A Dad's Promise

She looked up at me with big blue eyes, changing back and forth from a small smiling squint to a wild look of amazement at the sounds I was producing. I was making her day.

Her nose was starting to wrinkle and her smile grew until a little baby giggle came out. Her arms flailed at her sides with amusement in the cute, uncoordinated way only a baby can get away with. Her dad, me, was the funniest thing in her world right now…except that I couldn't have cared less. Let me make this clear; I wasn’t trying to impress her with my outward gurgling sounds. Rather, I was trying to keep my gag reflux in check. 

Just over a week ago we started feeding our 7 month old solids. She responded with typical exuberant expressions worthy of an Emmy nomination in a reality drama series. She could magically transform from a toothless smiling darling, to a tear shedding maniac trying to float her own high chair as an Arc and sail away from the spoon of death sporting any kind of overly softened vegetables. The first time we gave her peas, green beans, and squash she devoured the first spoonful with a grin. The second spoonful was met with trepidation and mostly pushed back out to reside with satisfaction on her bib. The third, was where she earned her Emmy nod. She cried only to stop for a second and make sure we were paying attention, and then dry-heaved for effect and disapproval.

The moment you felt sorry for her and reached for a bottle, her smile danced back across her face. We were cruel parents.  We laughed the first time it happened, because, well it was kind of funny. 

We quickly learned the pattern and tried to force a little more down in between her gasps for breath. You tell yourself as a parent this is good for them. They will like it eventually. It will help them grow. But the truth is, you wouldn’t eat this stuff either. So you do what all parents do, you look to the mushed fruits, because they're sweeter and more pleasant. Should be easier for the baby to accept, right? 

It’s true, they put up with fruit a little better, but make no mistake, they have learned from 'the vegetable experience'.

Those happy sighs in the middle of the night when you think they are sleeping are actually the satisfaction of a plan being hatched. It predates their existence. It is embedded in their subconscious passed down from our genes to hers. What happens next is the babies favorite weapon in their arsenal. Constipation.  Babies can get away with not pooping for a couple days.  Their digestive tract at 7 months is changing and they cry from gas pains while the parents rub their bellies, pump their legs and rock them at every angle possible to help out. But no…the baby is waiting for the right moment.

Ours waited 3.5 days. And that’s where our story began.

My incessant gaging was not necessarily a result of the smell, although her digestive tract was definitely producing something other than her usual fragrant notes. It was provoked by the sheer amount of waste that was being produced.

I was standing beside my wife as she attempted to feed our baby girl. Amid the fuss she was putting up with the spoonful of mushed pears assaulting her taste buds, came a momentary look of concentration all sport movies would have been proud of; it said all on its own “In the face of diversity you must find a way to win”. 

The smell came first, followed by the unsightly leakage out the side of her diapers and her onesie. My wife smiled, and actually exclaimed "Yay, you're pooping!" 

I think encouragement was the wrong approach.  

While my wife stood up to go grab a cloth I noticed the ripe avocado colored wave moving up the light pink sides of her onesie. It was simultaneously starting to spill out her button holes and accumulate into a puddle around her legs. I suppressed a small laugh, and gag at the same time which, came out as high pitched hiccup, followed by a deep sickening noise, much like a moose in heat.

I told my wife to get more towels and set the emergency evacuation plan in motion. The gags were coming faster now and the sheer delight of our baby girl waving her arms was now spraying liquid poop out the cuffs near her hands. It had migrated with phenomenal speed up her body and followed the waving arms to freedom. She had turned into an interior decorator flinging greenish brown arcs of color in an upright snow angel elegance. CSI would have categorized the spray pattern as ‘revenge’.

Pompei had nothing on our little girls ability to explode into the world. I had a momentary flash of the fire department coming to dig our house up, only to find our bodies curled in a protective nature, forever fossilized under a layer of petrified waste.

I wanted to reach for her and pull her out of the carnage, but that’s when I saw it… layered within her laughter at my gagging, her flailing poop arms, and my wife holding a towel out trying to catch air born feces- a sincere look of satisfaction.

It clearly said “I WIN”. 

I involuntarily bowed in defeat and picked up our crap soaked baby. Gagging further at her squishy clothing I placed her into my wife’s towel hug only to catch a punch of poop on my chin. I watched her get carried away dripping across the floor. I turned to look at the devastation of our kitchen. She’s only 16 lbs. I thought.

I did the only thing a responsible father with a quick gag reflux could do. I threw the high chair out, checked us into a hotel, and called in a clean-up crew.

Looking over her small sleeping frame that night in my hotel housecoat, and a chin rubbed raw from trying to get the poop smell off my face, I made a promise.

I vowed to never give her what she didn’t want to eat again, even if it means eating chicken fingers for eternity. 

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