I have been fortunate in the past almost 4 months to have not had to deal with many public baby poops. In fact I think there has been one total when she was about a month old. You see my baby is not a frequent pooper. She tends to save them up and go every few days. But when she goes, she GOES. Luckily most of these have occurred in the comfort and privacy of our home.
Until this past Monday. My husband was working Monday night so I wanted to get the baby out of the house and keep things quiet. I thought a Target expedition would be the way to go, since typically she will sleep or watch things happily from her sling while I browse the aisles. We got to Target after a (suspiciously) quiet car ride. Looking back now, I can see that clearly during the trip baby was in the midst of an epic poop explosion, because every time I looked back she was sitting placidly in the car-seat staring straight ahead. This is not her typical car pose. It also smelled to high heavens, but as I have written before, my daughter is a champion tooter, so a smelly car ride is not out of the ordinary.
Once I got her out of the car, into the sling, and started walking into Target, I realized the smell was not dissipating. I peeked inside her diaper to find the clear signs of a blowout. I briefly considered putting her back in the car and driving home, but then thought "Silly Liz. You are a mom now. You can change diapers in public. This is Target, literally the mecca of moms out with their babies. You've got this."
I grabbed the diaper bag, which luckily had a clean onesie in it, because by now I could tell that the poop was not a contained situation. We were in a Level 1 nuclear fallout. There was poop on clothing, on feet, on the sling. But again, I had prepared for this. There had been DRILLS people.
I walked confidently into the Target bathroom. I wanted to use the family restroom for privacy but of course it was occupied by what seemed like an impossible number of rowdy children and their mom. So I went into the Ladies room and saw with relief a changing table (it's one of those things you assume is there but you never really pay much attention to pre-kids).
I put the diaper bag on the sill next to the table, and of course saw that the little cushioned changing pad wasn't in there. And of course the Target changing table is hard as a rock. Smiling, I put Ryley down, trying to fool her into thinking this was just another diaper change, just like at home SEE! But her expression immediately told me she was no fool. Her eyes widened at the feel of the hard, cold table and the bright lights above her. Plus there were several women in the room washing hands and flushing toilets. There was a lot of stimulation, and she was not pleased.
Still smiling frantically at her like a maniac, I began to peel off the poopy onesie, of course in my nervousness getting poop all over my child. It was like I had never changed a diaper before. I felt like every eye was on me, when of course no one cared about the baby in the corner. Still I couldn't shake the sense that this was my moment to really be a mom in public, act cool and collected. And I was failing miserably.
As soon as I guided the baby back on the table sans clothing, the shit really hit the fan (kind of literally). Now she had naked skin against that hard surface and that was not even remotely acceptable. She began to cry in her loudest pitch, but I kept my eye on the prize and pulled out the wipes. I wiped. And wiped. And wiped some more. And somehow the poop was still there. Only now somehow it had gotten on her hand and the table was covered in it. And it was on my hand. Wipes were flying out of the package, but it seemed like we weren't making any progress. The more I wiped, the more poop I found.
People opened the door (which was right next to the changing table of course) and I'm sure were startled to see a screaming naked baby covered in poop being wiped furiously by her frantic looking mother, but politely averted their eyes and continued about their business. I tried to softly shush Ryley, but she was not having it. On any level. Her eyes said it all "Why are you TRYING TO KILL ME MOM?!? WHAT HAVE I EVER DONE TO YOU???"
And then when it could not get any worse, someone put their hands under one of those crazy loud automatic dryers. I glanced at Ryley, praying her to be magically lulled by the noise. She liked white noise! It was kind of the same thing! She didn't mind the vacuum. This was no biggie.
She stared at me with wide, surprised eyes for one moment that felt like an eternity. And then she drew an enormous breath that seemed to suck all of the air out of the room. And then she screamed like she had never screamed before. She sounded like a really pissed off hyena, or a cat getting its tail stepped on, or a rampaging hippo. I'm pretty sure all the glass in Target broke simultaneously. Her face turned red. Tears streamed. Any passerby would think I was using the Target bathroom changing table as my own sadistic baby torture chamber, due to the pitch and volume of Ryley's screams at this point.
The person who had used the dryer quickly shuffled out of the bathroom, not looking at me or my flailing daughter, and one very nice lady came out of the stall and told me not to worry and that she wouldn't use the hand dryer because it scared her too.
By this point I had at least gotten the baby relatively free of poop and put a new diaper on her. Only she was contorting her body so much that getting the diaper fastened properly was taking impossibly long. To anyone watching I would have looked like I had never put on a diaper before. And then it was time for the new onesie, which of course ratcheted up the screams even more, because the only thing worse than a loud hand dryer in my baby's world is having something put over her head. If she could have talked she would have begged everyone in the bathroom to SAVE HER FROM MOMMY. Because not only had I put her on a hard surface surrounded by loud noise, I put clothing over her head. She was DONE, I tell you. DONE.
Finally I had the baby dressed. I picked her up and furiously scrubbed the changing table with wipes to try to clean it (btw, public changing tables must just be coated in old poop, another reason to use your own pad on top, which any proper mother would never have forgotten obviously #momfail). All the way I tried to smile at the continuous stream of people coming in and out (Why do so many women use the Target bathroom in the middle of a Monday!?! It was like grand central station in there. Does no one have bladder control anymore?) and juggle a still screaming baby.
At this point I momentarily considered trying to do the shopping I had come for. This thought lasted approximately .5 seconds. I was traumatized. The baby was traumatized. Neither of us could handle it at that point. I carried the baby out of the store without even bothering to put her back in the (poop covered) sling, and tried not to make eye contact with anyone.
This was not great. I did however learn some lessons.
1) Always bring the changing pad.
2) Hold out for the family restroom if you can.
3) Keep a plastic bag in your diaper bag for poop soiled onesies to go in.
4) Keep hand sanitizer in your diaper bag.
5) If you have to change your baby in a public bathroom again, beg everyone in there not to use the hand dryers. Bribe if necessary.
The good news is in some ways, I feel like this is one of those mom rites of passage you just have to go through. It was our first public poop explosion. I am sure it will not be the last. We got through it unscathed physically if not psychologically. I think Ryley has forgiven me.
Next time we will totally be that calm, cool, and collected mom and baby who breeze through the whole experience as if it's nothing. I will carry on with my shopping like it ain't no thang. And I won't flee Target with my formerly poop covered baby like a thief in the night.
I'm a thirty-something mom of two, wife, pediatric RN, and writer with a passion for all the big and little things in life.