I saw a post recently in which an expectant mother expressed concern that all that new parents seemed to do was talk about poo. To her the topic seemed to have taken over their lives and required much discussion with partners and other new parents.
Looking back from the dizzy heights of a nearly 6month old baby at some of the conversations I’ve had with J and the other mums in our NCT group, I can see why she would think this. Poop is normally a taboo subject; for us Brits you would barely even discuss your own poop with your GP despite those lovely ‘Blood in your poop?’ Posters promoting awareness of things like bowel cancer. But become a parent and discussing, at great length, with varying degrees of pride, the malodorous contents of your beloved offsprings nappy becomes something of a regular occurrence.
Why should this be? What is the psychology of poo discussions in parenting?
The answer is simple. Poop is your child’s best demonstration of health. In one of our Antenatal classes we were presented with a delightful chart of ‘Poop – the first 2 weeks’ with photographs of nappies at various stages, starting with Tar / Marmite of meconium in the first few days and progressing to Korma and Mustard as the newborn baby acclimatises to its new digestive system. Lovely. But you can bet that we all clung to that chart as if our lives depended on it waiting for each stage to arrive to confirm that our little darlings were functioning correctly.
At once, the conversations moved up a gear to an almost competitive level:
we had meconium for THREE days!
he’s been 5 times today and they’ve all needed a bath
she only poops every 8 days
we had to change her in the boot of the car!
And more in this vein, all of us joining together to share the horror and fascination of this completely normal human, and indeed biological process.
Of course the quality and quantity is directly affected by that other all consuming topic – feeding. An equally hotly debated subject completely dependent on personal circumstances but which has such a profound effect on our lives as new parents.
The poop debate is somewhat different however between a child’s parents.
it’s your turn, I did the last one
Is such a common theme now particularly if the offering is more pungent than usual, or there’s evidence of leakage.
But ultimately, the reason poop becomes the focus of your conversation as a new parent is simply because it takes up so much of your time. In the early days you can change a nappy 10 times and day, more. Some people smoke less than this. And it’s not a quick job either if its a decent volume. Severity of poop can be measured in several ways :
- decibel level of explosive production – did it draw horrified glances from other shoppers or diners,
- number of wipes required (max we had was a 13 wiper) before a shower becomes more ecofriendly,
- amount of leakage – proportional to the number of clothing items requiring replacement,
- severity of staining – is the item worth salvaging or does it simply get thrown in the bin as beyond what the washing machine can handle.
- and finally, my personal favourite, the gagometer test – how far beyond normal stench into total-gag-have-to-go-retch-quietly-to-recover does it go. Note : dads normally succumb to this sooner than mums coz we’re well’ard!
Often the worst incidents happen when you’re out in public or when time is a critical factor or when you’ve forgotten a change of clothes/wipes/spare nappies/changing bag etc. Equally bad are the events that not only leak through clothing on your darling child but also onto whatever surface they happen to be on :
- you, necessitating a change of clothes and some scrubbing for you too,
- the playmat, hopefully you bought a machine washable one, why wouldn’t you!
- the car seat (so NOT nice) or buggy
- a restaurant high chair
In short, as a parent of a young baby, wherever you go and what ever you do there is always poo. You have to plan for it as carefully as you would an invasion of a small country. The equipment required to manage poo will be the subject of much debate each time you go shopping.
You can’t escape it. It is inevitable.