by Debbie Roppolo
When I was a young adult, I thought I had the world by the coattails; there was no obstacle I couldn’t overcome, not even childbirth. I had seen horses and cows have babies, and it all seemed very simple.
Reality hit when I became pregnant. Some women radiate beauty when they’re expecting; I didn’t. Morning sickness left me feeling like roadkill, and the toilet and I began to know each other on a first name basis.
During a journey to the bathroom during my seventh month of pregnancy, my husband, John, intercepted me in the hall. “You’re beautiful babe,” he said, kissing me on the cheek. He had to be kidding. I glanced in the hall mirror to see if I looked as bad as I felt. My eyes resembled poached eggs, and my bloating midsection made me look like a cow. Either my husband had gone blind or was the worst liar ever.
After giving birth to my son, Jonathan, I thought parenthood would be a breeze. I was horribly wrong. The day of our dismissal a nurse brought our precious baby into the room, and handing him to me said, "Here’s your little one. Just needs his diaper changed before you leave.”
Beads of perspiration formed on my forehead as, panicking, I realized how unprepared I was for this child. “John, you’ll have to do it. I don’t know how," I whispered.
"You've NEVER changed a diaper?" he asked, eyes wide in disbelief.
"No." I stared at the pale green linoleum tiles on the floor, wishing I could melt into its cracks. Patiently, John "walked" me through the process of changing a diaper.
That was our biggest crises for a while. Then one morning, when Jonathan was six months old, he awakened, crying inconsolably. He screamed every time I touched his stomach, but wasn’t running a fever. Programming a VCR by using an instruction manual, I could do, but no booklet came with this little guy. Feeling helpless and on the verge of tears, I telephoned the leading authority on babies (in my opinion) my mother.
I burst into tears at the sound of her voice, cool and comforting, on the other end of the line. Between sobs, I described Jonathan’s symptoms.
“Have you started him on solid food yet?” she asked.
“Two days ago, on mashed potatoes.”
“Oh honey,” Mama said, laughing softly, “he’s constipated, that’s all.”
“Then he’ll be okay? What can I do to help him?” I crossed my fingers, hoping she didn’t suggest a soapy enema.
“Just give him a little prune juice.”
“The prune juice is all he needs. That and a little time,” she assured.
Relieved, I hung up the receiver. Mama was right. Jonathan would be fine after he drank a few ounces of prune juice. My mother forgot, however, to tell me to dilute the juice.
I gave the baby eight ounces of straight prune juice, and checked his diaper every few minutes for the results. When he failed to produce anything, I gave him another baby bottle full. After all, what could eight more ounces of prune juice hurt?
That evening, John took Jonathan and me out to supper at our favorite Mexican eatery. As we entered the restaurant, almost every head turned to look at me as I, carrying Jonathan, made my way to a table. I’d dressed attractively, and was flattered that my looks was drawing so much attention.
As I walked by, a man seated at a table stared at me, a look of revulsion in his eyes. His wife, calmly eating her food, patted his arm and said "Don't worry about it dear. She probably doesn't realize it yet."
Realize what? I wondered, sliding into a booth. Then I discovered what drew everyone’s attention. 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.
When John arrived at our table, I leaned over and whispered, "We have to leave. We have to leave now!" Flipping Jonathan around, I showed John the mess.
A tense smile plastered on his face, John hissed, "Let's get out of here!"
We leapt from the table and headed towards the door. My stomach churned like a washing machine as 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, “What ever you do, don’t eat the green chicken enchiladas!" With that, we fled out the door and into the night.