Back in my early 20s when I was single, I was responsible for the welfare of myself, a parade of houseplants that I kept managing to kill and two cats who were mostly quite resilient.
One of the cats, Monty, however, would get himself into all sorts of predicaments requiring trips to the vet.
On one occasion, he managed to get an abscess inside one of his ears, most likely caused by fighting with Lulu, the other cat. He had his head shaved, the abscess lanced and a drain doover attached to the wound to get all the gross stuff out. I was tasked with force-feeding him antibiotics and keeping the wound clean.
I’ve always been squeamish, so I was utterly unprepared mentally to deal with the black, disgusting and foul stinky stuff that would ooze up out of Monty’s ear and through this drain thing that I was supposed to keep clean so he wouldn’t die from an infection. But somehow, we got through it together and I felt like Florence Nightingale for managing to keep him alive.
My mother was bemused by my ordeal. “If you can’t cope with that, you won’t be able to cope with having kids!” she said.
“Don’t listen to her,” I told myself. “Kids don’t need drains inserted in their ears because they’ve been in a cat fight!” I high-fived myself and put it all behind me.
I was reminded of her words last week when my 10-year-old’s arm smelled like rotting meat. She’d had some stitches put in it about 5 days before and a waterproof dressing placed on top of that after she managed to tear her flesh apart somehow tripping on gravel in the school playground at recess (the details are still really vague to me, but not surprising as I was also an accident-prone child). I picked her up from sickbay in quite a state then ferried her to get patched up at the GP clinic.
The stench emitting from her arm a few days later made my stomach lurch and reminded me of the smell that came out of Monty’s ear all those years ago. “I didn’t sign on for this!” I caught myself thinking, and remembered my mother’s words, before I put on my big girl pants and took her back to the doctors where she was diagnosed with an infection, had her wound cleaned out and re-dressed and given antibiotics. Thankfully, she has been able to take them by herself and I haven’t had to trick her into it by hiding them inside Babybel cheese like I had to with Monty, or forcing them down her throat while I hold her jaw shut so she can’t spit them out behind the couch. Kids are better than cats in this instance, thankfully.
Before having kids, I imagined there’d be poop and wee and the odd bit of baby vomit to contend with. I seriously didn’t consider all the grossness that kids produce that you have to adapt to, if you are utterly squeamish like me, otherwise, you would lose your freakin’ mind.
They don’t teach any of this stuff in the classes you take before you have a baby… how the gross stuff gets grosser the older they get. If you are thinking of having kids, you need to be prepared to deal with these things:
Of all the things I can’t cope with, vomit is probably the worst, and it never gets any easier. I have cleaned up vomit that smelled so bad I have actually vomited myself. I have had to clean up vomit while I’ve also needed to vomit because we have had gastro at the same time. I have had two children vomiting in tandem in front of me, all over the couch and the floor in the living room. I have had a child vomit from the back seat of the car, managing to spray it across the windscreen and the back of my head. I will not apologise for any crying or swearing I did afterwards.
I know that if you have both carpet and floorboards in your house, the kid will manage to spew on the carpet every time. And if they are ever sick in the middle of the night, they will get their pillow, their sheet, their doona cover, and soak the spew through to the doona itself and no fewer than 17 stuffed animals. They’ll vomit such chunks that you can’t just throw it all in the washing machine – you are going to have to pick through that mess. And then they’ll bounce back the next day while you’re rocking in the foetal position, traumatised by the things you have seen and smelled.
You expect to change a newborn’s nappies is going to be the worst thing about having a baby, and then you realise that their poos aren’t as bad as you had expected. This lulls you into a false sense of security because they aren’t on solids yet and aren’t producing regular human turds.
The nappies get grosser, but you can handle it when the poo is contained there. A nappy blow-out will test your resolve. The baby will sense this and up the ante. For me, it came one hot summer day when my eldest kid was about 7 or 8 months old. I put her down for a sleep wearing nothing but a nappy and a singlet. Several hours later, I went in to get her up to discover she had worked out how to remove the nappy and she was covered from head to toe in brown. And she had also “painted” the entire cot and the wall next to it!
I learned my lesson with the next kid and always made sure she had pants over her nappy in the cot, but she worked out how to take them off too. My kids continued to evolve and baby #3 would look me straight in the eye and grin at me as she worked the grip tabs on her nappy through her clothing.
Poo has plagued friends of mine who have horror stories involving toddlers pooping in their backyards like dogs, large logs going through their washing machines and one friend has actually revealed the horror of having to scrub someone else’s shit out from underneath her fingernails.
I was the sort of accident-prone child who didn’t really break bones, but always needed stitches. The sight of blood is something I have not been able to cope with for as long as I can remember.
So the universe thought it would be freakin’ hilarious to give me one of those kids that has the sorts of massive nosebleeds regularly that look like a major crime has been committed. But nothing, nothing at all could have prepared me for the blood clot things that sometimes come out of her nose that look like slugs. I’ve just about fainted every single time, and even just recalling it right now has me feeling woozy.
Snot is pretty foul.
One of the perks of parenthood has to be when the little buggers decide to wipe their boogers on your sleeve because to them you’re just a giant walking handkerchief. Some parents must cope better with snot than I do because there’s actually a thing you can buy (called a NoseFrida) to suck your kid’s snot out of their nostrils using your own mouth. If you’re not vomiting just a little bit into your own mouth at the thought of doing that, congratulations, you are made of the sternest stuff around.
5. Weird smells
Weird smells don’t just come in the form of your kid’s arm smelling like rotting meat. They present themselves to you in the form of an elaborate game of hide and seek as you have to work out what horror awaits you somewhere you would never think to look.
In my time, the worst mystery odours have been sourced as a random yoghurt squeezy half consumed and dropped behind the couch, and a foul rancid dairy odour that was eventually discovered had been caused by a sneaky milky baby vomit over the shoulder and down the back of a jacket that was then placed over the back of a chair for a few weeks, festering away quietly and driving us mad until we found it. I have friends who have uncovered horrors down their ducted heating vents. While another friend discovered a rotting potato shoved underneath her baby change table as the source of a terrible odour that had been plaguing her home.
I’d like to know which sadist dreamed up the whole Tooth Fairy thing. There is nothing cute or endearing about your child presenting you with bloody teeth. I just about dry-heave every time it happens… and it gets worse, because when those huge molars and things at the back start coming out are just horrific.
Even before the teeth fall out, the loose teeth that my kids can’t stop wiggling give me the heebie-jeebies! News of the latest loose tooth from one of my kids is met with dread and foreboding from me.