Shit’s getting real: what baby poop has taught me about being a parent

Guest post by Maya
By: Timothy TakemotoCC BY 2.0

When I was about seven months pregnant I found the website STFU Parents and vowed never to commit the site’s cardinal sin: posting about my baby’s bowel movements on Facebook. This seemed like an easy promise to keep — I was freaked out by the concept of changing a diaper myself, let alone sharing this experience with my former college roommates and coworkers.

But now that my daughter is two months old, it’s becoming more and more tempting to post about poop. I’m pretty sure the reason is that my daughter’s excrement is exceptionally fascinating, exhibiting signs of brilliance and creativity in the bowel department, not disgusting and smelly like that of other babies.

Or maybe I’ve just become a parent.

During the first days after my baby was born, poop became a source of both pride and fear. Pride: with every sticky meconium-tarred diaper, I found validation that she was getting enough to eat. Take that, nurses who suggested my newborn was wailing because I didn’t have enough milk! Fear: so why WAS she wailing? Had I put her diaper on wrong? Was I going to be able to put on those tricky hospital clothes again if I took them off to change a diaper? Would her umbilical cord start bleeding again if I bumped it? Where exactly was I supposed to swab with alcohol? How many wipes would it take to scrub away that little bit of black poo?

When her poop turned to wet, curdled yellow (at three days! So advanced), I felt more pride — more than my aching boobs, this was incontrovertible proof that my milk had come in. It also felt like the first significant milestone in my baby’s life, the first distance from the womb. She was now pooping out the milk I gave her, not the scum from her amniotic fluid. She was a real person now — an eating, pooping little person.

It seemed weird to feel proud of someone else’s poop, and I hope this isn’t the precursor to becoming one of those parents who sees every one of their child’s outputs as an extension of their own. (And, let’s face it, I may have fixated on my baby’s poop because my own, er, outputs weren’t going so smoothly a week after vaginal birth.)

My daughter at one week old, concentrating deeply on a poo.
But I also felt fascinated by the effort my daughter made with each poo, proud she was willing to work so hard to master a complex task. She would start to grunt, her eyes glazed over with internal concentration, arms jerking as she tried to bear down. Her cheeks would get red. Her face would contort. Then — SQUIRT! (Who knew baby poos were so loud?) Newborns have limited social interaction — she would nurse, cry, and sleep. But when she pooped, she was animated. I posted a picture on Facebook of my daughter with her mouth in an “o,” eyes bright, and people commented on how thoughtful and alert she looked. They didn’t need to know that this was her poo face.

Diaper changing, like everyone said it would, quickly became second nature. It continued to be a proxy for growth. While at first my daughter screamed so hard with every diaper change that our neutered male cat literally leapt onto the changing table to her defense, soon she became calmer, able to be fascinated by the black-and-white border on the mirror over the changing table or the flower mobile dangling above her. Her skinny chicken legs developed fat folds, then fat folds inside of fat folds. She went up a diaper size.

At six weeks, I started finding more diapers that were simply wet — before, every single diaper contained poop, so fewer than eight poopy diapers in a day seemed like a sign of maturity. Then she inexplicably stopped pooping for three days, finally pooping with such vengeance that I cut a onesie off of her body instead of pulling it over her head. (I think baby poop should be classified like house fires — instead of a four-alarm fire, that was a ten-wipe poo.) She started smiling during diaper changes, looking around and kicking with her legs so hard that it took me several tries to close the diaper. Three days ago, her poop suddenly turned bright green for two dirty diapers before reverting to mustard yellow. Come on, tell me that doesn’t make fascinating fodder for a Facebook update. Green poop!

But really, in her poops I see my own process of becoming a mother. I see my ability to feed and provide for my child.

One of my favorite baby care books, a Hebrew guide called “Why Babies Cry,” says it’s important to respond positively to your baby’s dirty diapers because negative reactions (“Yuck! Nasty diaper!”) can make children ashamed of their bodies. I tell myself this is why I praise my daughter for each bowel movement. But really, in her poops I see my own process of becoming a mother. I see my ability to feed and provide for my child. I see the way I need to respond and care for her, on her own schedule — I can’t decide when she poops, and I have to change diapers even when it’s 5 AM or I am already ten minutes late for a doctor’s appointment. It highlights the deep love motherhood draws out, the affection I didn’t know I could feel for the act of wiping down my little daughter’s butt. (I’ve heard I should enjoy this odorless, breast milk only stage while it lasts.) In the horror in my friend’s eyes when I say my daughter needs a diaper change, I see just how much I have changed in the past two months. Forget water — parenting involves baptism by poop.

And, let’s face it… that shit’s fascinating.

Comments on Shit’s getting real: what baby poop has taught me about being a parent

  1. I LOVE this! It’s good to see another mom so facinated with baby poo. My father found it rather odd that we started showing off her poops over the holiday weekend. She’s on solids now so it’s solid. It’s ridiculous just how amusing it is to me.

  2. I have a three month old and this seriously made me laugh so hard, I cried! One time my daughter hadn’t pooped in over 24 hours. The dirty diaper that followed resulted in a bath for her and a change of clothes for me as it came out the side all down her leg while I was holding her. Lol. 🙂

  3. Love it.

    We nicknamed one our daughter’s first outfits the “poo onesie” because the first times she wore it, she promptly covered it in poo.

    My babe is ten (!) months old now and I am super proud of her now formed little stools. So grown up!

    P.S. Do not give a baby amaranth. It makes for horrible stools.

  4. This post brought tears to my eyes- I find myself praising my daughter for every dirty diaper- I think part of it is because she wasn’t getting enough to eat the first few days after she was born so every dirty diaper was something to celebrate. At 3 months, she is thriving, eating and peeing/pooping up a storm and I feel so amazing about being such a huge part of her growth. You put it perfectly: I’m becoming a parent.

  5. Ha HA! This is a superb example of children re-teaching you life that you have come to take for granted. Poop. We throw it away by flushing and it’s just joke-fodder… until your child brings you back into being fully present and realizing how amazing everything REALLY is about life! Breathing… eating… pooping. The body is an amazing thing… it can do those things and it can make another body that does those things. Wonderful!

  6. Love this! I’m only 16 weeks pregnant, but LOVE hearing about all the baby stuff that no one talks about or no one is supposed to talk about. Thanks for this! Also, the writing style is awesomely entertaining.

    • Agreed – I’m not even pregnant yet and I appreciate reading this kind of stuff. I want to know about the gross/secret things that parents rarely talk about!

  7. Yep – its amazing how the small things can remind you if how much you can change (in a good way!) with a baby around. We have a 9month old and yesterday we were clearing up everything after Christmas family dinner/present opening/general chaos. My partner saw a small chocolate on the floor, bent down to pick it up, only to realise that it was actually a lovely small round poop produced by our daughter. This time last year I would have been disgusted, but now its more like yep, cool, at least its coming out well! Amazing what a parent can be proud of 🙂

  8. We’ve begun potty training so I feel I’m coming to the end of the line of know the consistency and content of my kid’s poops. I did, much to my friends’ horror, post a shot of a particularly amusing blow-out. Ah well! 😀 Blueberries and avocado have given us some interesting diapers, and once they start eating meat you’ll have to keep your diaper pail outdoors! Yowza! I also agree to never react negatively to a child’s natural body processes – we have a friend who does/did and his son goes and hides when he has to poop and won’t admit that he has. Sad. Meanwhile our kid was praised and loves to announce it, lol…

  9. “…finally pooping with such vengeance that I cut a onesie off of her body instead of pulling it over her head. ” <— HILARIOUS.

    Great post! So funny and true to life.

    • Did you know that most onesies are actually designed to pull down as well as up? That’s why the neck is so huge! I was so excited when I found that out (it had also never occurred to me to cut clothes off my son), we had been taking fully clothed showers when poopsplosions happened!

      • I’m the author of the article, and I actually did know that– I think I read it on babycenter! This was a very cheap onesie that was already splitting at a seam and missing snaps (brand new!), so I felt justified in whipping out the scissors instead. 🙂 Thanks for the comments everyone!! I had fun writing this!

    • I have wanted to cut onesies off, until I found out that onesies are meant to come off UP OR DOWN. That’s why the necks are so big. What the Hell? Why doesn’t someone go around announcing this????

  10. Great post! The only poo-related facebook posts I’ve ever done: 1. “Never thought I’d be so fascinated by the poop of another creature, let alone take pictures.” (hey, it was for the pediatrician. There were like, little black strings… aw, forget it.) 2. “Well, I finally got pooped on. I guess I should be proud that I made it four months.”

  11. Love this! Came across it in facebook (while nursing so typing with my thumb now). ThInking the author and readers might like to try infant pottying or elimination communication (EC). It’s a LOT of fun! It’s amazing just how clever babies are!!! (ps many people say I talk pooh way too much and what bugs me is about this is their willingness to disregard what u have to say! Like my personal trivia isn’t as important as theirs!)

  12. Love this! And you definitely don’t just have to be a parent to become extremely invested in baby poop (let me explain before I sound too much like a weirdo!) I was a nanny for a little girl starting from 3 months-4years and she suffered from chronic constipation. I never thought I would be so personally invested in another human being’s poop!

    I can only imagine how invested I’ll end up being once my husband and I have our own kids! I wouldn’t be surprised if I ended up posting about it on the internet . . . much like I’m doing right now 😛

    • When I was a kid I also had chronic costipation which made complete potty training impossible till an embarassing age. Now that I’m grown I do a mini celebration for each poo!

  13. I totally identify with this, lol. One of my proudest moments as a new mom was when my midwife came to look me and the baby over at one week postpartum, and she looked at his diaper diary and said, “Wow, keep this for a souvenir, because he’s just the peein-est, poopin-est baby around!”

  14. Ever since one fateful day when my son was about 2 weeks old I’ve been in awe of the explosive nature of his poop. He was on his changing table, sans diaper, and I leaned over to inspect his diaper rash. My face was directly in the line of poop fire when he unleashed a massive, projectile poo that I (by the grace of god) narrowly avoided. It proceeded to travel 2 feet to hit the wall and run down it like a beautiful ochre Jackson pollack paint splash. Needless to say, his poop now has my greatest respect.

  15. Great post!

    First thought: Yup. Things that used to be disgusting become normal. I was nursing my little one diaperless because he has JUST gone to the bathroom. One little push look on his forward and a mili-second later I was covered in poo. The odd thing: it didn’t phase me. He was three months old and that was the least of my worries.

    Second thought: so glad we have done elimination communication and we haven’t had a poopy diaper since 4 months old. Washing the real-food poo out of his little plastic potty is enough to really reinforce how much stinkier the non-breastmilk poo is, and how happy I am that I am not wiping THAT out of a diaper. 🙂

  16. Maya,

    This just came up in my Google alerts and I just wanted to say thanks for the shout out and for writing such a great piece! It was sort of scary/funny the way I could relate to all of your tales based on submissions I’ve posted on the blog (cutting off the onesie, poop colors, breastfeeding poop vs. solid poop, etc.). It sounds like you’ve taken just the right “lessons” away from my site and that you are truly enjoying motherhood. Congrats on your little one and on this awesome essay!

    – B.

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