To begin with, it should be stated that while most people like babies, nobody likes poop. Personally, I quite like babies; I always have. I have consistently been excited for the arrival of new life, have cooed over young children, have squealed “cute!” in the faces of human offspring who would probably have preferred a less aggressive greeting. I’m a baby person. I am not, nor have I ever been, what I guess you would call “a poop person.”
In high school, I was at the peak of my baby appreciation. Every child under the age of three was in danger of my asking for a cuddle. I was depressed, I was anxious, and I found the companionship of children comforting, hopeful. They were a light in an otherwise often dark time.
In my Junior year, I was on the school’s competitive Shakespeare team (yes; such a thing exists.) An annual three-day trip to the local Shakespeare competition was scheduled near the beginning of October. I was excited to attend and to compete. In the previous years, the scope of the competition had widened: where once it had only been for acting prowess, there were now contests for best in many theatrical forms. Among these were stage crew, music, and—most significant to this story—dance.
Now, I am not a dancer. I was blessed with a ballerina figure, perfect arches in my feet, and the grace of a one-legged, half-blind troll. This bothers me, but only enough to have developed a mild phobia of dancing where anyone might see me. I don’t dance, but I have an unreasonable level of respect for those that do. It’s something I’ve never been able to learn, a skill I cannot seem to aquire, despite having several dance classes and dozens of musical theater performances under my belt. Because of this hangup, I revere dancers.
The dance teacher the year of the aforementioned competition was also a young mother. She had a baby, a boy of about nine months, over whom I absolutely drooled. Not shockingly, he accompanied her—and all of us—on our way to the competition.
My scene partner for the piece we had prepared that year, the Lord Macbeth to my Lady, was as gaga over babies as I was. We more or less kidnapped the baby on the bus ride down; he quickly earned the nickname “Baby Macbeth.” His mother kept an eye on him, of course, but for that bus ride, my scene partner and I were free babysitting.
That night, as we all checked into our weekend hotel rooms, I stopped by to visit the baby, and his mom—of whom I was by then quite fond, and who I held in high respect. She was an unflappable woman, calm and measured, and she spoke to the teenagers she worked with in tones of positivity and understanding. Yes, though I was not her direct student, I wanted her to think well of me.
The baby was on the bed, and the smell emanating from him was pungent. His mother was fishing through a diaper bag, hunting out the tools to eradicate the stench. I uttered words that I will forever regret:
“Don’t worry about it; I’ll change him.”
She paused. Turned to look me square in the eye, an eyebrow raised.
“What, you like poop?”
“No,” I said, realizing that I was coming off as a weirdo, “I just figure you change enough of these things. I thought I could help.”
“Alright,” she said doubtfully, and handed over the diaper and wipes.
Looking back as a mother of four, the following events were entirely my fault. There is no reason to leave an open diaper lying about; I’ve learned to close and seal such filth immediately—before applying the clean diaper. But I had no such life experience at the time; I’d changed a few diapers as a babysitter, but never on a boy, and I’d heard horror stories of urine to the face. I was rushing, and it was a mistake.
I cleaned the boy’s bum as rapidly as I could, keeping an eye out for any spouting liquids. Quickly, haphazardly, I shifted the fouled diaper to the side, still gaping wide open, and applied a clean diaper. Then, quite pleased with myself, I scooped up the child to pass off, clean, to his mother.
And in my haste, I caught the dirty diaper on the baby’s foot. It flipped into the air cartoonishly, and with all the conviction of Murphy’s law, splashed and slid across the clean coverlet, poop side very much down.
It was awful, disgusting. There was human waste everywhere; it had smeared into the cover, onto the sheets, I think there was even a smudge on the corner of the pillow. I doubt very much that the hotel’s housekeeping staff has ever forgiven me. The baby smiled at his mother. I held back tears of horror.
I handed over the baby, and I fled the scene.
I’ve been embarrassed many times in my life: the feeling is not unique. In time, I’ve come to appreciate the humor in it, and I’ve even forgiven myself the slip-up. But never, never, never again will I leave a poopy diaper where it can do such damage!