Some people receive bundles of joy when they leave the hospital with a brand new, bouncy baby. We received a bundle of gas.
I discovered in the first few weeks of Zoe’s life that we had been ruined completely by our experience with our first child. Lexi was an insanely “easy” baby. Sadly, Dane and I thought she was hard. We had no idea of what parenting could really look like.
The first week of Zoe’s life we checked with the pediatrician about the massive amounts of spit up she could produce. Several weeks after that I mentioned to the doctor that she didn’t seem to be able to have the bowel movements I expected. Both times the pediatrician said she was gaining weight so he wasn’t worried in the least.
And she was! Both Lexi and Zoe were clicking along developmentally at a lovely pace! The pats on the back I gave myself did a little bit to mitigate the discomfort I felt at inhabiting an 800 square foot apartment in a 1950s era building and almost no interaction with the outside world except my husband. I discovered that the checker at Wal-Mart was more interested in totaling my groceries than carrying on a conversation.
Life was not easy with Zoe, regardless of how she seemed to be doing well developmentally. She cried almost non-stop. Every day I woke up to the knowledge that I would be in the apartment all day with a wailing child and a toddler whose verbal skills were so limited that she also spent most of her day crying in frustration because I couldn’t understand what she was trying to communicate to me.
Every day by the time Dane came home I felt used up, worthless, and exhausted; like a complete failure at parenting and life.
What I wrote home?
“Lexi has been developing great aspects of her personality! She is constantly looking at Zoe and shouting, “Baby!” as though she’s surprised all over again that there’s a live being right there! Dane has joked that she has the memory of a goldfish – every single time she’s just SO excited! She has also decided that she needs a “shower baby” – she takes the washcloth and carefully wraps it around the bottle of Cetaphil facial soap, rocking it, burping it, shushing it … and I’m pretty sure I caught her changing its diaper! She likes to kiss Zoe a lot, and I’ve had to cut her off when she begins to try to suck on Zoe’s toes. Zoe, for her part, tends to be a little bit put off by the huge face and insistent hands of her sister…
Zoe is also developing her personality, which right now looks to be fairly laid back and sweet. She makes lots more noises than we remember Lexi making – she actually sounds like a doggie squeaky toy a lot of the time! She grumbles to herself and stretches and has an awful lot of action with her tongue… She started out her life with some amazing vomit experiences, but lately has seemed to be ready to keep it in her tummy more. As I type, she’s curled up on her daddy’s chest and Lexi is asleep right next to him. They both have their mouths open and look extraordinarily similar with their sleepy faces. It’s a good picture.”
Four months into Zoe’s life we went in to the pediatrician’s office and I reported that she was still miserably unhappy from gas a good deal of the time. Her pediatrician suggested that I switch formulas. I reminded him that she’s breastfed.
“Am I poisoning her with my breast milk?” I asked our doctor. Why else would she have so much trouble with digestion and cry so very much?! Surely it had to be my fault!
My neurotic questioning of poisoning was pooh-poohed as our doctor told me that if she didn’t have a bowel movement for several days I could try a suppository (just what I’d always dreamed of administering to my offspring) or MiraLAX ® Laxative Powder. I left the office and purchased the MiraLAX® and a bag of peppermint sticks for Zoe to suck – the gas drops and gripe water I had read about on the internet were completely ineffective.
After that conversation with the doctor we went a mind-boggling 21 days with no output from our dear little Zoe. While it did provide some daily comic relief to hear loud toots coming out of her in great explosions, I felt horrible as I watched her howl and scrunch up her face because her tummy was in agony … and relatively disgusted every time she emptied her stomach down the front of my shirt. Having already tried the all other options and feeling desperate, it was time to proceed with the suppository plan of attack.
Parenting had already taught Dane and I that there are very few taboo topics after you have children. Though you might not share everything in polite company, once you have a child your inner-circle family conversations regularly dwell on the types of poop that exist, lactating surprises, or the consistency of spit-up milk.
Even with our comfort levels stretched so much by parenting, thinking about administering a suppository was something that made both of us feel fairly awkward. It was with great trepidation that Dane and I headed to the drugstore and selected a suppository.
We learned from the clerk that there was a liquid glycerin option that could be administered with an applicator that was effective – though it could be too effective and you might end up with a massive mess – and a glycerin suppository, the pellet we both had in our heads when we started the adventure.
We went with the most comfortable of an uncomfortable array of choices: the pellet.
Back to the house, we trimmed our fingernails and washed our hands … and … viola! insertion complete. Time: 7 p.m.
Fast-forward… Zoe woke up at 11:30 p.m. with cheeks flushed scarlet, groaning, moaning, and crying with a raspy little voice that made my stomach churn like the grinder of an old-fashioned ice cream maker. I checked the suppository package and read that it was supposed to be effective within 15 – 60 minutes! Panic!
Dane started pumping Zoe’s legs while I called the after-hours pediatrician, wondering if I’d actually poisoned my child from the bottom up this time. I paced, waiting as the phone rang.
Finally the phone connected! As I tried to calm my heart to talk to the nurse, a clap of thunder rocked the entire house. From the living room I heard my husband holler, “Way to go, baby!”
Relieved, I realized that my baby was possibly – just possibly – not going to die from a suppository.
As I talked to the nurse I discovered that she couldn’t have died anyway. Apparently a suppository, for all its nastiness in function, is a pretty harmless medicine. That’s a little nugget of information that I would never have known had Zoe been as quiet and… regular… as Lexi.
Off the phone, I looked at my husband and realized that he was holding Zoe in a strange way – for when the thunderclap came, her poop evacuated her body not only into her diaper but also all over his lap.
I ran for the changing supplies while he shucked his jeans. When we opened that glorious diaper we discovered the suppository, in the exact same shape that it had gone in, and realized that it had actually acted as a plug for the poor child!
Dane needed a little bit of time before he felt comfortable talking about the experience – it had offended his sensibilities to the core to be covered in excrement. But eventually we were both able to laugh about the experience.
Unfortunately, I laughed about it only with him. I hadn’t talked to Tirzah, Lauren, or any friend for several months.