On Poo

It does feel kind of fitting to be posting this column after spending some time with the Cloaca Professional, aka ‘poo-machine’, at MONA yesterday. Even on a nice day out- whoomp, there’s the poo.

This column was first published in Practical Parenting Magazine, Dec 2014

The thing about becoming a new mother is that no matter how many books you read and how many message boards you scour, you can never be truly prepared. Parenthood completely changes your life, in ways big and small.

One of the things I had not predicted was that I would become a poo inspector. A poo expert.  A ‘poo-melier’, if you will. From those early encounters with meconium – that weird first baby poo that looks like Vegemite and sticks like Superglue – faeces have been a daily, if not hourly, feature of my life. The glamour! Oh, the glamour.

Apart from the usual newborn poo-explosions, including one that memorably sprayed my front like a scatter-gun, there was a terrible incident that involved a three-inch long, half-digested piece of dried mango that I had to slowly extract from the baby, like a clown theatrically drawing a coloured scarf from his mouth. And of course, with three kids, I’ve spent a lot of time toilet training. My biggest girl liked to poo in corners to see ‘what it looked like’, and my middle kid T-Bone was often so deep in thought that he missed all the warning signs. Once he once announced to a large gathering ‘My bum is doing something…’ before a foul odour penetrated the throng and we were all forced to vacate the room.

My smallest loved the thrill of new bathrooms so much that every  time we were in a supermarket or shopping centre she would announce ‘I haffa poo Mama!’ It’s dicing with the universe to call a toddlers bluff on this one, so I’ve spent a lot of time hanging out by the toilet with a trolley full of groceries as little Pudding happily perched on an exciting new throne and assured me ‘I sink it’s coming soon Mama…’

My husband Keith and I have gotten used to the emergency call ‘Code Brown!’ Like superhero bottom-specialists, we move into a swift, well-honed routine. One fetches baby wipes while the other peels soiled garments off a child with the patented Fold n’ Contain poo-management system.

Once, we’ve repaired a severe poo emergency on a train bathroom with no water and a floor so disgusting that no part of it was safe to touch. As the train lurched about, we stripped, cleaned and changed our child in a wordless, smoothly choreographed routine honed over years of co-parenting. It was, in fact, a very romantic moment. (That’s marriage with kids – even the romance involves poo.)

The thing is, the whole ‘public poo’ business reflects all of life with small children. There is no privacy. There is no line between ‘Mum’ and ‘me’ for little ones. Your kids see you, everything to do with you, and (beg pardon) everything that comes out of you, as their territory, and their business.

Now, my kids are seven, six and three, and I feel that intense merging beginning to lessen as they strike out, every day, further into the privacy and mystery of their own lives. They can handle their own toileting, mostly, and I can take some space back for my own. I find myself holding a stronger line. Get out! I tell them.  Give me some peace! I’m on the toilet! One day the whole family might even function with a lifestyle in which pooing is a private business conducted alone, and discussed with nobody except, perhaps, a caring GP, should questions arise. Until then, I’ll continue my work as Chief Poo Inspector.