Before I became a mother I found gross things gross. I wasn’t squeamish about too much, but I was repulsed by the repulsive as most normal people are. During birthing class with my first child I couldn’t stand the childbirth videos that showed the mother kissing the baby with afterbirth all over it. I thought, “Ugh! Come on! Let the nurse do her job and clean that up before you put your mouth on it!”
Then I birthed a baby of my own and kissed her fresh and wet without hesitation. I’m quite certain the cord was still attached when my lips met her shiny forehead. I didn’t know it then, but that was the beginning of lowering my grossness threshold. Poop on onesies and smeared boogers naturally became a part of parenthood along with car seats and knowledge of Disney Junior programming. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a firm believer in showering and good grooming, but yucky stuff has just became less of a big deal. Drop a cracker? 5 second rule. Baby poop on your elbow? Wash it off and move on.
Last week something I did made me realize how bad it has become. My son got his cast off. After nearly four weeks in what we dubbed the “Hulk arm,” a technician used a scary saw to cut off the his green cast. I held him and held my breath as the saw went through the plaster, or whatever material casts are made of these days. I didn’t breathe not only because I wanted to hold still enough that my baby didn’t get cut, but also because I didn’t want to inhale the scent of rancid toddler cast. You can imagine how icky that thing was. Keeping a child under age 2 clean is a task in and of itself, but a toddler in a cast?! The bread bag on his arm in the bathtub only went so far. His cast got moisture and grit in any number of crevices at his wrist and elbow. Poor little guy. I cringed at the open blisters and sores that had made spots on his skin raw. I hated seeing the atrophy at his wrist. In my opinion his arm still looked a little crooked, but I’m not an orthopedic, so I don’t know any more about bones than what a game of “Operation” taught me. (The charley horse is the toughest to remove. No, it’s not the wishbone. Don’t start that argument with me.) The tech threw the cast in the trash.
Wait, he didn’t even ask me if I wanted to keep it. Do people keep casts? I feel like people keep those little baby casts when babies have crooked feet, right? My sister kept her cast when she broke her foot in middle school. Wait. All her friends had signed it, though. Come to think of it, I thought that it was kind of gross that that thing sat in a plastic bag in her closet. Ew. Right. I don’t need the cast. That’s gross. The tech left us to wait as he got a lighter and washable brace for my son’s arm.
That’s when things got strange. The little guy was entertained by my phone as I wandered over to the trash can and peered in. There it was. That tiny green cast. I thought about how his arm would never be that tiny again and how one day I’d forget he was ever that small. Sappy, yes. Not that unusual though. I’m his mother, of course I feel sentimental about odd things, but what I did next was over the top.
I picked the damn thing up out of the trash and held it. Then, making sure no one was looking, I kissed it goodbye. I KISSED IT! I pulled a piece of garbage out of the can and TOUCHED IT WITH MY MOUTH! What was wrong with me?! It’s trash! Granted, the cast was on the top of the trash in relatively innocuous looking wastebasket, but it’s garbage nonetheless. It stinks! I stood in a doctors office with my son, cuddling medical waste.
I came to my senses and put it back in the waste basket before going to checkout at the front desk. I was like, “Heh, heh. So funny. I heard people keep old casts. So gross, right!?” The receptionist replied, “Oh, we have people keep them all the time. It’s not unusual.” Validation. That’s all I needed. Validation for my gross need to keep that thing. I requested the staff retrieve it from the trash for me. They wrapped it up and brought it out. I gratefully tucked it in the stroller and got out of there before they could identify me as the freak I am.
Motherhood has made me so weird and so, so gross.