – yet not. On the surface, he appears to be alright. Meanwhile his intestines are screaming out for the secret they must bear.
Two weeks ago, in a case of history coming narrowly close to repeating itself, my son had his own “incident.” I was picking up Jude after an afternoon at my parents’ house when my mom greeted me with a strange smile. “It was all my fault,” she began. Oh, no. Not good.
She continued, “I put him down for his nap with just a shirt on. It was rather warm, so I decided I’d leave his pants off.” By this point, my eyes were wide open, my heart was racing, my hand was clutching my jaw. When she went to awaken Jude from his nap, she found his diaper off. Of course it was. Please, no. Not my baby. What she found was this. In one corner of the crib, a pile of poo. In the other corner, a sleeping toddler.
Hallelujah! Oh, thank you, sweet blessed Jesus!
Not only did this news bring me a tremendous sense of relief, I’d even say there was some pride mixed up in there. My son has standards! And beyond the fact that the wretched cycle of palatable and digestive abuse did not continue, he even (much in the way of my dearly departed hamster Cleo) quartered off a bathroom corner! No, this isn’t an “any ol’ place it suits me” type of kid. Look out world – this is a boy who’s going places in life! Not to mention, I can now let go of the enormous boulder of mommy guilt I’ve been lugging around the past few months. That time I turned my head for just a moment to run “do something” and caught him with his hands in the cats’ litterbox – yes, that was in fact a valuable learning experience.