I don’t know at what point I realized that I was doomed to one of the worst public humiliations of my parenting experience, but it might have been when the elderly lady walked in on Jasper and I in the ladies’ restroom at our local Kelsey’s restaurant and noticed a) his nakedness, b) the slick of mustard poo coating that nakedness, c) the slick of mustard poo coating me, and d) the slick of mustard poo coating every visible surface in the room, and then, without a word, turned on her heel and walked back out again.
We hadn’t planned to go out to dinner Saturday night. But we’d ended up driving out to the countryside to visit friends and hadn’t planned for dinner and so had hatched the ill-conceived plan to just stop on the way home so that Emilia might fall asleep in the car afterwards. It occurred to me at some point that our car-stash of diapers and pull-up pants and wipes was low, but I reasoned that Emilia would use the toilet at the restaurant – she’s been using the toilet fairly reliably – and that we could make it through the evening with just a spare pull-up and no wipes. I forgot that we also had a baby, and that at five months old, he’s unable to use the toilet and, you know, control his bowel movements.
We’d been at the restaurant for about twenty minutes when Jasper started to fuss.
“He probably needs a change,” I said. I did a mental calculation of baby supplies on hand. Zero. “You’re going to have to go out to the car,” I told my husband. “There should be a diaper in the backseat.” I figured that I might have a wipe or two in a crumpled-up travel pack of no-name wipes in my bag. I didn’t bother to check.
So it was that five minutes later I was in the ladies’ restroom with a baby in need of a change and only one diaper, no change of clothes, and one or two dessicated wipes. Which wouldn’t have been a problem, necessarily, if said baby wasn’t loaded from stem to stern with – how to put this? – a shitload of effluent that had just begun leaking through his clothes.
Leaking through his clothes and onto mine.
Leaking through his clothes and onto my clothes and onto the floor.
Leaking through his clothes and onto my clothes and onto the floor and onto my feet.
Mustard poo, as any new parent knows, does not, strictly speaking, smell like poo. It has a sort of cloying, sweet organic smell, like the smell of dead roses, or of rotting fruit, or wet hay, with a bit of a sharp, mustardy edge to it. I had a lot of time to think about this as I wrestled my fat, naked, poo-slicked baby in the ladies’ restroom of the Bowmanville Kelsey’s. I had a lot of time to think about this, because it is very, very difficult to clean a poo-slicked baby in a public restroom with only one wipe. Actually, it is very nearly impossible to clean a poo-slicked baby in a public restroom with only one wipe. Which is why I spent close to half an hour just standing around in my poo-stained shirt, holding the naked poo-slicked baby and a clutch of paper towels and wondering what the f*** I was supposed to do, during which time the elderly woman wandered into the restroom, correctly assessed the situation as off-putting to one’s dinner, and exited immediately.
I needed to act. I knew that if I took much longer, one of a number of things was going to happen: 1) someone else would come in wanting to use the restroom, which by this point looked like the set of one of those alien movies where aliens get slaughtered and splatter gummy yellow effluent over every surface, 2) my husband would send the server – who was maybe twenty-years old and prone to responding to every request with a giggle and ‘okay, awesome!’ – in to find me, which would contribute nothing but nervous tittering and an added element of spectacle to the scene, 3) Jasper would release another blast of poo and I would burst into tears, or 4) all of the above.
So, gripping Jasper under one arm, I filled the sink with soap and water, dipped him butt-first into the bubbles and scrubbed at him with paper towels. Then I threw paper towels over the change table, three or four layers thick, for later wiping, and shoved some more paper towels against my poo-smeared chest so that Jasper wouldn’t get re-smeared when I held him against me. Then – still one-arming it – I pulled the clean diaper onto him, and his wee cardigan, which had mercifully escaped being shat upon. I contemplated tossing his clothes into the wastebasket, but decided that that would just prolong the smell, and so I wrapped them in more paper towels and then – holding Jasper an inch from my damp, decoupaged chest and summoning every ounce of dignity I could muster – marched back through the restaurant to my husband.
“Take him,” I said, “and get the waitress to bring a plastic bag for this.” I dumped the paper-towel wrapped package of poo-soaked clothing on my chair, grabbed my own cardigan, and walked back the restroom, where I stripped off my reeking, soaking shirt and shoved in the wastebasket. Then, clad only in my bra, I scrubbed myself down – myself and all the other surfaces slicked with poo – before zipping my cardigan over my more-or-less naked but also more-or-less shit-free chest and heading back out into the restaurant and to my family: Jasper now clean and settled back in his carseat, my husband holding out a large glass of red wine for me, and my daughter grinning madly over a plate of mini-hamburgers.
And clutching a big squeeze-bottle of mustard.
If we never go out for dinner again it will be too soon.
If you have a worse poo story, I’d like to hear it. Also, I’d like to know if I’m the only parent who regularly finds herself short of supplies at critical moments, because a former grad-school colleague just messaged me saying ‘good story, but when I’m a parent I’m going to keep a package of diapers in the car’ and I was all, like, ‘ha ha good luck with that’ until I realized that maybe my particular form of slacker parenting is not the norm and that, perhaps, I should be deeply embarrassed about my general ineptitude. Yes/no?