Friday, June 3, 2011

Not Freaked Out By Poop

As someone living a life somewhat outside the average American suburban existence, I have encountered some skepticism at the ease of which I have entered motherhood. I don’t know if they thought I wouldn’t know how to care for a two-legged infant, or that I would let the dogs raise it, or what. But, they always seem surprised that I enjoy it.

I often get asked, in a voice and tone that would be appropriate for asking, “How’s that sobriety going?” how I’m finding motherhood. And the quick answer is “great.” Really. Thus far, it really hasn’t been a huge deal. I’m not saying every minute is a dream, but honestly I just haven’t found it such a big deal. My son is funny, charming, and a little ray of sunshine. Don’t know where he gets that.

I’m sure there are a multitude of reasons for my ease of adaptation, and certainly the fact that I’m blessed with a true child-rearing PARTNER in my husband John is a biggie. But, after some thought I do actually credit a lot of it to what I call the “Not freaked out by Poop” factor I seem to have acquired by life on the farm.

I started to get an inkling about this during my pregnancy, watching “those films” in our childbirth class. There was one that featured, among other things, the woman passing the placenta. There was much gasping, squirming, and screaming. All I could think was, “Geez, you think THAT’S gross? You should see the placenta a mare passes, it’s about the size of 10-year-old child. And we have to save it for the vet to come, then spread it out to make sure it’s intact!” (For you non-horsie readers out there, horses have a high incidence of retained placenta, so each one has to be checked carefully to ensure that hasn’t happened). I mean I’m not saying placentas are awesome to look at, but of all the things in those videos, I found the footage of a couple ballroom dancing their way through late stage labor pain far more disturbing.

In another class, an L & D nurse was describing the fact that many women urinate or defecate during delivery. Several women burst in to tears, their cheeks flame-red. Several said they didn’t want their husbands to see them like that. All I could think was that while I hoped it wouldn’t be me, if I was squeezing his watermelon-sized child out of a very poorly designed passageway, he better be damn supportive, poop and all, and leave the squeamish at the door.

All in all the classes weren’t hugely helpful, though not for lack of trying on their part (and I would recommend any new Mom’s-to-be take them.) In part this was because I had a C-Section (no ballroom dancing for me, dang!) and in part because thanks to my horses and goats, I was already pretty intimately familiar with the finer points of mammalian reproduction and birth. In fact, mainly I was fairly PO’d that a mare can push a baby 20 times the size of a human one out in like 15 minutes, and it takes one of us hours to complete the same process. The goats are even worse—they have multiples and shoot them out like a PEZ dispenser—one loud bleat and ta-da, baby!

So. Unfair.

Anyhoo, once my kiddo got here, I was ready for some freak stuff. To hear some gals tell it, infants are your own personal version of Fear Factor. And while I’m not saying a Poop Explosion in the crib, or the baby doing an Exorcist impression is great, it was still not that big a deal.

I’ve been cleaning poo, in one version or another, since I was 12 years old. Canine, equine, feline, caprine, avian, and rodent. This just added one more name to the list. And while barf isn’t nice, his barf was practically ambrosia compared to what I’d been hurling up for the entire 10 months of my pregnancy. Or what the dog routinely manages to leave in the hallway.  

Similarly, I found the first weeks of late night feedings blissful compared to the two orphan foals I’ve raised. Every-two-hour feedings are tough, but with a human baby you don’t even have to leave your bed. With the foals, every two hour feedings involved getting up, getting dressed, going down to the barn, mixing up the bottles (multiple) feeding (about 30 minutes), cleaning out the bottles, going back up to the house, etc. You were up for an hour, every two hours. By the time she was three weeks old I stopped wearing anything but PJ’s and could no longer respond to my own name.

I’m sure my day of reckoning is coming. I’m betting I’ll be adrift when my normal training techniques don’t work on my toddler, or when he’s-gulp-a teenager. But for now I’ll enjoy what I have, and I’ll make this recommendation: You want to get ready for Motherhood? Spend some time working at a farm, getting dirty and stinky, watching the cycles of life, and even watching how other critter’s babies get born.

It’ll make everything seem easy!

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