DIARIO DI MAMMA
I famously peed my pants in front of my entire first grade class back in the day. When friends from home visited me at the George Washington University in Washington, D.C., they regaled my dorm mates with this tale, replete with my nerdy reasoning for not going to the bathroom sooner – I was too afraid to miss a math lesson – and a detailed description of the yellow puddle that emerged beneath my feet. Another time, my leg fell asleep while sitting on the floor at an elementary school concert, and when I got up to perform, I fell right down. Everyone laughed and laughed, and I turned all shades of red. Of course, there were other fumbles through the years, but I thought those two would remain the worst of the worst. And I could push them to the back of my mind and forget all about them as I grew into a sophisticated adult.
Then, I had a son. Well, from the moment he entered the world, the embarrassing moments had a way of sneaking up on me and nearly five years later, they haven’t stopped. Delivering a baby – spread eagle and all, with sweat dripping down, all sorts of goo falling out of you, and feeling like a beached whale in front of strangers – set the tone for what was to come. Since many of you know what I’m talking about, here’s a list of the embarrassing moments I’ve had since having a kid:
- Flooding the Flight with Stench My son and I often travel together to my husband’s native Italy. It’s basically torture for a mom to be on a plane with a young child. The others on the flight give you the stink eye and hate you from the moment you board. You sweat the entire time either because your child is screaming, or you fear he will start screaming. But this one flight from Naples to New York got worse, way worse. My son had diarrhea, which meant cleaning him up and changing him numerous times in the plane’s teeny tiny bathroom. Then, as we were descending, with everyone watching because he squirmed out of his seatbelt and jumped to the floor clutching his stomach, he projectile vomited all over the seats in front of us, him, and me. We needed to use an entire pack of baby wipes to clean the plane and needed a giant garbage bag for all our clothes, and we still stunk like skunks. Seriously. He was green until the next day. It took two baths for him and three showers for me to be able to go back out in public.
- Target Nipples When my son was just 6 months old, we brought him to Italy for the first time, and I was still breast feeding. He latched on well at the start of the flight, but then a baby next to us began wailing. He wouldn’t stop. So, my son quit and would only take the bottle for the remaining trip, which was long (about 12 hours). I didn’t think to pump milk or bring any of my equipment with me in flight. Sure enough, I exited the plane in Naples and arrived in Ischia with soaking wet nipples. The milk seeped through my nursing bra and T-shirt, and it looked like I had two giant targets on my chest. My mother-in-law found it hilarious. “You walked around the airport like that, ha ha ha,” she said. Yeah, ha ha ha.
- Poopie Head Nowadays, my son thinks he’s a poet, and he will sometimes say, “Mommy has poop hair.” He might be onto something. During that first trip to Italy, he became ill and had diarrhea for 40 days. It was terrifying. The first few times, the excrement was extreme. Poop bombs would blast out of his little bottom. I carried him covered in the stuff from our room to the bigger tub in my mother-in-law’s part of the house. After he was all cleaned up, my husband and I were sitting at our kitchen table talking about what to do about our poor baby. He kept saying, “I still smell poop.” I said, “The baby is clean now. What are you talking about?” Then, he came closer to me. I thought he wanted to kiss or hug me, especially after I endured a difficult day. Instead, he sniffed. He jumped back and shouted, “You have poop in your hair!” In fact, I had a large clump of baby poop right on the top of my head. I didn’t even notice. No kisses for me. Clearly, my son is right. My hair is poop colored if nothing else. And that’s dangerous when you have a wee baby.
- Tantrum Torture Most moms have experienced the kicking and screaming at a store when their child wants a toy they can’t have. But my son had delayed speech, which meant the tantrums lasted 10 times longer in actual time and 150 times longer in my memory. The worst ones have happened at my in-laws’ house in Italy. We were living there when he was between 18 months and 2 and a 1/2 years old. He actually cried and kicked for five hours one time. Why? Well, it began because he didn’t want me changing a dirty diaper. Then, he wanted the dirty diaper back from the garbage, or at least that is what we assessed from his gestures and actions. My sister-in-law and I actually went in the garbage and gave it to him at one point. Desperation. My mother-in-law started crying at around hour 2 and didn’t stop until he did. I bounced him. I sang to him. I tried to comfort him. I tried explaining. I asked him what he needed, but he never responded back then. I had no idea what he wanted. My other sister-in-law gave him a suppository of the Italian version of baby Tylenol in case he was sick. We learned something. A child having a tantrum does not like stuff pushed up his rear end. Remember that. The cries grew louder and stronger. I – the Italian American mamma – was in a house full of Italian mammas (my in-laws), and I couldn’t get this under control. It was horrifying. They were kind. But I felt the failure. I was imagining what they were thinking – the inept Americana. In the end, my sister-in-law lit a match and had my son blow it out. He got distracted, and she did it over and over again until he started to relax and fell asleep in my arms. Five hours! Five hours!
- “I Want to Show You Something” This is actually two for the price of one. My son was reluctant to potty train. He wasn’t fully trained until he was well past age 4, in fact. In the early days (not all that long ago mind you), he showed my husband and me every pee and poop he made. It was like a kid showing his parents art work. So proud! We encouraged this because we wanted him to learn. Big mistake. When my husband was back in Italy and we were home, my son would ask me to take pictures of his poop to share with his father. The photos I’ve missed deleting still haunt me. God forbid anyone ever flips through my phone album. What would they think? It took a while, but I finally convinced him not to do this. Still, he would always want to show us if we were in the house. Then, it happened. He had to poop in school recently. When I went to pick him up, his teacher stopped me to say that he insisted she go look. She was cool about it, because she’s a wonderful person. But I was horrified. I couldn’t wait to get my son home and explain you don’t show poop to people. I think he finally has understood. Let’s hope. School starts again in T-minus one month. Not that anyone’s counting.
Still, all the embarrassing moments in the world – including the many times newborn baby peed right into my face as though he was aiming for my mouth – wouldn’t keep me from continuing this joyous adventure with my Big Boy. He may have taken away any shot I ever had at being glamorous or sophisticated, and I may smell like a public bathroom on occasion, but his enduring love and bright smile have lit up my life in a way I never could have imagined. To all the parents in my boat, I commend you. Keep taking the shots, even if they are sometimes filled with poop.