Yesterday, I was in the waiting room at my pediatrician’s office when several of my children reported a strange smell coming from the vicinity of Evangeline’s (age 2) diaper. Being immersed for so long in the Mom Culture, I think, quite reasonably, that I should just pick her up, carry her to a corner, and discreetly sniff her butt. (Come on, moms. You’ve all done it.) All suspicions of foul play are confirmed when I pull my sweet baby up for the sniff and realized that not only has she unleashed the wrath of a million demons in her diaper, but that it has not oozed, or leaked, but rather exploded all over the front of my dress. In horror, but as calmly as I can under the circumstances, I hold Evangeline like a SWAT officer with a bomb, stretched as far away from my body as possible while I usher the other three youngest quietly to the bathroom. (OK, it started out quietly with me saying sweetly and calmly, “Ellie, Justin, Mark, come with Mommy.” But as they stroll slowly through the entire waiting room, waving like pageant queens at fellow patients and glancing over stray magazines, I end up doing the frantic escalated calling thing that eventually ends in shrieking incoherently, “Justinelliemark…justinelLLIEMARK!! JUSTINELLIEMARK! COMEONE COMEONCOMEON!!!” Moms, you’ve all done this, too.)
We finally reach the lady’s room…and find it occupied and locked. Not to be discouraged, I herd the kids to the men’s room, (As a mom, you realize that bathroom etiquette means nothing in the face of Poop Emergencies.) where I immediately (think) I lock the door and proceed to repair the damage. Ever tried washing the entire front of a dress still on your body using soap-slathered paper towels and splashing water from the sink on yourself to rinse? Highly un-recommended. Meanwhile, Ellie (age 4) is sitting on the toilet peeing, while Justin (age 3) tries to relieve himself in the same toilet, purposefully aiming dangerously close to his sister’s tushie because it’s SO fun to hear her savagely scream in a bathroom that echoes everything in a volume and pitch that would make Hellen Keller cover her ears. Mark (age 7) is wiggling like a worm on the floor because doctors’ offices and hospital-like settings are notorious for germ-free lavatory ground surfaces, and, hey, don’t we all just need a good floor wiggle occasionally? Evangeline is merrily slathering the poop up and down her legs like some kind of delightfully organic lotion.
Enter where I had only THOUGHT I had locked the door. In comes this man who is was actually entitled to use this room. He takes one glance at the happenings with a look on his face that I imagine resembles a person unwittingly coming upon a 1930’s mob hit. It’s an expression of mortal terror, like he has stumbled into the wrong place at the wrong time, and he just knows that because he bore witness to the scene, he is doomed to die next. We decide to let him leave without killing him. I’m almost sure he didn’t see our faces. I lock the door for real this time.
I manage to remove all visible signs of poop from my once-flattering dress and set to work on Evangeline who, I realize with the resentment of a thousand women scorned, has not one drop of poop on her own dress. After cleaning my now germ-laden children to the best of my ability with soap covered paper, I mop up the floor with the last of the bathroom’s paper towels and head with what I hope looks like dignity back to the waiting room. Everyone I pass on my way back to my seat looks discreetly at the floor, helping me to maintain this fragile illusion of pride, but when I muster the courage to look back at their faces, all I see is a long line of wrinkled noses and curled lips. Because I reek. I smell like a woman dipped in soap covered poop. Because that is what I am. And The Man Who Walked Into the Bathroom just holds in his business, too horrified by the memory of The Scene of the Crime to return long enough to take care of it.
With relief, we are finally called back to the exam room, where I discover that there is no actual relief to be found. Because now we are in an even smaller room, and the door is closed, and we are left to wallow in this flower-poop smell that I am convinced has worked its way into my very pores. I don’t ask any questions, but merely gratefully accept when the nurse comes into our room armed with what she describes as a “very nice, light body spray I just thought you might like to try,” like it’s something we do every time we visit. Like maybe a new holistic approach to healthcare where the nurse comes in before the doctor to douse their patient’s mothers in very nice, light body spray. Just for fun.
The rest of the visit is uneventful. My child is seen to by the polite doctor who says nothing about the odor of floral excrement, and I stop on the way home to buy a new dress at a drug store, of all places. After paying for my clothes with a cashier who sniffs the air suspiciously upon my approach, I rush to the bathroom to change. But when I open the door, I am astounded by the sight of a harried mother of three, frantically wiping at a brown smudge on her elbow while her partially naked children run amuck around the nastiest smelling bathroom I have come across since… well… that very morning. I look away and slowly close the door, helping her maintain her own fragile illusion of dignity. I hear the lock click behind me, and I change my clothes in the men’s room.