With a baby, you bare it all when nature calls

By JAYSON JACOBY, Baker City Herald September 26, 2008 01:00 am

One of the great things about being the parent of a toddler is you can buy products with names such as “Butt Paste” without blushing when the cashier gives you one of those looks.

Remove the baby from the equation, though, and I regress 25 years.

I become the equivalent of a teenage boy whose mom has sent him to the store to buy a box of what the marketing majors, those masters of inoffensive euphemism, describe as “feminine products.”

If I need, for instance, a salve to soothe the nether regions of my body, well then I’m loitering in the magazine aisle and leafing through “Four Wheeler” until I see a checkout with no customers and a clerk who appears to be dozing.

And I’ll linger for hours if I have to, or at least until someone starts turning off the lights.

Even when the way is clear I’ll hide the ointment under a couple one-pound bags of M&M’s and maybe a six-pack of Hamm’s. This is of course a pathetic attempt to deflect the checker’s attention from the true nature, and location, of the affliction which prompted my visit.

As camouflage this tactic works about as well as when I used to try to convince my parents that I had cleaned my room when what I had actually done was toss all the dirty clothes and Nerf balls and books and Tootsie Roll wrappers into the closet.

Which is to say it didn’t work at all.

It is the same at the grocery store. No matter how skillfully I arrange my items, the brief transaction will extend into what feels like an endless ordeal. Time really does cease when you’re praying that the scanner works and the cashier won’t have to holler into her microphone for a bag boy to see what the special is on suppositories.

A baby, though, changes everything.

Involve your infant in almost any situation and your instinctive inhibitions crumble, as if you had just downed a couple of martinis.

For instance, within a couple weeks after your baby arrives you will change a diaper — a pretty private event, when you think about it — no matter where you are.

Last Saturday my wife Lisa laid our daughter Olivia on a bench inside Autzen Stadium in Eugene and so bared Olivia’s bottom, at least in theory, to 58,000 people.

So what. She’s a baby. Her butt is cute; you can’t not smile when you see it.

The next day, while I was hauling Olivia in a backpack, I walked into the men’s restroom at a state park in the Columbia Gorge.

A few years from now I wouldn’t let Olivia get within 10 feet of the place.

But with babies, as I said, the normal no longer applies.

It’s a daunting responsibility to care for a helpless wee person, of course, but I think the experience is also quite liberating.

Starting around elementary school a person goes through a lot of years afraid to acknowledge, much less mention, the manner in which we humans rid ourselves of our bodily wastes.

And when we do admit that these processes happen that’s the sort of term we use — bodily wastes. It’s as though we were talking about a chemistry experiment.

But then you and your spouse bring your baby home and suddenly your favorite subjects are pee and poop.

You even celebrate when you fold back the diaper and realize your offspring has produced a particularly impressive specimen.

You run to fetch the video camera.

You phone your parents.

It’s as if the child had won the national spelling bee, or scored a game-winning touchdown.

Instead of chatting about work or the weather you discuss with your spouse the texture and the viscosity of your newborn’s bowel movements, rather like a pair of hunters who meet in the woods and compare the spoor they’ve seen.

You are disappointed when a diaper is soggy but not otherwise soiled.

All this sounds silly, I suppose. A little crazy, even.

But if you think about it the parents of a newborn haven’t much else to go on.

Parents have an innate need to rejoice in all that their little miracle does, yet for some months the pickings are, well, slim. Show that Baby Einstein video as often as you like, but the kid’s not going to solve algebraic equations at nine weeks.

And so diaper changes, basically by default, become prominent events, milestones of a sort.

I guess a parent ought to just enjoy this first stage of many.

Sure it is that some day you will reminisce, nostalgic and sad, about those distant times when nothing was so important as pulling off those sticky little strips and seeing how well the Butt Paste is doing with that pesky rash.

Jayson Jacoby is editor of the Baker City Herald.