NOTE: This entry was the winner of the Open Salon Father's Day Writing Contest. I am so proud. The story is true and has become part of our family's lore and legend although it has probably grown a little over the years in the telling... The exploded baby in question turns 13 years- old today, the day the contest results were announced. jh
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New parents, especially first-time parents, are a confident and curious breed. Seldom do two people so completely and enthusiastically embark upon an adventure for which they know little or nothing about. Working as a team, fathers serve to counteract the overprotection of mothers, while mothers temper the goofiness and, in general, bad examples set by fathers. Amazingly, in the end it all seems to work out.
When our daughter was but a few months old, we decided to pack everything that we owned into a moving van and relocate in a distant city. Amidst all the hustle and bustle of moving and packing, we noticed that the baby hadn’t pooped in two or three days. When it reached five days we rushed her to the pediatrician. The doctor took it all in stride, listened to our concerns and then assured us that young babies sometimes go as long as two weeks without moving their bowels. “It’s not unusual,” she said, “don’t worry - but be ready when it comes because when it does, it will come all at once.” With that last statement she arched her eyebrows as if to stress the significance of her point.
“Wow,” I said to my wife as we left the doctor’s office, “when she blows, I get dibs on cleaning this one up!” To no one’s surprise, Mom was more than willing to concede me this honor.
We continued to pack. Moving day was now just a few days away and the baby hadn’t pooped in a week. We were becoming increasingly concerned with each passing day, but the baby showed no signs of illness or discomfort so we trusted in the doctor’s word and tried not to worry. There was really nothing we could do but keep an eye on her and continue packing.
Moving day arrived. The van was rented and packed and within about five hours we were prepared to leave. We would be towing our car on a trailer so we would, all three of us, be occupying the spacious cab of the moving van. Having to change a baby on the road, even under the best circumstances is a chore that requires planning and patience, but eleven days of built-up bowel movement is daunting. We gathered a pile of newspapers and old towels and placed them in a quickly accessible location in the cab.
Three hours remained until we were to leave. I was in the kitchen marking the last boxes for the van. I glanced over at the baby sitting in her bouncy chair. Her enthusiastic chatter and random exploratory movements had stopped. She was dead silent, not moving, looking at me with a look of profound amazement, as if somehow her tiny world was changing.
Something was happening.
What was happening was that a load, a full load – a load as full as a load can get - of past-its-prime baby poop was in motion like the stirrings of magma beneath a pregnant volcano that is about to blow. The baby stared at me with a look of both pain and ecstasy. It was a look that was equal parts: “Hello! I just won the lottery!” and “Excuse me, may I play through?”
She was gonna blow!
Like a volcano, the initial movements were internal, stirred by heat and pressure. Finding release, the contents of her bowels rapidly filled her tiny diaper and spewed out into the terry cloth jump suit that she was wearing. But the terry jumpsuit was insufficient to contain the fury of this bowel movement. From between the button and snaps extruded a finely bended grey-green substance the color of mashed banana slugs and the consistency of finely chopped liver pate’. As an eleven day stockpile continued to fill her one-piece terry, it issued from the leg and sleeve openings and squirted up her neck like toothpaste being squeezed from a tube.
“I think the baby’s exploding!” I hollered from the kitchen, not knowing whether to start unpopping buttons to relieve the pressure – or to run for cover. I elected to remain with my daughter. Immediately a huge smile washed across her face. The DAD in me likes to think that the smile meant that she was touched by my heroic decision, but the realist knows that it was simply the universal expression of profound relief.
It happened quickly and then, just as quickly as it began, it was over. I began peeling away layers. It didn’t seem physically possible that all of this crap could come from one tiny baby… but it had. When I had finally finished removing, cleaning, washing, and rediapering the now-cooing kid, the mess left behind on hurriedly placed newspapers looked like a giant mint chocolate cream cheese cake that had been accidentally backed over by a truck. I rolled it up, terry cloth and all, and took it straight to the dumpster where it would most likely sit in the sun for three or four days before the trash man came to pick it up. Lucky man.
Well. So there. That was easy. Piece of cake… so to speak. Suddenly we were on the other side and the world was now infinitely less complicated. The baby had exploded and we had all survived. The van was packed. The baby was sleeping softly. There was nothing left for us to do but close the door, wave to the neighbors, pull out on to the road and be on our way.
The smell of baby shit was never so sweet.