There comes a day in every mother’s life that she would rather forget. That is the day you first read the word “mucous plug.” I say “read” because no one talks about it. If you are like me, you spent many hours during your first pregnancy pouring over books and articles to prepare you for the impending life change. You smile at the bits about bonding with your infant through eye-contact and cooing. You take seriously the articles about baby safety and brain development. And then you comb over some phrasing like, “the discharging of your mucous plug indicates that your cervix is softening and the big day is approaching.” And most of us are like, “Huh. What’s a mucous plug?” So you keep reading. And then you want to throw up in your mouth a little bit and pray to God you’ll never actually have to describe this “gelatinous cork” to your husband.
And like so many parts of motherhood, books can only partially prepare you for reality. I don’t know about you, but for me? The mucous plug was JUST THE BEGINNING. No book I have ever found comes even CLOSE to honestly addressing the myriad of ways that becoming a mother would provide close encounters of the disgusting kind. Those “What to Expect” people failed me.
I think the biggest shock was the sheer bombardment of bodily fluids that came from MY BODY during labor and delivery. I was mentally prepared for changing poopy diapers and caring for an umbilical cord stump on my kid. I was NOT mentally prepared to puke my way through my entire delivery in between contractions. After that grueling pushing session FINALLY ended and my baby was whisked away to be cleaned, I made the mistake of taking a peek down at the end of the bed and saw a jaw-dropping amount of blood that was like something out of a Quentin Tarantino film. ** I would like to, at this point, get down on my knees and thank the wonderful woman who invented the epidural. I’m assuming it’s a woman.
But bless our bodies, they (mostly) heal in a matter of weeks, and then we are left with the provider of fluids that never ends: the child. I had heard of baby boys peeing into the air onto their parents while they had their diapers changed. I thought that was a joke. Nope. Not a joke. The pee might even get on their own face and IN THEIR MOUTH, which is such a new level of panic and disgust. And the poop. Oh, sweet mercy, the poop. When you have an infant, it becomes a really normal topic of conversation for you. The color, frequency, consistency? Now dinner table fodder for you and your spouse. HAHAHA! I’m kidding of course. You don’t eat dinner at the table anymore! The poop is what you talk about while you’re huddled over the coffee table eating takeout while you watch TV with subtitles so you don’t wake the baby who is sleeping in the swing nearby.
And speaking of feces, my surprise turned to deep aggravation when I learned how often a baby can poop with such quantity that it overflows their diaper and goes up their back. UP THEIR BACK, PEOPLE. Like, all the way into their hair. My sweet, easy going baby girl did this so many times I lost count. And most of the time I would labor over the outfit that was tarnished to try to save it, but one time it was just too severe. In fact, I wrote an obituary:
On Thursday, November 20, Quirky Pink Onesie was laid to rest, tightly wrapped in a plastic bag in the family’s outdoor garbage can. QPO was a faithful member of the 3-6 month clothing family. Although never considered a favorite because of her inexplicable whimsical drawings of baby deer and mushrooms, she was often chosen as an under-layer of sleepsacks and sweaters. The cause of death was complications from a severe poopy blowout after two days without a bowel movement. Although the diaper changer (an expert in her field, known to have saved at least half a dozen doomed onesies in the past month) at first thought QPO could be saved, after surveying the extensive greenish-brown damage from crotch buttons to neck seam–including widespread soiling on the sides and armpits–the scissors were brought out as a last resort.
QPO is survived by baby Converse and Old Navy Flowered Jeans, who were damaged in the November 20 Blowout, but not fatally. Your thoughts and prayers are appreciated.
As moms, the frequency of our contact with bodily fluids tends to de-sensitize us a bit. I had a baby nephew who spit up constantly and with such volume that we would just carry him with a beach towel over our shoulders and not blink an eye. It has also caused a common debate of which you would prefer to deal with: crap or puke. It’s crap all the way for me, in case you were wondering, and here’s why: you get used to it. If things are going the way you’d like, your children are having bowel movements once, twice a day, depending on their age. But the throw up? No, that sneaks up on you. Sometimes literally.
When we were preparing for our third child, we moved kids #1 and 2 onto bunk beds. Our oldest is a deep sleeper, so sometimes one of us would go in and help him get down from the top if we heard him stirring. Well, one night, he was moaning a bit that he didn’t feel good and I thought he needed to use the bathroom, so I went to assist. I encouraged him to crawl to the bed ladder and I would help him down, and as he arrived at the top of the ladder, eyes still closed and without warning, he proceeded to upchuck directly AT me. I was literally standing under a shower of vomit. Thanks to my cat-like reflexes, the damage was not as bad as it could have been, but my forehead, chest, the front of my pj’s and every. single. rung of that ladder needed a thorough cleaning. I immediately went into self-preservation mode, like George Costanza in a fire, ditching the sick child on the top bunk and running out of the room to get the puke out of my eye-lashes. It is one of my least favorite memories, but—of course—one that HE loves to tell over and over again through giggles.
I think the reason we moms can laugh about all that is gross about this job is that we HAVE TO LAUGH ABOUT IT. Otherwise, we might cry. Also, after we survive some of these spectacles (did I mention I have a boy who likes to drip his nosebleeds on the hardwood to make designs?), we realize that pretty much everything in life can be washed. We realize that snot and spit up and poop and blood are just part of the gig, and it’s a gig that we wouldn’t trade for a lifetime of perfectly clean clothes, sheets and walls. And besides, it gives us lots of blackmail stories for when they become teenagers.