For The Love Of Poop

A new mother and father joyfully obsess over their infant daughter's bowel movements.

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When my husband screamed to me from the baby's nursery, I figured our daughter had tumbled headfirst from the changing table or her arm had mysteriously fallen off. We were, after all, unqualified, untrained, freaking-the-hell-out first-time parents. "Vicki, come HERE!" he yelled.

I sprinted in, only to find our 4-day-old newborn naked and wiggling on her changing pad and my husband stretching his arm out, clutching the most disturbing thing I had ever seen.

Nothing could have prepared us for coming face-to-diaper with it--this thick, gummy, black, tarlike superglue that we suspected would require 220-grit sandpaper to remove from baby's bum. It was called meconium, a newborn's first poop.

We stared at it for 10 minutes. We talked about it for days ... weeks ... months ... and everything like it that has come, in so many forms, hence. We became obsessed with baby poop.

At first, we were concerned with color. ("Honey, can you look at this? I can't tell if it's yellowish-green or greenish-yellow.") Then, with consistency. ("Would you call this 'seedy'?") Next, with degree of difficulty. ("Can you believe she did all that work for this tiny little marble?") Then, with amount. ("Sweet Jesus! It's all the way up into her hair!") Eventually, we began to categorize according to the number of wipes used. Average was a "Two-Wiper." A blowout was a "Six-Wiper."

In time, our fixation transitioned from the private to the public domain. That wasn't a problem at my baby-and-me group, where proclamations of frequency seemed to be a badge of motherly prowess. (My friend Nancy actually saved every dirty diaper so her husband could see them when he got home from work.) It did, however, get a bit insidious, like the time my husband called with a report while I was surrounded by commuters on the rush-hour train. ("Runny? What do you mean by 'runny'? Like mud? Like soup?" I asked.)

But then baby Blair stopped going. Sometimes, for eight days at a stretch. All the 453 baby books I read said this was normal for nursing babies. "She's fine," our pediatrician assured us. And she seemed fine. We were the ones who were not fine. The entire family united in a Poop Watch.

We felt responsible, because we figured everything we were doing had to be wrong. We weren't feeding her enough. We weren't comforting her sufficiently. We were over-stimulating her, under-stimulating her. We, like all new parents, were driving this baby train without a map--except for the poop. We understood poop. We pooped ourselves. Then the reason for our obsession suddenly became clear: If little 8-week-old Blair was pooping, we were doing at least one thing right.

Blair did poop again, of course. And there was much rejoicing. The switch to solid food opened up a whole new adventure for us. And the colors ... well ... it was Monet twice a day. So regular, so dependable that we finally stopped being so anal (about this, anyway).

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