Dave the Dad 4 - Poo Sticks
I've ridden vertiginous swells in the Eastern Ocean returning from scuba diving on the Great Barrier Reef.
I felt weightless as an angel as our six-seater dodged the sheer cliffs of Milford Sound and seen the mauve twilight drain across the glorious ruins of the Forum.
Strangely, none of these now seem as awesome as certain milestones in the journey of the last nine and a half months. Even more strangely, some of these crazy highs have come as a result of waste matter.
Everyone knows what babies spend most of their time doing: cry, crap, kip. (I know it's tortuous but snappy comes at a price). What new parents experience for the first time though is the incredible variety of these three and the most fascinating of the bunch, which has to be the second. It might be because our own visits to the bathroom are so personal but it is suddenly amazing to see a fellow human so deliciously oblivious to the workings of their bowels. It was a hilarious moment when Tom realised, at around five months, that nature could be aided by a certain amount of concentration. And in all honesty it still raises a titter amongst us when he suddenly focuses, pulls in his chin, steadies his eyes and strains, grunting and frowning. It's less amusing when you've just spend half an hour washing and dressing him because you were hoping to leave the house sometime before lunch. Even so, the happy pause between completion and discomfort still manages to raise a smile. So, what are the key stages?
Meconium is a blast. If our son's supervillain powers came to the fore at any time it was at approximately the fourth change when he started to emit a black, sticky, viscous substance, a little in essence like a burned sticky toffee pudding but oh so very different. For instance sticky toffee pudding doesn't tend to spread all around your mouth when you dab at a tiny piece that has strayed into your beard. And then prove impossible to remove no matter how much warm water you use. And then stain your fingers. And then ruin your clothes. Nicer than meconium then which is rather more similar to the Tardis in that:
a) what appears to be small and inconsequential turns out to be massively underestimated and,
b) when smearing meconium around your infant's bottom you start to realise, for the first time, just how relative Time and Space really is.
Most adults seeing such a substance exiting their bodies would either hit the floor or the Valium, so you can imagine our amazement at how nonplussed young Tom was. We had an echo of this seven months down the line when he was sick for the first time with a stomach complaint. I was playing with him one Saturday morning, all being fragrant and clean with the world, when the term 'projectile vomit' entered my experience. Hitherto it had been a concept. Still, after three bouts (or rather spouts) he blinked twice, saw Vince the musical octopus and laughed. He didn't eat much over the next two weeks, slept erratically and tired quickly yet rarely seemed bothered enough to become deflected from eating Saturday's Independent.
So too the meconium which, horrible though it was, affected him little and even gave us a frisson of excitement as though he had passed his first test, the first of 357 in Britain's educational system.
The next Eureka moment came with the semi-solid. Now if this sounds vague you haven't had a baby. Most people know that nappies carry -to choose a nice term- poo. Poo, though, at the earliest stage comprises greeny-yellowy-sticky slop. The change when this becomes semi-solid seems almost miraculous. Finally something you could actually pick up rather than douse down, a little slice of Heaven, albeit one that looks like a nugget of muck buried in pureed muck and coated with slimy muck. But it all shows development, a forward motion that rapidly takes your breath away. Quite literally for it is at around this time that the nappies start to emit an odour. And that's being polite.
You know you've attained the pinnacle of isolated parenthood (that point where non-parents stare at you and think 'I have no idea what you are talking about!') when you find the wedgers that slowly form over the next couple of months and feel a pang of nostalgia for early infancy. It's suddenly as though your beautiful, helpless son has gone and grown up, waved bye-bye to babyhood and entered an exciting mature world. You remember the warm bundle who had to be helped into position on the breast, the way his tiny hand held your finger at that first meeting and the gentle manner in which you first changed him; lifting softly, patting, pampering, cooing, mindful of each twitter and eager to soothe. Then the smell assaults you and he jets a fine arc of urine over your best silk tie whilst trying to fling himself sideways from the changing table in order to thump Swindon the Duck. Yep, that normally breaks the spell.
Dave Fouracre aka "Dave the Dad" is a regular feature writer & blogger for TheBabyWebsite and is Dad to two sons and a daughter!