The one thing we KNOW she inherited from me

One morning last week Leta woke us up with a piercing scream at 6:30 AM. Usually she wakes up and talks to herself for at least 15 minutes before Jon or I decide which one of us is going to make the first move. It’s basically a game of Chicken where we each try to make ourselves the martyr secretly hoping that the other one will let us off the hook:

“I’ll get up.”

“No, I’ll get up.”

“No, really, I’ll get up.”

“No, I’ll do it.”

“But I can do it.”

“Okay, go ahead.”

That morning, however, she didn’t do any talking, just tortured screaming that lets a mother know something is terribly wrong. I could hear something specific in her scream, a hint of THIS IS WHAT IT MEANS TO STARE DEATH IN THE FACE, a scream that says, “I have a piece of poop stuck halfway out my butt and I can’t get the rest of it out.” I know that scream because it is the official soundtrack to my life.

Jon followed me into her room and we found her crouched in a ball at the head of her crib. She sounded like she was being ripped apart. I immediately transferred her to the changing table where I took off her diaper, and there we found an almost apple-sized piece of coal hanging from her butt. It wasn’t budging, and because Jon had once picked up my poop I did what any decent human would do and I pried it out of her. Leta, when you’re 16-years-old and you’re reading this and you start to think, ohmigod, I can’t believe my mother just wrote that, you should know that I pulled out that piece of poop BECAUSE I LOVE YOU. THAT’S WHAT MOTHERS DO.

I can’t count the number of times my mother had to sit in the bathroom with me as a child assuring me that I wasn’t going to die, that my poop wasn’t going to kill me. She’d sit across from me on the ledge of the bathtub holding my hand, coaching me through labor. Even now when I survive a particularly noteworthy bout of constipation I usually call my mother afterward and thank her for the strength she gave me at a young age to fight for my life. One of her favorite quotes is, “And it came to pass but did not stay,” something she says to put a perspective on stress even in situations where my body is malfunctioning. I hate that quote and not just because it doesn’t make sense but because IT HAS TO PASS before the not staying part, and the passing part is THE WORST PART.

Rarely now do I ever go to the bathroom without Leta in the room because THAT’S WHAT MOTHERS DO (and because BoohBah has lost its allure), but getting her to stay in the room until I have finished has become increasingly difficult. I can’t shut the door because she’ll start screaming, and can YOU poop when someone is screaming? I DIDN’T THINK SO. Last week I figured out that if I open the under-sink cabinet full of dangerous objects that I can buy myself at least six or seven peaceful bathroom minutes. I may not be able to poop while someone screams, but I can certainly poop while replacing the rubbing alcohol and matches in her hands with an open bottle of foaming body wash and an entire box of unopened tampons.

Hi, my name is Heather and I used to have a career and make lots of money. Now I poop while my daughter sits at my feet and plays with Tampax, and that’s what I consider a successful morning.

I’ll finish off this poop tale with another account of Leta’s constipation, one that happened only hours ago. First there was grunting, and then there was screaming, and then there I was again pulling a fistful of whole peanuts out of her butt. Why can’t she chew her food? After I wrapped up the four-pound diaper and put her pants back on, I leaned down to pick her up and didn’t realize that the velcro straps on the peanut diaper were stuck to the changing mat on the table. CUE SEQUENCE FROM ABSURD MOVIE ABOUT AN EXAGGERATEDLY CLUMSY MOTHER WEARING SWEATPANTS STAINED WITH YELLOW PLEGHM: I flung peanut poop across Leta’s white baby room with the force of a .50 caliber rifle, white walls and white furniture victims of low-flying, highly accelerated poo peanuts.

This stuff, it doesn’t happen in real life.