A while back, at a particularly low point in my life, I learned that sometimes it's the most disgusting things that can renew your self-esteem.
It was my birthday, actually. We'd just pulled through some of the most harrowing moments of our marriage and craved some kind of normalcy like balm for a wound. With the girls in the stroller, we slowly walked to a local restaurant. The evening breeze cooled our anxious minds, bringing us down slowly from the past days of excruciating adrenaline.
Of course, that peace lasted about two minutes after we were seated. Silvia wanted out, then in, then out of her high chair. Anna wanted grilled cheese, no, spaghetti, no, why didn't they bring her grilled cheese!? We ate quickly, each of us thinking that we had been idiotic to venture out in the first place. Finally, Kurt headed up to the front to grab the stroller. I went to lift Silvia out of her chair and realized very quickly that she was awash in... yuckiness. Of a personal nature. To whit, poo was oozing out all over her, up her back, down her legs and covering her tummy.
And, oh yes, let's not forget. I had no diapers, no wipes, no spare clothes and there was no changing table in the bathroom. We had left the house completely unprepared. Without thinking about it, I whipped into action. Pulling off my sweater for her, I laid Silvia down, stripped her, tossed the whole mess (including her clothes) in the trash and popped her in the sink, rinsing her off as best I could. During this swift maneuver, in walked a woman mid-sentence, head turned to tell her daughter to remember not to touch the door, put the seat cover on the toilet and hold herself up to not come in contact with anything in the public restroom.
She stopped dead in her tracks at the sight of my poo-smeared baby sitting in the sink, surrounded by suspiciously murky paper towels. Anna, ever helpful, piped up, "There's still poo-poo's on her back, Mama. And there's poo-poo's on you elbow."
"Sorry," I said to the germaphobe, shrugging my shoulders in a isn't-motherhood-fun-we've-all-been-there-right kind of way. Her eyes wide and appalled, she backed away, trying to smile around the look of horror of her face. She pushed her daughter away as if the room had been filled with well... feces.
I dried Silvia off, pulling my sweater over her head and wrapping it all around her like a full-body diaper, washed my hands with her propped on my hip, tossed everything else in the trash, grabbed Anna, and headed out. Disaster averted.
We found Kurt standing out front, looking puzzled. "What took so long?"
"Oh, nothing. Silvia had a little diaper issue."
"Where's your sweater?", he asked, referring to my chilly figure clad only in a thin tank top (thankfully. It would have been embarrassing to walk home in my bra). I pointed at our giggling offspring, who flapped the huge sleeves up and down, trying to find her fingers. In that moment, I felt my confidence return in a rush. I knew that Kurt would not have handled the situation with anywhere close to the equinamity I had exhibited. This was a moment that had required me, specifically.
I stood taller, my face cracked into a long-unused smile. With nothing but a stack of paper towels and my own clothing, I had completely and skillfully defused a toddler bomb with mere seconds left on the poop timer.
I was the MacGyver of moms.
Shoulders back, I grinned at my husband, finally feeling that maybe, just maybe, everything was going to work out just fine.
"Come on. Let's go home."