Guest post: POOGATE by Hayley from Downs Side Up
Saturday 21 March is Down’s Syndrome Awareness Day and today I’m delighted to hand over the reins to the inspirational Hayley Goleniowska from award-winning Downs Side Up.
As well as being a fabulous blogger, Hayley is a writer and speaker, working with parents, teachers and medical professionals as well as self-advocates who have Down’s syndrome. She and her eldest daughter Mia have already published a book and she’s about to launch a new venture with Fink Cards (you can read more about this at the bottom of Hayley’s post).
Downs Side Up is a place where so many parents have found the information they need in a time of confusion and worry but it’s also a place of such laughter, love and light. I asked Hayley if I could republish this post that first appeared on her blog a couple of years ago because I just love it. I give you ‘Poogate’ – we’ve all been there!
It so happened that as we embarked upon our school hols tour, we discovered a non-functional front headlight. Illegal and dangerous, we booked into the first car service dealership not more than an hour away from home. It was to be our first port of call.
As we neared the pit stop, Natty called out from her back seat throne “I’ve got headache in my tummy.”
Her clever way of saying tummy ache.
“We’re nearly there darling.”
“No, headache in my tummy. I need a poo poo.”
That’s one phrase we NEVER argue with. Natty is reliably dry and clean by day, but there are always exceptions to the rule.
We swerved into the nearest supermarket carpark. Natty and I skipped into the sadly past-their-best public toilets together. Alas the poorly tummy had already made its presence known, ever so slightly. Nothing more was forthcoming as she sat on the tired toilet seat, with me urging ‘Don’t touch anything darling, DIIIRty…”
Not a disaster, but enough to warrant scurrying back to the car with the offending underpants in a bundle of tissue in my hand, and to necessitate a furtle around in the boot of the car to find a replacement.
A quick back seat change and we were off. Next stop, headlight heaven.
We arrived at the car showroom, all gleaming chrome, glass and metallic paint. We ushered our bright, chirpy, stand-out-from-the-usual family through the gleaming showroom, disuading Natty from touching the pristine bodywork of the ‘really-brand-new-very-nice-cars-indeed’. Up the glass and shiny steel staircase we went, to reach the hospitality area, thankfully not too busy, save for a very smartly-dressed lady of a certain age, all colour co-ordinated cashmere and a freshly blow-dried blonde bob.
CBeebies was found on the plasma TV and hot chocolates were concocted from the refreshment station. Natty and big sis settled in the leather armchairs to watch Mr Tumble and sip their beverages. I relaxed a little. Daddy Downs Side Up took this calm, gentle moment as a cue to potter off and drool over nice motors.
“MUMMY! I DONE A POO POO!”
Swiftly I glided in, amber alert. Nose confirmed situation. In fact nose elevated situation to red alert.
Deft tap of bottom revealed soak-through. Nothing between that and tan leather furniture.
All in one second, while smiling politely at the lady, I gathered Natty up and swooped her to the nearby WC, instructing Mia to stay put and watch TV.
Once in the loos, (thankfully this time as clean as the one at home) I realised we were in deep poo, so to speak. Poo everywhere, vest, trousers, socks, you know the drill. Spare clothes in the car, the car that was by now winched high in a workshop somewhere far from the toilet cubicle. Hubby eyeing up a sporty number. Mia was too young to go for help. Not good.
I hung my head out of the door and flagged down a pretty young lady in a pencil skirt and a name badge.
“Could you help me track down my husband please? We’ve had a … er… bit of an accident…”
That look, the one that comes from a yet-to-be-a-parent.
“Oh yes, what is he wearing?”
“I dont know. I can’t remember, (look, I am desperately trying to minimise the spread of poo here) but he has very little hair and is looking at cars. (that narrowed it down then!) I need wet wipes and a change of clothing. Now. (Large smile) ”
She scurried off.
Hubby arrived tout suite. (Seems like there’s nothing like poo to put a rocket up people.)
He took over the manning of the by now impenetrably stinky loo, and the daubing at a small person’s bottom with scratchy toilet paper that doesn’t actually clean anything off at all. I was now in sole control of sorting out PooGate.
I looked the helpful lady in the eyes, once outside.
“I need to get a change of clothes and wet wipes out of the boot of my car. So sorry.”
“No problem, I’ll take you to the service desk.”
I followed, back down the shiny staircase, checking Mia was still safely enjoying sweet warm beverages, in the company of the Mrs Perfect who was undoubtedly determining to bring her car to a posher, more child-free, poo-clear zone for the next service. I’m not one to worry what others think, but this quiet everything-has-been-considered environment was making me feel uncomfortable.
I was introduced to the jolly service manager. I assumed he’d been briefed (no pun intended).
“I’m sorry but I need to get some things out of the boot of my car. There’s been a bottom explosion.”
Silence and a polite smile.
Oppps, clearly he hadn’t been briefed…
“Err, my daughter not me, ha (nervous smile). ”
Then the smile of a man who was clearly a father, and probably a very good one, although I sensed his days of embarrassing poo incidents were way behind him.
Perhaps he remembered with a certain amount of nostalgia? Will I ever look back at these incidents with fondness?
He took me through to the service area, where rows of shiny cars were lined up, jacked high being tended to by smily men in clean overalls. Mine was the only mud-soaked one there. A metaphor for this moment I guess.
It’s medics stopped to smile at my gushing tale of Natty’s poo accident and rushed apologies at having to obtain early access to the contents of the car.
Wipes and clean togs were swiftly found and I returned to the scene of the crime. 2 minutes later all was well.
The clearly-a-dad even popped by, unprompted, with a “sealable bag for smell, and a paper bag for discretion”. Some people really are so thoughtful. (Or maybe he was simply considering the sensibilities of the blonde lady, protecting his cutomer base so to speak.)
When all was said and done, we slipped back into our leather seats to watch the tail end of Mr Tumble.
I sheepishly glanced at the other customer, wondering if she had noticed our subtle clean-up, hoping she hadn’t been too disgusted by any escapee odours.
She simply smiled a warm smile and said “I’ve been there. Three times.”
You see… nothing to worry about after all.
Most prospective parents have a mental image of what their baby is going to be like before they are born, and for many unexpected news can be challenging. Every parent is different and the feelings they experience will vary, but often the period of adjustment that follows a diagnosis of Down’s syndrome is often described as a period of mourning, for the loss of the baby they thought they were expecting.
Often the way a diagnosis is delivered plays a crucial role in the bonding process between parent and infant. No-one will ever remember fondly receiving a shock diagnosis, but it is vital to talk about the feelings and thoughts at that time, to strip them away and see the positives, and most importantly to get to know the unique individual at the heart of it all – a beautiful new baby.
Hayley is passionate about increasing the support that parents receive after unexpected news, whether that comes during pregnancy or after a baby’s birth. By easing their fears and helping them to sort the facts from the myths that often surround Down’s Syndrome she hopes to buy them precious quality time with their newborns.
So, fresh from launching a book for children with her eldest daughter Mia, I Love You Natty: A Sibling’s Introduction to Down’s Syndrome, Hayley is now bringing her expertise on talking about Down’s Syndrome for New Parents to Fink Cards where she will publish a new pack to help parents find the early years’ support they need.
Hayley, says “Through my own ignorance and fear of Down’s syndrome, I felt as if my world had fallen apart when we were told our baby had the condition. I went into shock. The day your baby is born should not be the worst day of anyone’s life, but for so many of us it is. I have written this set of cards to try to buy new parents time with their babies, to remove the sense of desperation I felt. To tell them everything will be OK.”
“Talking About Down’s Syndrome – Conversations for New Parents” will be published by Fink Cards in March 2015.