The 5 Most Horrible Things Nobody Tells You About Babies
Hollywood comedies about parenthood depend entirely on making raising a kid look a ridiculous, hectic mess. Then, eventually the leading man finds out that in the end, the rewards make it all worth it. That's mostly because for whatever reason, baby murder is still taboo in modern Hollywood comedies.
When you have a real kid, you realize there's plenty of stuff those movies don't show you. If they did, their zany comedy about a single father finding a baby on his doorstep would quickly become a nightmare inducing horror that would shut down the genitals of any aspiring parent. Maybe that's why you don't see...
In the movies, the setup is always the same. A baby starts crying and the uneducated parent tries to figure out what the problem is. After a couple of attempts to feed and rock it, they sniff the air and their expression switches to disgust. A wacky changing scene follows, and the problem is solved. What they don't show you is that there are much more terrifying things than poop under that diaper.
What most parents aren't prepared for is the day the baby decides to evacuate 20 tons of waste from his system every 10 minutes for 24 hours straight. No matter how much you change the kid, his skin is in constant, direct contact with feces and urine. And not in a good way, Japan. On top of that, every time you change him, you're wiping the same area, and no matter how gentle the cloth, no matter how carefully you wipe, it's going to rub the skin raw just from the sheer repetition.
This turns it into an open wound.
The next time the baby starts to cry, you'll get out your poop disposal equipment, remove the diaper and recoil in horror. Blood. Plain as day, there it is. An open, bleeding wound covered in blisters and caked with shit that starts at the genitals and wraps clear to his tailbone. And without any medical training whatsoever, you get the task of figuring out how to treat it without making it worse. And make no mistake, this is your job. It's common enough that they'll laugh you out of a hospital for wasting their time with bullshit like this, and a doctor's appointment is going to end with him prescribing the exact diaper rash cream you already have. The one that doesn't work.
As gently as you can, you'll clean the area while your baby screams as if you're wiping him with a chainsaw. You'll put on the cream, which will feel like Satan pissing acid onto his swollen, shredded skin. And then you'll realize that the only way this thing is going to heal is if you leave off the diaper and let that ass get some air. Knowing full well that within the next 10 minutes, you're going to be asking another parent what the best cleaner is to get human shit out of your carpet. Or maybe one of your single friends who drinks a lot.
This will happen once every few weeks until your kid is out of diapers.
Then start back up again when they're old enough to discover the kinky shit.
Holy Shit, He's Bleeding Internally!
So our movie guy is right in the middle of his wacky diaper changing scene, and inevitably, he'll proclaim in shock, "Oh my God! What did you eat? It's GREEN!" Even the most isolated, antisocial dumbass on the planet is educated on the fact that baby poop is weird. What they don't show surprises me, though, because every parent I know can tell the following story with a knowing grin, right down to the most minute detail.
"When you're done, I'll tell you about the time Jimmy ate a window."
One of the most horrifying things I can remember was when my first son was about a year old. Again, it involves a diaper change. Nothing was abnormal. No rash, no crying, no sign of pain whatsoever. But his shit was streaked with blood. Ribbons and ribbons of dark, crimson blood, swirled in and out like a ...chocolate swirlcake or something. I don't know my cakes.
Of course I panicked. I called the hospital, who told us to bring him in right away. So we packed up for an expected overnight stay, filled with tests, needles and terrified screaming. Just as we were about to head out the door, I smelled an inevitable delay.
We again pulled out the changing stuff, took off his diaper, and stared in the strangest mix of relief and confusion. Green alien blood, running in the same ribbon pattern as before. As green as The Incredible Hulk's poop. Or somebody else's poop if they ate the Incredible Hulk. It doesn't matter. Before I could register even the most remote guess as to what was going on, my then-wife had already searched his room and came back with two half-eaten crayons. One maroon and one green. I almost asked her why she was eating crayons at a time like this, when it hit me.
"Mmmmmm ... Dibs on the blue one!"
It turns out that crayons melt inside the digestive tract of a toddler, but they don't get absorbed into the system.
Ever wonder why parents talk so much about their kids' shit? It's because that is the quickest way to tell if they're healthy or not. When you are a parent, you will do it, too. That kid's feces will become your life for several years, and you'll talk about it without even knowing that you're doing it. It will become as natural as talking about your day at work. Though for some people, if your work involves looking at turds all day, nobody will notice the change.
Shit, I hope he learned Fireball before going down there.
You're Going to Need Disposable Electronics
Skip forward about 15 minutes from the wacky diaper scene, and you'll come to where the kid destroys something valuable in the new parent's house in some loveable, wacky manner -- maybe the kid stuffs a bunch of marshmallows into the laptop's CD ROM slot so that white goo oozes out while the dad groans in slapstick frustration. It's supposed to symbolize the kid "destroying" the single guy's shallow, old lifestyle. Soon he learns the lesson: "Material things don't matter. All that matters is the love of your child." Of course, in the universe that Hollywood knows, all things are replaceable because money is just an idea, limitless to all characters, regardless of their job or station in life.
When my second child was born, we didn't have much money. Regular readers know why. Which meant that the few pieces of entertainment we did have -- PlayStation, DVD player, computer (all hand-me-downs from friends) -- were as valuable to us as our car. The PS was my thing.
As far as I know, this was the only game ever made for the PlayStation.
One morning I flipped it on, and instead of the soft whir of a spinning CD, I got a horrible grinding noise, followed by a complete shutdown. The whole system fried, and there was no fixing it. The only thing I could do at that point was take it apart to see what happened ... just to satisfy my own curiosity. So I removed all of the screws, pulled off the case, and ...
A half eaten piece of fully buttered toast, jammed on top of my Final Fantasy VII disc. Matted and ground into the gears -- crumbs coating the motherboard like a miniature desert. Dunes of "go fuck yourself" staring back at me as I gazed in disbelief, genuinely surprised it didn't land in the shape of a middle finger.
This is exactly the type of thing that happens all the time in those old wacky Paul Reiser type sitcoms. The difference is that in real life, these aren't things that most of us can just replace on a whim. A video game system is something that a couple of young parents have to save up for, sticking back every penny for a full year before giving themselves permission to buy something frivolous. Losing it, or a TV, or god forbid, a computer, means a huge difference in lifestyle. Those acts of cartoonish destruction hurt. A kid writing on the wall in permanent marker in an apartment where the landlord won't allow you to paint, just wiped out a month's worth of pay because of the now-forfeited security deposit.
"God. DAMMIT! How many times have I told you 'only on the paper'?"
This is where people who don't have kids start barking, "Well, if you kept a better eye on your kids ..." It doesn't work like that, and that's the point. Keeping your eyes locked onto them every waking minute of the day is physically impossible. It takes literally five seconds of you turning your head for them to jam a "perfectly harmless" toy car through a TV screen.
And it doesn't matter where you put your valuables, kids will eventually find a way to reach and destroy them. This is going to sound like a joke, but it's not. I was once watching a movie and got up to get something to drink. The entire pause took about 15 seconds. When I came back, the DVD was gone. My son had figured out how to open the tray, and he stole it. We didn't find that disc for two years. It was rented, which meant that we now had to pay for it. Those of you who have had to replace a movie from a video store know that they charge something like $80. On a bad week at my then shitty job, that was half of my paycheck in a time when spending the two dollars on a movie rental was considered a luxury.
Can You OD On That?
If you're skipping around, trying to find the scene where the child gets into something dangerous, don't bother. In a movie, the toddler is always exactly where it needs to be in order for the movie to progress. Even if they get lost in some zany shopping mall scene, it's always a case of him running around, just missing the adult who is frantically chasing him. Not once have I seen the kid stop and open a bag of candy and just start pigging out, the way an actual child would. But in the real world where turning your head for three seconds is enough time for your kid to disappear, candy is the least of your worries. Even in your own "childproof" home.
I used to get heartburn a lot. I'd eat Rolaids like popcorn, and they were always at my computer desk within quick reach. You don't really think of that when you have kids. Rolaids are harmless, so there's no reason to keep them under lock and key, right? It's something you don't really have to question.
Until you've woken up to find that your kid got up 30 minutes before you, quietly strolled into the living room, found your box of "candy" and made that his breakfast.
Believe it or not, you actually can overdose on antacids, though the likelihood of your kid dying on them are next to zero. But when you're a new parent and you see your child sitting in a pile of spilled medicine, no matter how mild or "harmless" it seemed before, your mind puts it on par with rat poison.
Luckily, we only had to deal with him having a stomach ache for a day, but then that made me remember that I was 4-years old when I figured out how to open a childproof bottle of prescription pills, and I'm a dumbass. And that when I ate candy like M&Ms, I did it a handful at a time. And that Advil is shaped like an M&M and is sugar coated. And that an Advil overdose in an adult can put you into a motherfucking coma.
On the upside, his headache is totally gone.
Instantly, everything in your entire world just changed. All of those overprotective parents you used to make fun of ... make complete and total sense to you now. You start noticing all of the stuff in your house that you once considered harmless: The toaster, just big enough to get a little hand or butter knife down inside. The blender, easily accessible and one button to operate. In the world of movies, the only danger a blender poses is the kid turning it on without the lid, shooting food all over the kitchen. Not cramming their arm down inside to see what the shiny metal thing is at the bottom and then bumping the puree button with their other hand, sending chunks of their flesh geysering through the air like a scene from Army of Darkness.
All of this can happen in the blink of an eye while your head is turned because a 3-year-old on carpet is like a fully trained ninja ... and they can climb. And because of this, you'll realize that it's impossible to completely childproof your house, short of locking everything you own in storage and only bringing it out when you need to use it. Even then, you'd have to stand directly over it ... most likely while your kid is stuffing staples into an electrical socket while your attention is on the appliance.
What scares me in retrospect, is remembering that I used to own a 9 millimeter handgun. We got rid of it after four days for the exact reasons I just described.
Flu? Too Fucking Bad.
Every parenting comedy in the history of film has one scene that is exactly the same, no matter who made the movie. The baby is up crying all night, and the new parent isn't used to it. The next day, they look like hell and are nodding in and out of sleep. Then as the plot dictates, they move on from that premise, they're magically back to normal, and their day goes on. In real life, it gets much, much worse than a few hours of lost sleep.
Just last week, I was sicker than I've ever been in my life. My temperature reached 103.9 -- 104 when you're squarely in "see a doctor NOW, dumbass" range. I couldn't move from the couch. Everything I wore was soaked in sweat within a matter of minutes, and I just had to lay there in it, freezing my ass off and burning up at the same time. My lungs were on fire. I couldn't eat or drink anything. By day two, I was dehydrated to the point that I drank 40 glasses of water and went to the bathroom only twice. I should have been hospitalized.
"Thank you, stereotype. Now if you'll just show me your tits, I'll be on my way."
At the same time, one of my sons came down with the same thing. And just like that, my illness didn't matter. I had to grit my teeth and take care of him because while my girlfriend was at work, there was nobody else to do it. Yeah, my oldest son helped out with lunch and getting us drinks, but when it came to dosing out medicine and monitoring his temperature, that was my job. When he couldn't quite make it to the toilet and vomited on the floor, I had to clean it up. When supper needed cooking, I just had to do it even though the smell of food was enough to send me on the same bathroom sprint.
Now consider this: Over a quarter of all children in the U.S. live in single parent homes. Which means that many of you reading this will be doing the parenting on your own. Which means that many of you are going to find yourselves in this exact situation. Now, let me get to the horrifying part ...
On day two of my illness, I was drifting in and out of sleep on the couch. It was 4 a.m. My fever was spiking to dangerous levels. My kids and girlfriend were asleep, and I didn't have the strength to yell out for help. I woke up just long enough to realize that I was at the threshold of what my body could handle, so I reached over for my phone, intending to dial 911. I wasn't even sure that I had the strength to talk to the person on the other end of the phone, but I knew that a trip to the hospital was imminent. Before my hand got to the phone, I blacked out.
I also time traveled back to 1952.
The lucky part was that I started to get better by the time I woke up the next afternoon. And that my girlfriend happened to be off work. And that she lives with me at all. But if she hadn't been there, that would have left my kids alone -- including my son who was just as sick as me -- while my body and brain silently cooked itself from the inside out. My 6-year-old daughter depending on my 12-year-old son, who obviously has no medical experience and would just assume that Dad needed his sleep in order to get better.
All you can do is hope that you have someone to help you out. Go to the doctor and try to get better. And in the meantime, just grit your teeth and take it because you have the ability to take care of yourself. Your child does not.
"No, you get some rest, Dad. I got this shit."
Don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to discourage you from having kids. I'm just saying if your image of the struggles of parenthood involves a harried Steve Martin chasing a toddler around a birthday party with a wacky, exasperated expression on his face, you need to brace yourself for the genital blood.
For more cheese, check out 5 Ways to Avoid Your Terrible Parents' Mistakes and The 4 Most Important Things to Know as a Gamer Parent.