The Poop Post

I have a close friend that will tell me the truth, bluntly.poop

“Sarah,” she said, “All your Facebook posts are about poop.”

She’s right, you know. I’d like to say that it’s a stage of life that I’m in, but it’s not. I’ll be talking about poop for the next sixty years or so.

First, I’m married to it. No, I’m not married to poop (although it feels that way sometimes! Joke!). But I’m married to someone who works with poop. I call him a poop plumber. The number one sign that he’s done a good job on a patient? They poop. It means that he reconnected all the correct pipes inside a person’s body and everything is running smoothly.

If he’s working late, it’s probably because someone hasn’t pooped in several weeks and needs to get that fixed.

If he’s missing church on a Sunday morning, it’s because someone got poop lodged in a hernia and it needs to be reduced.

Our “how was work today?” conversation is a listing of the ways he has helped his patients poop [in a completely vague and nonspecific way since HIPAA is taken very seriously at our house].

Throughout my first pregnancy, he stood by helplessly as I complained about various issues… but the day he came home and I told him I was constipated? His face lit up. After he gleefully skipped to the nearest Walgreens, he triumphantly plunked down Colace and Miralax on the kitchen counter. He couldn’t help my sciatica or nausea, but by George, his wife was gonna poop.

He gave a grand rounds presentation two months after Gracie was born. Often residents use that time to brag on their families. The simple caption under his daughter’s picture? “Excellent pooper”.

Second, I have raised one dog and the beginnings of two humans. What’s the number one concern of a parent, regardless of the species of their children? HAVE THEY POOPED.

Babies and puppies pooping is a sign of good health. It means they’re eating enough for their bodies to have waste. Newborns and puppies cry about everything, so the only way you’re able to determine if you’re doing something right is by looking at their poop.

I remember walking Willis along the banks of the Mississippi River desperately urging him to poop. If he didn’t poop outside, it meant it was going to be on my carpet. My first milestone as a canine parent was potty-training my dog. It was the first step in showing myself that I could be responsible with another life form.

As I mentioned before, pooping is the first means of communication between parent and child. It’s also the source of some of the greatest stress I’ve had as a parent. I’m talking about colic. It usually shows up around six weeks, and for my girls, has lasted up to three to four months. Without fail, Gracie and Bea would cry endlessly for four to five hours starting at 6 pm and lasting well into the night. I would rock them for hours, holding their little bodies as they screamed in pain, praying without ceasing that they would poop. In fifteen years when they slam their bedroom doors in my face and yell that they don’t love me, I’ll comfort myself with the knowledge that at least they don’t have colic.

Once you get out of the colic stage, the next poop stage is one of unpredictable chaos. The amount of poop exiting your baby and young toddler is absolutely astounding; the comedic timing of these blowouts is pure perfection. Gracie’s blowouts have names, etched in my memory like the moments before a car crash, where you constantly wonder what you did wrong to cause it (was it the baby food? was it the new brand of formula? was it a full moon?). I never refer to The Pre-Church Easter Blowout of 2015 without lowering my voice to a whisper, in hopes that acknowledging it with fear and reverence will prevent a second visitation of the bowel demons. Blowouts never occur while you’re at home for the day, the house is dirty, you’re well-stocked with diapers and wipes, your husband is home, your kids are behaving, or you don’t have a load going in the washer.

And now, I’m straddling the stages with one foot in the spontaneous combustion stage, and one in the potty-training stage. There’s something truly depressing when you look at the checkout conveyor belt and see pulls ups, tiny kid underwear, and size three diapers. I feel like Sisyphus, constantly rolling a large rock (haha or something large and brown) up a hill, only to have it roll back down again.

Gracie’s potty-training phase, as I’m sure you’re well aware of if you follow me on Facebook, has been going on since mid-April. We got the first part of using the bathroom down pretty well; it was the pooping stage that led us to an impasse. Gracie is in the stage where she personifies everything– if there are two items of different sizes, one is the mommy, and one is the baby. Again, this applies to everything. The pretend conversations I hear coming from her bathroom usually end with several “Oh no! Save me! Save me!” as she flushes the toilet. This only happens, though, if she decides that it’s worth her while to use the toilet; she usually waits until nap time where I hear “Mommy! Come see this GIANT poop!”  “See, Mommy? A baby poop, and a mommy poop. ‘Hi mommy! Hi baby!’”

It may be our timing, but this potty-training stage has coincided with the What Do I Do First, Punish or Take a Picture Stage. Seeing Gracie’s imagination take flight, particularly around her bowel movements, has provided hilariously after-bedtime conversations between my husband and I (and some interesting Facebook statuses). While I don’t want her to feel like she can’t express herself, I want her to do it without waving a full diaper in the air.

The only problem with this sentiment, though, is that her dad talks about poop at the dinner table more than she does.

A Day in the Life: Summer 2017

5:50 AM: Happy shrieks in the baby monitor. Bea is up. Contemplate letting her talk just.a.little.longer and then realize she could wake up Gracie. Jump out of bed and rush to her room, shushing and pleading as I change her diaper to not wake up her sister.

Bottle, burp, zip Bea back up in her sleep suit, and back in to the crib.

Stumble back to bed. Shut my eyes. Husband’s alarm. Kick, snooze. Eight minutes later, alarm. Kick, snooze. Repeat.

7:30 AM: fall back to sleep

7:45 AM: “I have a giant poop!!!!!”

Find myself awake, halfway across the house, tripping over toys to get to Gracie’s room before said giant poop turns in to anything worse, which it has. Several times.

Trip over Thomas the Tank Engine. Curse Thomas the Tank Engine.

Find Gracie standing naked in her crib holding the offending diaper at arms’ length with a proud smile on her face.

“I made a GIANT poop! Stinky!”

“Do you have poop anywhere else?”, I ask with bated breath.

“No, just diaper. And my bottom. Poop is soooo big. You see poop, mommy?”

8:00 AM:

Poop disaster averted. Coffee poured, three sips. Offer Gracie cereal bar and cheese.

“Just cheese,” pauses, “AND fruit snack!” Grins at me as if she has discovered a way to get a sugary treat this early in the morning.

“No.”

“Just cheese.”

8:10 AM: Turn on the Today show, two sips of coffee.

8:11 AM: “Willaaaaaah!!!! [Willis]”

Willis runs through den carrying Toy of the Week with Gracie throwing Toy of Last Week at him. Put coffee down, break up sibling fight.

8:15 AM: Realize I’ve forgotten about Bea, go to her room to find her smiling and cooing. Feel guilty, but thankful that at least there’s one person under 3 in this house who is easy. Pray that her easy-going nature doesn’t mean extensive therapy for Second Child Issues in fifteen years.IMG_4319

8:20 AM: Walk in to the den to find Willis straddling couch and coffee table, drinking my coffee.

8:30 AM: Clean the kitchen counter. There are many things in life that I can’t control, but the cleanliness of my kitchen counter isn’t one of them. I get the kind of high that druggies seek after when I walk into the kitchen and see a clean countertop.

8:45 AM: Realize that I should probably get dressed. Walk in to closet, bypass the cute spandex leggings and athleisure wear, and put on a clean set of pajamas pants and oversized fraternity shirt. #Winning.

Depending on the day, we usually get out of the house in the mornings, because, sanity (and I do get dressed at that point). Monday, Tuesday, and Friday are usually play dates or trips to the pool; Wednesdays are my Wal-Mart/ morning sitter times and Thursdays are Bible study.

9:00 AM: We enter the Black Hole of Getting Readiness. The rough part about this particular black hole is that regardless of how early I get everyone ready to get out the door, we are always 30 minutes late. It’s as if the minute I verbally say “Ok, let’s go!” our home enters into this demonic time vortex where everyone screams and cries and poops and spits up. The amount of disaster is directly proportional to the amount of time I start the getting ready process.

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Sunday Morning Manicure

For example, this past Sunday, I had miraculously gotten the girls ready and we were going to leave ON TIME. For the first time all summer. And you know what happens?! My husband has to kill a 6 foot long rat snake in our driveway. By driving over it. And decapitating it with the machete he bought to go with his military ration kit (because, Trump).

I’ve taken to yelling “NOT TODAY, SATAN” as I throw my kids in the church nursery every Sunday.

9:30-11:45 AM: Morning outings, in which I mentally kick myself for even leaving the house and inflicting my children upon the kind people of my little town.

12 Noon: Lunch. Gracie gets a defrosted Uncrustable PB&J and Veggie Straws. I know full well that the price per ounce of the Uncrustables is more than just making my own PB&J, but they have the holy grail of toddler food: novelty. So she eats them. And the Veggie Straws? They have the word Veggie in the name so I don’t feel as guilty feeding them to her.

I eat at the kitchen counter because I don’t want to share my food. I turn into Smeagol from the Lord of the Rings when I eat.

12:00 PM-1:15 PM: PBS has Sesame Street and Dinosaur Train on, so I sit Gracie in front of the TV while I eat my food. If the stars align, I’m able to put Bea down for her afternoon nap around 12:45 and the little angel sleeps for about three hours, bless her heart.IMG_3862-1

1:15 PM: Nap time. This has happened every day of Gracie’s life, and yet she acts shocked and indignant when I inform her that it’s time to nap. Recently she’s been saying that she doesn’t want to nap “Because I love you,” as if her love for me would move me to tears and tell her she can do whatever she wants. Silly child, that only works on grandparents, and I’m the evil overlord known as your MOTHER.

The only time a toddler is indecisive is when they’re picking out a book to read at nap or bed time. I usually grab the closest one and start reading the abridged version, which thankfully Gracie has no clue I’m doing since she can’t read yet.

If I’ve been good that day, she’ll let me rock her for a few minutes, which is the most physical contact she’ll allow me for the day (she’s basically a cat). Like a captive trying to distract her captor from her impending doom, she’ll try her best to stall by recounting the morning’s activities and insulting me.

“You only read one story. Daddy reads three stories. I like Daddy’s stories”.

1:30-4 PM: Nap Time, aka Glorious Quiet, Time to Get “Me” Stuff Done, i.e. blogging, crafts, Bible study lesson, organization projects.

I usually pass out at 2 and wake up at 4 from a sleep so deep that it takes a few minutes to remember where I am and what my name is.

3:45 PM: I hear giggling and cooing; Bea is up.

4:00 PM: “TIME TO GET UP! TIME TO GET UP! GET GRACIE UP!” Gracie reverts to third person when we don’t respond to her calls, in case there is another toddler somewhere in the house that we’re trying to ignore.

4-5 PM: When the weather was nice (i.e. not 104 in the shade), we usually spent this time outside, trying to wear Gracie out. A walk, kicking the soccer ball, etc. Now, it’s usually the time I send my husband the flare gun, when-are-you-getting-home text.IMG_3998-1

5 PM: Start dinner. If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to cook (or clean, or do anything productive) with young children around, here’s how simulate it: find a recipe in a language you don’t know. Stick one foot in a bear trap. Put on a straight-jacket. Light your hair on fire. Remove one limb per child.

If you drive by my house around this time, you’ll probably see raw chicken breasts thrown across the kitchen, because Gracie needs to use the potty whenever I’m handling raw meat, and salmonella on the kitchen counter is a lot easier to clean up than… well, you know.

5:45-6:15 PM: Eat dinner. Or, rather, adults eat dinner, toddler discusses dinner. Dinner conversations go something like this:IMG_4326

“Mommy a girl?”

“Yes”

“Daddy a boy?”

“Yes”

“Fork a boy or a girl?”

“Eat your pasta”

“I don’t wanna eat pasta!”

“Tough cookies, that’s your dinner. Eat it or go hungry”

“Cookies are a boy or a girl?”

6:15-7:00 PM: Clean kitchen. Run laundry, throw clean laundry on the bed to fold (I tell myself that it’ll make me fold it before I go to bed, but I end up just throwing the whole pile on the floor by the end of the night). Find half-eaten cheese stick on laundry counter from this morning.

7:30 PM: Bea gets bath in kitchen sink, bottle, and bed by 8 pm (the only positive side effect of months spent in the NICU is her ability to put herself to sleep, so she’s super easy at this stage).

7:38 PM: Gracie’s bath time (odd time but for some reason we always start at 7:38). Thankfully this is done by my husband so I tend to make myself scarce until it’s time to dry her off, brush her teeth, and put her pajamas on. Last time my husband was in charge of pajamas she wore a smocked corduroy bubble to bed in January of 2015.

Pass her back to the husband to begin her story time. Various acts required to leave her content, in her room, at night: no less than four stories; one about pigs and houses, one about goldilocks, one about a train, and one about Gracie. At least one cup of water must be consumed, another one left by the bed. Pinkie (blanket) and Sharptooth (T-Rex), and four Minnie’s (Big Minnie, Little Minnie, Pink Minnie, and Baby Minnie) must be within reaching distance. She uses them to enact Greek tragedies prior to falling asleep.

8:30 PM: My golden hour. I have a glass of wine, milk, hot cocoa, or all three. Watch something mind-numbing on TV while I stand next to my bed contemplating the pile of clean clothes; usually by the third commercial break I throw it all on the floor.

10:30 PM: On a good night, I’m usually dead to the world by now. On a bad night, I’ll be up for at least two more hours playing out various disasters for my family, home, and country. Usually kick my husband awake around midnight to ask him if he’s locked the back door. Check on both kids to see if they’re breathing. Think about the cookies in the pantry. Get up and check all three doors even though my husband says he’s locked them. Find the one door he’s left unlocked for the first time in six months and lose all trust in him (to lock the doors) for the next six months.

1:00 AM: Fall asleep

2:30 AM: Bea wakes up.

3:30 AM: Gracie wakes up, asks for story. I tell her no. She asks for a fruit snack.

4:30 AM: Fall asleep after deciding how many generators are needed for the house should another Katrina hit, and how to handle Bea when she gets bullied in school in ten years.

5:50 AM: Happy shrieks in the baby monitor. Bea is up.

The Bottle On My Bedside Table

Writing about my postpartum depression last summer was extremely freeing. If it’s one thing I’ve learned through this journey, it’s that being open about my struggles with motherhood, depression, and anxiety gives me power over them. When I stuff these issues down and try to hide them from the people I love, it’s in essence saying that my identity will be tainted by taking on a label of being depressed, etc. I am so much more than that.
So, it was with a clear head and a wonderful therapy session under my belt that I looked ahead to Bea’s birth with a goal: I would take emotional pulse-checks throughout the early days of her birth and I would be the self-actualized individual that would raise my hand and say, “Hi! I need help here!” I would be open to taking medication. I would be the first to admit that I needed something to help me get through the adjustment of a newborn and mothering two children.

Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that will prevail – Psalm 19:21

As seen here and here, even my basic plans (like carrying Bea to term and bringing her home immediately) imploded. Through the time in Jackson- my own hospital stay and while Bea was in the NICU- I was taking my emotional pulse-checks and I was pretty darn proud of myself. Yes, it was a dark time, but I wasn’t depressed. I was able to sleep at night. I was able to eat well. I could talk about the situation without coming apart.

Friends, that’s called being in shock.

It was also God carrying me through a situation that I couldn’t even begin to understand and His grace covering and protecting me.

I moved back home. Gracie came home from Memphis. Bea was moved to the NICU at our home hospital. I was still doing well. I was so proud of myself.

Then my husband texted me one day. He said he spoke to our pediatrician, and Bea would be able to come home two weeks earlier than we had planned- she’d be home in four days!

Having a child in the NICU is hard, but it was also comforting to me in a (possibly) odd way: my child was sick, so thank goodness she’s in a hospital where she could get better. The NICU is a controlled environment where if something happens, a trained physician is just steps away.

But bringing that baby- that barely 5 lb tiny human- HOME? Ha! Gone are the nurses, the oxygen monitors, the special environment. Bringing Bea home to reality, where I had a rambunctious toddler, meals to make, and a house to clean. And two weeks early? I hadn’t even bought diapers or bottles for her.

Remember that pulse-check I was doing? I flatlined. And you know the thing about someone who’s pulse flatlines? They can’t tell someone that. They can’t go, “Hello! Excuse me! I don’t have a pulse! Can someone help me, please?”

Because I had been open about my past struggle with depression and anxiety, I had people looking for the signs of it happening again, even when I couldn’t see it myself. That’s the thing about depression- it sucks everything out of you, sometimes even the will to get help. This time around, I kept telling Mom that I just needed another nap and I’d feel better. I didn’t need to go to the doctor, I just needed a good night’s sleep.

But my husband and mother dug their heels in, and despite my anger at them, I made an appointment with my OBGYN. Sitting in the waiting room with my husband, I felt such a sense of defeat. I remember wanting to curl up in a ball in the chair and not look at anyone, let alone smile or make conversation with people. I had thought that I would be able to get through this without help. I didn’t want to be the Mom on Medication. Antidepressants scared me.

Let’s talk about those pills. I assumed that when someone was on an antidepressant, they were at the end of their emotional rope- they were just steps away from suicide. I assumed that these medications made you an emotional zombie; you no longer felt any major emotions and you just functioned at a basic, feelingless level. I assumed that I would lose my sense of self, my ability to cry with my friends, to laugh at my toddler’s antics.

Before writing my prescription, my doctor educated me thoroughly on what antidepressants really are (my Zoloft helps even out my levels of serotonin). We had talked about it extensively in my prenatal appointments but she went over it again… treating mental illness in a hypothetical situation is completely different than making  a plan of action while you’re in the throws of it.

The best analogy I’ve heard is that it’s like taking insulin when you’re a diabetic. There’s a chemical imbalance that keeps your body from functioning at its best, so you take something to even it out. When your body is unable to process glucose, you have a physical reaction- shakiness, dizziness, etc. Where the analogy breaks down is the stigma attached to mental illness. People talk openly about being diabetic. There’s no sense of shame about being one. It’s simply a medical condition that needs to be treated. But when there’s a chemical imbalance in the brain? We immediately have visions of asylums, straight jackets, and voices in someone’s head telling them to hurt others (or at least I did).

IMG_3644It took a week for the Zoloft to start working; just in time for Bea to come home. How to describe being on an antidepressant? I feel like me. I feel like me on the days I used to only have very infrequently- you know, those days where at the end of it you don’t cry in the shower. Where you see a problem for what it is- a problem, and not something that rocks your world, consumes your thoughts, and removes all the color from your life.

I still cry. I still lose it with Gracie (we’re potty training now, Lord help us). And I laugh, just more freely now. Before, I felt like I was walking through life on a tightrope, and just about anything could make me lose my balance. Now, I’m walking on a wooden beam. It’s still a balance, but it’s doable. And the hands of anxiety that used to grip my throat until I couldn’t breathe- they’re still there, but I’m able to reach up and pull them off my neck.

But now, I struggle with the misplaced guilt. I feel shame that I need a pill to help me do something that “most” mothers are able to do.

But you know the truth is? And what I have to tell myself day after day? That my identity is not based on what pills I have sitting on my bedside table. I am so much more than a person with a chemical imbalance (just like a diabetic would say they are so much more than a person who needs insulin!). And despite how inadequate I feel at just about everything, I am seen as perfect in God’s eyes. Because Christ took on all of my mental illness, fear, anxiety, and anger (sin and the effects of sin), took it to Hell with Him, and then left it there when He conquered death. So even though it’s hard to get through the chapters of my life that are still tainted with sin, I know how the story ends. Right now, it involves taking Zoloft. Not sure for how long, or how involved, this medication will be in my story, but it’s ok. Because in the end, everything in me will be made perfect. So it’s what Christ did (and is doing) in me that makes me who I am. And I’d much rather rest in that fact, than a 50 milligram pill I take every night.