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How Motherhood Turned Me Into an Amateur Poopologist

Photograph by Twenty20

My career as an amateur poopologist began not long after my son was born. Just in case postpartum depression and a sleepless, colicky baby weren't enough, there were also the troubling green poops. (My son's, not mine.)

From the breastfeeding class my husband and I had taken when I was pregnant, we knew that a "normal" baby poop was mustard-hued and seedy. And my son's fit the bill, at first. But within weeks, his poop soured into something resembling split-pea soup.

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I frantically scoured the Internet for answers. Most of the information I found said that green poop occurred when a baby wasn't breastfeeding for long enough and therefore not getting the fatty milk that comes toward the end of a nursing session. Since my kid was nursing almost constantly, this seemed unlikely. Also, the hindmilk/foremilk imbalance poo was always described as being both green and frothy; the only froth I was seeing was in the vanilla soy lattes that kept me vertical.

I experimented with my diet to see if we could return to the golden poops of yester-week. Once in awhile, my son would present me with a glorious, dijon-esque squirt. But it seemed totally random, and though I'd rejoice, he'd soon be back to his greenies. At mom groups, I looked longingly as other mothers wiped up their babies' amber-toned feces.

But I hit my bottom—so to speak—with my son's pediatrician.

Worried over the strings of mucous that I sometimes found in my son's green diapers, I smuggled a fouled diaper into a routine well-baby check.

At the time, bringing feces to a doctor's appointment seemed normal. After all, I spent much of my days pondering poop—surely this wasn't that big of a deal.

While many moms fret over their babies' funky poop, I eventually learned that unless a baby is pooping blood or snakes, she is probably OK.

The pediatrician, an affable young man, wrinkled his nose involuntarily as I pulled out a Ziploc from my diaper bag.

"Can you take a look at this?" I asked him.

"That's OK—you don't need to show me that," he said. My son gurgled and smiled.

"Well, but as long as we're here," I replied.

"Really, please don't—"

But nothing could've held me back. I removed the diaper from the bag, placing it on the examination table and gently spreading it out to unveil the stringy, chartreuse mess.

"It does look a little mucousy," he said, keeping a wide distance between himself and the defecated diaper.

I knew it!

"But so long as there's no blood, I'm really not concerned about it," he added. "OK if I toss this?" he asked, raising an eyebrow—as if this might be part of a collection of dirty diapers I kept at home, perhaps stored in mason jars and categorized by color and size.

After getting the doctor's seal of approval on my son's poop, I stopped worrying so much—at least about his bowel movements.

And like everything with babies, the green poo was simply a phase.

As my son began to explore solid foods, introducing a whole new array of colors and textures into his poo, I relaxed even more. Finally, once he potty-trained, it all started to look the same—perhaps the white backdrop of diapers had magnified the variety of colors and textures of poop. But once they were in their natural habitat of a toilet, the turds all look more or less the same.

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In retrospect, I recognize that I was completely insane in those early months. Exhausted and shell-shocked, his green poops gave my anxiety a focal point. Of course, I also worried about all kind of other things, like the time I kissed him, forgetting I had a cold sore, and Googled "dead herpes baby."

While many moms fret over their babies' funky poop, I eventually learned that unless a baby is pooping blood or snakes, she is probably OK.

Hopefully, his pediatrician will forgive me … someday.

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