Bella’s favorite time of any day is when we walk. We can not say the word “walk” or spell it out, because she knows w-a-l-k and completely loses it. Even putting on a belt can be hazardous, because she sees the belt, thinks it’s a leash, and hurls herself at you, gleefully ready for said leash. Just as I wasn’t prepared for the speed with which she can launch herself across a field, I had no concept of just how much poo she could deposit. Even a leisurely stroll around the block results in a minimum of two full poo bags. On longer walks, she’s maxed at six. I intentionally take her for long walks on trails with trash cans for this reason. I absolutely did not expect her excrement to be a conversation starter with a random child!
As we were nearing the end of our walk, I was carrying three poop bags. I tried out a new brand of bag which turned out to be more transparent than the bags I’d been using previously. There was absolutely no way you could avoid the visible evidence of poo. Some children were outside as we walked by and Bella patiently nosed their cheeks and received pets accompanied by their happy shrieks. One of the kids saw the bags in my hands and pragmatically said, “that’s a lot of poo. I have a lot of poop sometimes too!” I laughed and replied, “we all do. We all have a lot of poop sometimes.” Then, she continued on petting Bella and twirling around, making her dress into a bell. She had no hesitation sharing a fact about her digestive system, because no one had shamed her and told her not to yet.
When you’re out and about, it’s highly likely that you’re near someone with a digestive disorder. About four out of ten people have some kind of digestive issue. At any given time, someone close by is probably in need of a toilet. They may have an intestinal disorder that makes getting to the bathroom an issue of absolute emergency. When children are shamed for accidents because they didn’t make it to the bathroom on time, it shames the forty percent of the population that also might not make it. When bathroom stuff is not socially acceptable, people with very real needs are left on the fringes with little support. Even parents are sometimes made to feel that there is something inherently wrong with them because their bodies don’t always work the same as they did prior to pregnancy and delivery. Young people who have just begun menstruating are usually aware that they might have cramps, headaches, and fatigue while on their period, but many have no idea that tummy troubles go hand in hand with a period. If no one talks about poo, then no one knows about poo! The little girl rubbing my dog’s ears affectionately had no idea that she gave wonderful, sage advice, but she did. Scientists analyze poop to tell us about how the world and its creatures evolved and adjusted. Doctors study poop to tell us what makes us sick and what our bodies need. Agriculturists use poop to aid in crop production. Poop is everywhere and very much a part of our lives. There are even color photographs with descriptions of poop to help new parents know whether a baby’s body is processing as it should be.
Bella’s new friend has the right idea. The bathroom isn’t a bad place and needing to use it isn’t wrong. If many of us hadn’t been taught that certain topics weren’t to be mentioned, maybe more people would know why their bodies work in the ways they do and how to identify when something is wrong. Maybe people would be more proactive in their medical care if there was less stigma related to certain illnesses and treatments. Maybe there would be more dignity and less shame. I wish Bella’s friend had been with me the first day I wet myself after our second baby came. Our oldest was learning to use the bathroom on his own and my bladder had ceased to communicate with me with any degree of honesty or consistency since about month two of pregnancy with his brother. On one particularly awful day, neither of us made it to the bathroom and we both peed ourselves on the porch while the baby screamed. There was a lot of crying. Bella’s friend would have said it was ok, that we all pee, and we all have accidents. I assured my son that his accident was ok, but I didn’t say that to myself. I was a grownup and I was supposed to know better, right?
Why does our culture shame people for perfectly normal things? Our kids are older now and they know what the pee pee dance looks like and they know to flatten their bodies against the wall and let me get to the bathroom. When I say, “I have to go right now or I’m going to pee on myself”, I legitimately mean it. Pregnancies and catheters destroyed my pelvic floor and caused nerve damage, and our kids know this. Not only do they know this, they’ve seen my c-section incisions. Though our new friend wasn’t there on that terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day, I did eventually realize on my own that I should give myself the same patience I gave my kids. This acceptance of myself has been a beautiful thing. Not only does it make it easier to talk about bodily functions within my own family, it’s easy to be carefree with a neighborhood kid and work towards reducing the negativity surrounding something that happens to everyone. I considered not writing this, because some will say it’s inappropriate and not meant for public consumption, but not posting would arguably contribute to the shame factory. I will apologize for not linking my sources. In a sleepy stupor, I forgot to cite and record. I could wait to post for this reason, but I’d rather share this now before I reconsider and listen to the worries that tell me someone somewhere will hold it against me that I had an accident on my front porch.