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I Was Not Prepared for How Gross Parenthood Is

Photograph by Twenty20

I grew up in Virginia. I know manure type by smell and butchered cows on my grandfather's farm throughout my childhood. I figured my squeamish threshold was pretty high, but nothing prepared me for the grossness of motherhood.

It started when I heard my daughter’s placenta slither into whatever bucket or bowl the hospital kept down there. I was basking in the relief from natural childbirth pain when I heard the distinctive plunk.

"Glad I didn't see that," I thought. Little did I know, I was about to see much worse.

The first time our precious offspring blew out a diaper, my husband and I stared at the poop spreading up her onesie in shocked silence.

"How do we take this off without getting it in her hair?" my husband whispered, as if speaking loudly would make the shit seep faster. (As a medical professional, his experience with nasty started with cadavers and grew from there. Apparently, none of that prepared him either.)

It doesn't matter what I've experienced to this point. Something will still come along to disgust me.

Once we mastered the art of blowout cleanup, I thought we were ready for whatever parenting threw our way. Then, our daughter projectile vomited a full stomach of breast milk right on me. I was at my aunt’s house, minutes from leaving our baby for the first time to attend an evening wedding. (Thankfully, someone convinced me to wait to change into my dress!) I froze, dripping regurgitated milk onto my aunt's living room rug.

When the shock wore off, I started to cry. I was worried about my kid, who to that point had only returned a dribble of spit-up, and I was covered in what had taken my own body hours to produce. Someone whisked away the baby. Someone removed my clothes. Finally, my aunt hugged me as I stood there in my underwear and said, "It will be OK, Katie. Go get dressed."

By our second child, I figured we had mastered the gross. I didn’t realize our oldest had skipped a few things and hadn’t grown enough for others. The kid crapped once in her underwear in daycare and decided never to do it again. She grossed herself out and made a one-poop transition to potty-trained.

Our youngest, on the other hand, was chill AF. When she pooped her underwear, she kept playing. Depending on the turd, I might not know about it until I suggested she try to potty. Usually, the poop rolled onto the floor, but on occasion—when I had a cold or was otherwise too preoccupied—it flew through the air like a freed bird. One time, it landed on my oldest. (I might have frozen a second or two before tackling that one.)

When we finally achieved proper fecal disposable, we entered the injury phase. Turns out, seeing your kid’s blood takes gross up another level. Just last week, my 4-year-old gouged her elbow. I caught her blood in my hands while we scurried inside for a bandage, my heart pounding with each sticky plop on my fingers.

I've decided it doesn't matter what I've experienced to this point. Something will still come along to disgust me. It's the shock of this shitshow that ups the ick factor. Everything is going along fine and then ... well, you never know what’s going to happen, but it will be varying degrees of gross and probably land on you.

My aunt's advice still holds true: It might be awful at that moment. It might be so nasty you want to dip your body in Purell. But it will be OK. Just pull yourself together and move on.

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