Felix’s digestion made a quantum leap about three weeks ago.
Whereas he used to leave a smear of yellowish crap in almost every diaper, he suddenly stopped pooping altogether. I told S not to worry. After all, Felix was his usual fun self. I figured we had one of those rare babies every new parent dreams of—even tempered, sleeps through the night, doesn’t defecate. Very advanced.
Turned out this was a developmentally appropriate slow down. His maturing stomach was doing a better job at sucking nutrients out of the breast milk, making for longer breaks between poops—for some babies these breaks can be up to a week.
Finally, after five days of calm, Felix woke up fussy and crabby. He gnashed at his fists, wailed, turned red in the face—off and on the entire day, inconsolable. That evening, it finally exploded in his pants. Jesus! It was like Dorothy stepped out of a mustard colored Kansas and into the green, stinky clutches of the Wicked Witch of shit. It was poop on another level from what we were used to.
After that, he went into a somewhat regular routine of going every couple of days, until last week, when the muddy river dried up again. This time for seven days. We fretted and feared about what might happen when the dam would break.
Then yesterday morning, sitting on my lap, he let out a grunt. I paused and looked him in the eye. Could it be time? His face turned beet red for a flash and then went ghostly pale. “Unh,” he said, his breath short and quick.
Oh no, I thought. I knew that breathing pattern. I sensed he was on the edge of panic, a meltdown. It was early in the day. This could, if not handled properly, ruin our entire Sunday. No lazy naps, leisurely strolls, or afternoon beers. No family fun time. Instead we’d be bouncing and jiggling a digestively challenged baby all day long.
And that’s when the mantle of fatherhood asserted itself. It was up to me, I realized, to teach my son that it was ok to take a shit, and that pinching a loaf, even a huge seven day old one, was nothing to be scared of. It’s just something that happens.
I sat him on my lap, facing me, and I tensed everything, so he could feel my abs of steel tightening beneath his chubby thighs, and I grunted along with him. “Unh. Unh.” We pushed. We changed colors. We passed gas. In between efforts I drooped my eyebrows and gave him one of those “Phew! This is some hard work, but I can handle it!” smiles, the kind men flash when lifting furniture or while making love. And slowly, over the course of a few minutes, I felt his cute little bowels loosen as a week’s worth of shit released into his diaper, one of the new cloth diapers we’re giving a try.
The smell brought tears to our eyes. The effort had all the folds in his arms and legs—the ones that look like he’s got joints where no joints should be—and the dimples on his elbows wet with sweat. It was a full body shit. We exchanged high fives, rejoicing.
Mommy was napping, but I knew she’d want to be wakened to revel in his accomplishment and clean it up. As I lifted him into the air above me, I put my fingers right in the slurry that had oozed out the sides of the diaper and onto his thighs. It was then I realized that it wasn’t just sweat making my legs wet. It was a shit that could not be contained. Like the blob, it managed to seep everywhere, leaving an orange trail of stink in its wake. Somehow even the inside of my shirt got stained, and when I took it off, shit smeared across my chest. Felix’s arms were stippled with it. With the diaper off, it was like he was wearing orangey brown boxers. His penis looked like a soft serve ice cream cone that had been dipped in toxic oatmeal.
It took a daddy son bath, a bathroom scrubbing, and a load of wash to make all well again. Thank God for mommies.