A few months after marriage, I became pregnant but didn’t obsess like some other young women. I didn’t bronze the pregnancy test or save it for the baby book, and didn’t pick out curtains for the nursery the first time my face and the toilet bowl became acquainted. I’d grown up on a ranch and bore witness to cows and horses giving birth--they made it seem simple. And besides, there were hundreds of books on the subject, and any of them could answer questions I might have. Wrong. During the fifth month of pregnancy I found none of them could explain why my ankles seemed to have traded places with my knees, and why, on a good day, roadkill could have won a beauty contest against me. And nothing explained that labor hurt worse than an impacted tooth.
Raising the baby will be simpler, I always thought. Again, I was wrong. Teaching our dog to tap-dance would have been easier. Nothing I read explained why Jonathan withheld his spit-up until I was wearing white, or resisted loudly passing gas until we were in public and a large crowd was present. No one believes the baby did it. But all that paled in comparison to one morning when Jonathan was six months old.
Beads of perspiration formed on my forehead as I watched Jonathan thrash and scream in his crib. My most recent parenting book had assured that taking a quick trip in the car was a great way to calm a fussy baby. That option was out. I’d already driven around the block so many times I was convinced my neighbors thought I couldn’t find my way home, or I was practicing to be a NASCAR driver.
No, it was time to call in the experts.I took a deep breath, and swallowing my pride I called the biggest authority I knew on the subject of child-raising...my mother.
Regardless of age or gender, just the thought of reaching out to one’s mother in times of need is a comfort. I turned into a sobbing mass of gelatin the minute I heard Mama’s voice. Between gasps, I explained that either Jonathan was ill, or he was forming a plan to take over control of the family by driving me insane. And based on the fact he’d kept me sleep-deprived, I was beginning to lean towards the latter.
“Don’t be a goose,” Mama admonished. “How old is he now? Have you started him on solids? If that’s the case, he might be constipated.”
“I-I have,” I stuttered. “That must be it. What can I do?” I twisted the phone cord around around my finger, hoping the solution wasn’t my mother’s cure-all for everything...a soapy enema. If I must, I must, but I didn’t relish the thought of my shirt being painted with my child’s bowel movement.
“Simple. Prune juice.”
I made a face. That was something elderly people were given when they were in the rest home, and for me during some points in my pregnancy, but not babies. “Are you sure?”
Mama’s voice took on that listen-up-or-you’re-in-trouble tone. “Yep, a tad of that will get the plumbing flowing again,” she assured. “Just dilute it so…”
I didn’t bother to listen to the rest. In my opinion, Mama prattled on a great deal about many things, and I didn’t have time for a lecture today. As luck would have it, I had a bottle of the juice hidden in the recesses of my pantry, visible to only dust bunnies and the occasional visiting house spider.
I handed Jonathan eight ounces of straight prune juice in his bottle. “Drink up, Buttercup.” It impressed me that he drank the stuff without a whimper. Another eight ounces will really do the trick. I gave the baby another serving.
One lesson that I learned as a new mom was to seize a chance for fun when I could. I was overjoyed when my husband John took Jonathan and me out for an early supper that night.
Every woman, at some time in her life has the fantasy of people staring when she enters a room. I was perplexed when we walked into our favorite Mexican restaurant and caught the stare of a gentleman near the door. A look of complete revulsion blanketed his face as I walked past, carrying Jonathan. I knew my lack of sleep left me with bags big enough to check in at the airport, but I didn’t think I looked that bad.
His wife was the opposite, offering me a smile. “How can you act like that’s normal? It’s disgusting,” the man said.
Anger turned to confusion as I saw the woman pat her husband’s arm and say, "Don't worry about it dear. She probably doesn't realize it yet."
I slid into a nearby booth. Realize what? I didn’t have to speculate for long. A thick layer of disgusting smelling, salsa verde colored goop covered my arm and the front of my shirt. An equally large trail of slime stretched up Jonathan’s back, beginning at the diaper and ended at his neckline--it was his bowel movement.
“John,” I hissed. "We have to leave. We have to leave now!" I flipped Jonathan around and showed John the mess.
For once, I didn’t have to repeat myself. "Let's get out of here," John croaked.
My stomach churned like a washing machine. In my lifetime, I’d cleaned many a stall on Daddy’s ranch, and in six months changed enough diapers to fill a dumpster; but to have it plastered on my body, that was different. I held Jonathan at arm’s length as we raced through the restaurant. Everyone who didn’t see our entrance had the pleasure of seeing Jonathan's back as we made our hasty retreat.
At the door, we bumped into a young couple that gazed dumbstruck at our son. Flashing the couple a winning smile, John said, “Whatever you do, don’t eat the green chicken enchiladas!"