And then there was the time I tried to take a shower in a camp ground with my kindergartner, my toddler, and my three week old baby.
Children are blessings. Not always just because they are “so wonderful,” “so cute,” or “so much fun,” but also because life with children so often turns out to be a sanctifying adventure. You grow. You learn things. You face challenges you never would have if you hadn’t opened yourself up to these little lives. It’s not all about cozy out loud readings of Little House in the Big Woods and baking cookies together. At least, not in my world. In my world, diapers sometimes leak all over my denim skirt, every once in a while, a tantrum gets thrown in a public place, and once I was foolhardy enough to try to take a shower in a camp ground with my kindergartner, my toddler, and my three week old baby.
Since I tend to bounce back physically very quickly after a birth but struggle with feeling off kilter emotionally, we like to have lots of distraction and activity planned after a new baby is born. This time we went camping. Believe it or not, this is not the adventure part of the story. Actually, it was a pretty spiffy way to spend my post-postpartum time since my splendid hubby did everything for me: all the menu planning, shopping, campsite setup, cooking, dish washing, everything. I just sat out in the fresh air of late Spring and nursed my new little baby while my three older children ran around getting dirty. Very dirty. “Handfuls of dust in the hair” dirty. And “there’s no way we’re putting that much mess into brand new, not very washable sleeping bags” dirty. And thus, the adventure began.
All this sitting around nursing the baby had increased my confidence. After all, there I was handing ALL my duties so triumphantly: nurse the baby, cuddle the baby, take the baby potty (yes, friends, that EC post is coming, Lord willing). So, when my dear husband said that we needed to take the kids to the showers and get them cleaned up, I figured I could handle it. My husband thought that he should take our son and our 22 month old daughter with him, while I took our five year old daughter and the new baby with me.
This brings us to Lesson 1 (true adventures always result in life lessons being learned, or at least introduced). Lesson 1: Always listen to your husband. Oh, I thought, it’s not really necessary for my husband to take the toddler with him. It’ll be kind of tricky having a girl in the men’s room, even a toddler girl. I can handle it. I figured that the five year old could hold the baby while I washed the 22 month old and showered myself, and I could hold the baby while the five year old showered. It was so brilliant. We’d be all set. Ahem.
I took the baby, still nursing under the cover-up, in one arm, the bag of toiletries, with a big towel and PJ’s for the girls stacked on top, in the other arm, and off we went. First off, we trooped into the nice big handicapped stall (the only one that could comfortably hold the four of us) to use the bathroom before heading for the showers. I had the 22 month old hold up her jumper, so I could pull down her leggings. I stuck my thumbs under her little waistband, and right into something squishy and wet. Diarrhea. From the very back of her pull-up to the very front. I guess she’d had a little too much fruit… or something. This is the part of the story I’m not very proud of. You see, my precious little girl had been almost completely potty trained before her baby sister’s birth, but since I didn’t want her having accidents with all her different care-givers while I was laboring and recovering, I had put her back in pull-ups, and she had gone back to using them…for number one, but number two was still mostly going in the potty. This business of putting it in her pull-up was kind of a new thing, retro, and bad, like bell bottoms. And I was, um, annoyed. I began to lecture. And she began to cry. Ouch. Lesson 2: It’s so not worth crushing little spirits. Just don’t do it.
I wiped her up as best as I could with toilet paper (it hadn’t even occurred to me to bring wipes along), figuring that the shower would finish the job, and soon we were heading over to the shower area. I picked out the handicapped shower stall. It had two shower heads, one regular one, and one low enough for a person in a wheel chair, or, I thought to myself, someone little. Score. Also, there were two benches. Double score. We got in, closed the curtain, spread out our towel, PJ’s, shampoo bottles (grown-up and kids’), soap, and conditioner. I undressed the five year old and the 22 month old. Then I tried to turn on the shower.
And this is when I discovered that the showers have a button that you have to hold down, the entire time you want water. Hmm. Kind of throws a hitch in my plan to have the five year old take a shower by herself. This was going to be a problem. But it was nothing compared to the fact that there was no hot water. I fussed and fussed with the temperature control and that silly button, intermittently sending huge sprays of icy water in the general direction of my shivering, undressed daughters. Deep in thought, from somewhere I heard a whimper.
“Cold. I scared.”
I’m telling you this story so that if anything similar ever happens to you, you won’t think you’re the only one.
My toddler commenced terrified, heartbreaking wailing. (I’m one of those intelligent mothers who had never given her toddler a shower at home, but figured there’d be no problem giving her her first one in an unfamiliar shower stall in a camp ground.) I had to do something. I decided that I must find hot water. Someone had just gotten out of the (much smaller) shower stall across the room. I figured I’d just go check to see if it had hot water. But no sooner had I started to make my way over there but the screams reached ear piercing levels, and two naked little girls, horrified at being left alone in the aforementioned unfamiliar shower stall in a camp ground were following me out.
It was then that Stranger #1 approached. “Do you need any help? Can I hold your baby?” she asked kindly. OK, so I’m sure that this woman was just as sweet as she could be, bless her heart and all, but I DO NOT PASS MY BABIES OFF TO STRANGERS. I especially don’t pass them off to strangers and then get in the shower with my other children where I can’t see what’s happening to my baby (!!!???).
I tried to be polite while shooing my naked girls behind the second shower curtain. Hooray, this stall had hot water! Great! Now to get the towel, PJ’s, shampoo bottles (grown-up and kids’), soap, and conditioner all moved over while minimizing the exposure of the two undressed little girls (one of whom smelled strongly of the former contents of her pull-up and was still screaming). I was frantically shuttling toiletries from stall to stall when Stranger #2 came over, the picture of concern, “Can I hold your baby?” Dear woman. However, I DO NOT PASS MY BABIES OFF TO STRANGERS. I assured her, smiling through my clenched teeth that we would be fine.
At last we were safe in the new stall, with the blessed curtain closed protectively behind us. I went to turn on the water.
It was cold.
Five minutes ago it had been warm. I was determined, by sheer force of will, that it would be warm again, so I stood, still clothed, holding down that evil button, with my baby who had gone to sleep out of the cold water on one side of me while it ran down my skirt on the other. My toddler kept on wailing in misery. I tried to maintain a cheery, hopeful conversation with my kindergartner about how she could be a big girl and show her little sister how we take showers. At last, the water reached lukewarm, and my plucky oldest daughter thought she might be able to take a shower in it. We were making progress now. One of us was getting clean. My clothes were drenched, but I wasn’t about to put my baby down in a wet camp ground shower stall to try and get them off.
That was when the giant moth-like bug decided to start flying around the stall. “Bug! Bug!” Wouldn’t you know it? My toddler is afraid of bugs. And I am way too butter-hearted to kill them. Even this awful bug which managed to get knocked out of the air by the shower spray, land in the puddle under my kindergartner’s feet, get its wings wet so it couldn’t fly, and float helplessly in the water, waving its little legs in pitiful attempts to save itself from mortal peril. I rescued it with my shoe. But then, since it couldn’t fly, it kept crawling all over our stuff. Nasty.
Well, my kindergartner emerged from her coolish shower, got dressed, and sat down to hold the baby while I got out of my wet clothes to shower with the terrified toddler. I decided I had better pick her up and hold her in the shower “so she wouldn’t be scared.” Right. The screams were so loud my husband could hear them through the wall in the men’s room. One hand holding my toddler, the other alternately pushing the water button and trying to wash her bottom and dirt caked hair. Do you know what gets all over you when you hold a toddler on your hip that had diarrhea in her pull-up and you didn’t bring any wipes?
At last, I pronounced her semi-clean, and got her into her nightgown. Warm and cozy, her ordeal was over, and she began to calm down. Just in time for the baby to wake up. I had long since given up on the idea of a shower for myself, but there was the little matter of the stuff on my hip. I jumped back in and held the button down while the water slowly warmed, and my baby slowly lost her patience. At the point where she began to fuss in earnest for her next nursing, I jumped in, scrubbed my stinky hip, jumped out, dried off, and picked her up. Nursing would have to come before dressing.
Our gracious Lord, in His infinite mercy, prompted me to put my underwear back on (one-handed, while nursing, those of you who are mothers will understand the skills one develops). Because next thing I knew, there was a voice behind the curtain, “Are you still in the shower?”
Bewildered, I just repeated the question, “Am I still in the shower?”
And that was when the curtain pulled back and Stranger #3 popped her head in. I yanked the curtain shut in her face. But that didn’t stop her. She just popped right back in and stared at me in my underwear nursing my baby. “Your husband is here. He wants me to take some of the children out to him.” Well, it’s possible my husband sent you, dear, but how should I know? And anyway, I DO NOT PASS MY BABIES OFF TO STRANGERS. Also, in order to feel comfortable in a conversation, I like to be wearing clothes. She was still staring at me. “Um. Thank you. We’re not quite done,” I said, yanking the curtain back closed.
I sobbed silently for a few moments before getting dressed and heading back to the handicapped bathroom stall so we could all brush our teeth. One of the women we were camping with called to me through the door, “Do you want me to take any of the kids out?” I assured her that I could manage. “Your husband is very concerned.” I told her we were almost done. A minute later, she was back. My husband was taking our son and running to the store for a few things we needed the next day. “Tell him to bring me a treat!” I said.
That night, as I snuggled up with my Slush Puppy (my husband knows my intense weakness for all things slushy), I realized that Stranger #3 was actually the camp ground host. I had met her earlier that evening. And then I had yanked my shower curtain shut in her face. I guess my lack of clothes sort of affected my reasoning skills. Sigh. And that brings me to Lesson #3: You can’t always impress people with your grace. Sometimes, you’re just nursing in your underwear, still damp from washing diarrhea off your hip. But this is how you grow in humility. And Lesson #4: Sometimes motherhood is crazy this way, and you’re beaten up and bashed around, but you survive and you move on by the Lord’s grace, and it all makes for a great laugh once the bruises heal.
My husband and I crawled into our sleeping bags. “Wanna hear my war story?” I said.