The number of times a day I am required to put my hands in shit is staggering.
We have a toddler and a cat. The toddler thinks the cat is a dog. The cat thinks the toddler is a monster. They are afraid of each other. Neither is potty trained.
A diaper change is like a surgical procedure involving precise preparation. Remove the subject's shoes, street clothes, and anything that might possibly get contaminated. All items needed for the procedure must be lined up in easy reach. A fair amount of hand scrubbing will be involved.
I imagine the process is not the same as it would be for a 6-pound newborn. With a 26-pound 2-year-old, the production is big. The learning curve is steep.
It's always tricky to keep the baby's hands out of it, keep her feet out of it, to keep it off the changing mat, to keep it off of me. One of these routinely fails, generally the part involving me. Is there a trick to the diaper change? After 3 weeks of motherhood, it's not getting any simpler.
I usually line up wads of tissue along with baby wipes, an extra towel, and a clean diaper. I remove her pants, shoes and socks. If I'm wearing a robe, I remove that, too. If it's a firm diaper, things are not as weird as a soft one when the fecal matter has spread to the front. I'm always a little embarrassed to clean the privates, but I must so that area doesn't get irritated. It usually takes about five wads of tissue and ten baby wipes. The environment must suffer.
Last week I had to collect a fecal sample to be tested by the pediatrician. It happened to be a firm stool. Who knew shit was so sticky? I was given a vial of alcohol solution to put the sample in along with a tiny plastic scooper about the size of 1/8 teaspoon. The little vial was marked with a line that indicated the liquid solution should reach that mark when an adequate sample was collected. It took two tries to get the first vial filled. The poop stuck to the little dipper, so when the liquid didn't reach the mark, I had to get an additional sample with the first sample still on the stick. The second vial wasn't any easier. I accidentally spilled some of the liquid so I just had to guess at the size of the sample to put in that tube.
After the procedure, I took all the soiled items to the mudroom to dispose of. As I entered the room, it smelled like someone had dropped a bomb in the middle of the floor. Since the baby was now napping, I assumed correctly that it was the cat.
The cat had gotten relaxed enough to use the litter box after holding it for days. The stench was unbearable. I would have to change the box myself instead of waiting for my husband, the cat's owner, to get home from work. I donned a mask but I was out of gloves, so I would have to be extra careful. Somehow the cat had gotten poop on the sides of the litter box, which meant I would have to scrub down the whole thing. The procedure involved ten wads of paper towels, a bottle of 409 and a gallon of bleach. Thank heavens for the utility sink.
Did I ever consider that having a child would be like having two pets? Or that having a pet would be like having two children? Or that with the two being afraid of each other they would be doing their business at opposite ends of the house? It never occurred to me until I became the charwoman stuck in the middle with my hands full, trying to figure out how to manage all this shit?
Hal Hutchison, M.Ed.
Hal Wofford Hutchison, M.Ed., is a former columnist, writer and editor for the Arkansas Democrat and the Arkansas Gazette newspapers. She has also been a secondary educator, and a university counselor and administrator. She lives in Little Rock, Ark., with her husband of 23 years and their daughter.