"Quick! Get the skimmer!" shouted Mike, our swimming instructor, to the lifeguard standing on the deck above. As Mike frantically skimmed the water, I grabbed Caitlin, holding her body above the surface, and exited the pool as quickly as possible, dodging unsuspecting parents swimming happily with their calm, content babies. A moment before, we swam among them. Calm, content.
Just before our abrupt exit from the water, I held Caitlin as she practiced kicking her legs. We walked back and forth across the shallow end. Caitlin floated along, enjoying her time in the warm water, moving her legs like a little frog. As we reached the end of the shallow end, I noticed something else floating among the toy boats and balls designated for our Water Babies class. Poop! Poop was everywhere, small pieces floating in the water around us, more leaking out of Caitlin's bathing suit, and still more on my hands. In that moment of recognition, our calm, content swimming lesson turned into a disgusting, crappy mess.
As soon as I noticed my daughter's untimely explosion, I swam nearby Mike and said, "I'm so sorry. She had an accident, it's poop!" Without waiting to see his look of disapproval and disgust, Caitlin and I left the pool, grabbed our tote bag, and hauled ass to the nearest changing room. As I tried to clean Caitlin, I imagined the other members of our swimming lesson noticing the mess, screaming, swimming away, jumping out of the pool, and running to the front desk to file a formal complaint with not only the gym, but the Board of Health. As I tried to remove all traces of poop from my wet baby (not an easy task-water and poo is a nasty combination), I expected to hear screams and the arrival of a Haz-Mat team to decontaminate the pool. How could I go back out there? This was the single most embarrassing thing that could happen at a swimming lesson, except maybe Caitlin pulling off my bathing suit.
As I used wipe after wipe without much success, my anxiety grew and grew. Would Mike let us back in the water? Would we receive a reprimand for Caitlin's special delivery? Would the other parents black list us or make us wear a scarlet P on our bathing suits? I had no idea what to expect when we left the changing room. The incident occurred just five minutes into our lesson, so I had a clear choice to make: either hide in the changing room until the lesson ended and sneak out unnoticed, or suck it up and get back into the pool. I looked at Caitlin on the changing table, adorable in her pink bathing suit, smiling, wet hair plastering her face. Leaving early or hiding in a two by two changing room for twenty-five minutes would be unfair. Caitlin did not intend to cause harm, she just did what babies do-poop whenever they feel the need regardless of time or place. Ending our swimming lesson would be unjust punishment and only make us seem even more weird and socially inappropriate.
After using our thirty-fifth wipe, I deemed C's mess officially clean and humbly, slowly trudged back toward the pool. Hesitantly, I lifted my head and looked toward the shallow end. Nobody ran away. Nobody was screaming. Mamas and Papas held kicking, splashing squealing babies as they walked back and forth. Mike shouted instructions and offered praise. Nothing changed. We slid back into the now clean water and returned to practicing kicks, as though nothing happened.
I am not sure if anybody noticed Caitlin's poo in the water, but even if they did nobody seemed to care. The Poop in the Water incident taught me a few things. First, no matter how embarrassed I feel, Caitlin does not yet know embarrassment. Depriving her of something she loves because I am mortified is unfair. Beyond that, maybe I need to stop becoming so easily embarrassed. Having a baby means humiliating things happen, and unfortunately those things usually involve poop. If I panic and hide each time, we will never be able to leave the house, furthermore that is not a lesson I want to teach my daughter. Finally, mamas and papas are amazingly tolerant, forgiving people. This could happen to any parent, therefore nobody judged. Nobody even reacted, or if they did, they reacted privately and welcomed us back into the water. Being a parent means embracing the disgustingness and finding the humor in our babies' actions. Being a parent means accepting other parents and their babies, even if they pollute your swimming area.
As soon as I realized we were not expelled from swimming, I relaxed and Caitlin enjoyed the rest of our swimming lesson. She even dunked under water. We will go back next week, even if everybody secretly thinks of us as "The Family that Poops in the Pool." I am looking into wrapping Caitlin's lower half entirely in extra strength Saran Wrap next week, but I will not let a little poo keep us out of the water.