How the 'Poop Fad' Helped Me Talk About My Ostomy With My Kids
I remember Christmas shopping with my roommate, Danielle, in 2016 for her young nieces and being repulsed by the amount of kids toys and clothes featuring the poop emoji. I couldn’t comprehend how our society had embraced feces and made it into something fun and semi-appropriate to talk about and that no one other than me seemed to be ashamed that that’s what our culture deemed acceptable.
Fast forward two years and I’m married with four step-kids, the two youngest being a 7-year-old and 4-year-old girls. I also just recently discovered that my injuries due to a violent sexual assault when I was 17 are continuing to compromise my health and that my only treatment option was a colostomy. One of my biggest fears going into the colostomy was that my step-kids would think I was gross and wouldn’t understand why I was different. It was difficult enough for me to understand how the colostomy worked and why I needed it, so I definitely couldn’t imagine trying to explain it to my step-daughters. I had to figure out how to go from being the step-mom that constantly told their step-kids that talking about poop and farting was gross and inappropriate, to somehow normalizing those conversations and finding a way to laugh at them, especially as a new ostomate when my days never go according to plan and adapting to my new normal means navigating the millions of ostomy products on the market and what works for me; trying to figure out how to empty and change my bag in public restrooms that don’t offer enough space or privacy, dealing with the loud quacking noises my stoma seems to like to make at the most inopportune times, and trying to get out of Walmart with a full bag before a store employee stops me and asks if I’m stealing something.
I had initially bought the girls Awesome Ollie teddy bears which feature a colostomy on the bear’s abdomen. This was a great tool to introduce them to the concept, and at the time, I really believed that would be the extent of the poop conversations in our house. My plan going into the surgery was that my colostomy would just be something I had that we never talked about. I guess my thought process was that if we didn’t talk about it, that it somehow wouldn’t exist to me. It wasn’t until my first time emptying my bag in the hospital when I completely missed the toilet and poop was covering the walls. With shame and guilt I had to call my nurse to come help me — my colostomy was going to be something that was the topic of conversation in our house for some time. In that moment, I fully expected my nurse to come see the mess I made and yell at me for being such a nuisance, but instead she got a huge grin on her face and started laughing. I can’t tell you how grateful I was in that moment and how that single interaction completely changed the way I coped with my colostomy. She taught me that I should expect many moments throughout my life where my ostomy would just decide it was in charge and make a mess of things, and that the only way to move forward was to embrace it and learn to laugh when the unexpected and inconvenient happens.
So that brings me to present day, eight weeks post-op and already getting a head start on my Christmas shopping. My step-kids have fully embraced my colostomy, especially the 4-year-old. Whenever we go somewhere, the first thing she does is find the bathroom in case I need to change my colostomy bag. I had a list of what I wanted to buy them, but the first toys I grabbed off the shelf were a poop emoji plush toy, “Poopies” unicorn poop slime, “Poopeez Kerplopplis” collectibles and a “Don’t Step in It” game. Pooping and farting has become something I’ve had to get comfortable talking and laughing about, and these toys have become a way for us to normalize and enjoy an otherwise uncomfortable topic. As I was putting the items in a cart, a woman walked past me and commented that she couldn’t understand why poop toys were even made and I smiled at her and said, “because they help me talk to my step-kids about my colostomy and I’m grateful for the conversation starter.”
Getty image by geckophotos