Parenthood is a messy enterprise. A really messy enterprise. The spit, the shit, the snot, the generally cruddiness of it all – I knew this going in. It was gonna get ugly. I knew this. I was ready.
I was prepared for the meconium poo. I went to the prenatal classes, I gasped out loud with everyone else when showed the video and it flashed past that picture of a newborn’s diaper filled with a black, tar-like paste. I was ready for it when it came to a diaper near me.
I was ready for the breastmilk shits that looked liked runny spoiled condiments of the seedy Grey Poupon variety (must. resist. pun.) I’d read about them. I’d seen pictures. I was ready.
I was ready for the dribbly spit-up and the upchuck spit-up and the projectile spit-up and I laughed, laughed, whenever anyone commented on the spit-up with words to the effect of my, that was a big spit-up because ha ha ha they had never really seen serious spit-up, the kind that ends up down the front of your tattered nursing bra and the back of your stretched-out yoga pants, all in one go. I’d seen and felt the worst of the spit-up. I was ready for it.
I was ready for the ever-running rivers of snot.
I was ready for the transformation of the poo that occurred when solids were introduced. I was ready for the increase in volume, and for the substantial intensification of pungency of odour.
I was even ready for the tub dump, even though I didn’t have to deal with that myself. (OK, so maybe that one doesn’t count. Still, I would have been ready, if it had been me attending to that particular bath. I might have gagged a little, but I knew that babies pooped in the tub sometimes. I would have been ready for it.)
Hope is not the only thing that floats.
The interesting thing about that new-parent condition of constant readiness is this: you experience each moment of readiness-met – each experience of having felt prepared for some discomfiting aspect of new parenthood – as an accomplishment that brings you one step closer to the moment when you will no longer need to be ready. You spend the first year of parenthood being ever at-the-ready, secure in the unspoken-but-ever-present-assumption that one day you will be able to relax your guard, that one day, the spit will stop and the shits will end up in a toilet and the snot will not be your responsibility. You forge ahead, believing that things will get easier and cleaner. The children will get bigger and more self-reliant and the days of spit and shit and snot and mess will fade into the background behind you, lost in the mists of recorded (what, you didn’t keep a record of the newborn shits?) and unrecorded family history.
That’s how it’s supposed to work, right? RIGHT?
Because this morning I got up and waded through the knee-deep lake of books and blocks and stuffies and DVD cases that has overtaken our living room and tripped over not one, not two, but three half-eaten mandarin oranges. After picking up the oranges, I tried to give WonderBaby some breakfast, and was rewarded for my efforts by being pelted in the head by a handful of corn puffs and half of a partially-masticated banana, which remained in my hair while I pleaded with my tiny monster to eat please eat some breakfast, a plea that might – might – have elicited a response were it not for the sudden arrival of the morning poo, heralded by a series of distinctly indelicate grunts. Which required, of course, that I interrupt the tossing of the corn puffs and mashing of the fruit to remove her from her chair, during which process I was smeared with the other half of the partially-masticated banana, which she had decided to store in the back of her pajama bottoms for later consumption. By the time I had removed the banana carnage from her pants and readied her for her diaper change, WonderBaby had had enough and decided to remove herself from her change pad mid-change, leaving me with a handful of shitty diaper, which had to be disposed of one-handed so that the other, clean hand could retain its grip on the shit-smeared Wonderbaby who was now determined to head into the cluttered living room and spread fecal matter across all manner of unwashable objects.
At which point it hit me: this is my life. This is it: this messy, shit-smeared existence is not a grotty way-station en route to some more ordered destination, some permanent condition of tidy domestic balance. It is my life. I am going to remain smeared with shit and/or snot and/or vomit and/or food for a very, very long time to come. It is going to be years before I can relax my Yuck Preparedness System, before I can let my guard down and begin each day without the expectation that I will be confronted by something icky or yucky or messy or some combination of all three.
No, oranges and lemons aren’t yucky. Until they’re chewed up and left in pieces for Mommy to step on.
There’s at least one more year of shitty diapers, after which is the no-doubt messy process of encouraging the redirection of the poo toward receptacles involving plumbing. There will be snot and vomit for as many years as I bear primary responsibility for nursing her through illness. There will be clutter and mess indefinitely. And although I assume that WonderBaby will someday overcome the habit of throwing her food on the floor, I imagine that she will continue to derive enjoyment from dumping bowls full of oranges on the floor and frolicking in fruit for some years to come.
There’s no end in sight.
I’m right, aren’t I? I have, in choosing motherhood, embarked upon a project that is not entirely unlike the care and feeding of the Lopburi monkeys in Thailand. My life is just one big Monkey Festival and there is nothing that I can do about it.
This is pretty much what it looks like underneath WonderBaby’s high chair. Citrus fruits, discarded pop cans, Macaque monkeys and all.
It’s a good thing I like monkeys.
Thanks, so much, all of you, for your supportive comments on my decision to withdraw from the finals of the Canadian Blog Awards. It was gratifying to me that so many of you understood.
If I haven’t been visiting very much, it’s not that I don’t still love you all. I’m just a little bit tired and overwhelmed by life these days, and needing to do a bit of cocooning. I’m trying to get caught up as we speak, but my energy is a bit slow to pick up. In the meantime, I’m lurking. I’ll be back up to speed soon.