One of the most embarrassing things I ever did was catch a handful of my toddler’s poop. In an outlet store. Near the shoe aisle. Nope, not in a public restroom, not in the privacy of our own home, but in a public shopping space in a store with which I was unfamiliar. Had I ever been there before, you can bet I would have run like hell for the bathroom.

Let me back up a bit. My oldest was about two and a half years old, and had been potty trained for about two months. So what did we do? We of course threw a wrench into the potty seat by taking a trip to Texas to visit my in-laws. Nothing destroys all your toileting accomplishments like a freaking road trip! My daughter had been quite easy to potty train, so I was foolishly confident we would do just fine at Grandma and Grandpa’s house.

By Day Two, she had already peed through all her pants by noon and was left with ill-matching pajama bottoms to wear until we had finished the laundry. Travel planning FAIL. (If you are within throwing distance of potty training and you stupidly decide to travel, bring ALL your kid’s pants. Every last pair.)

This was a bit discouraging, but we persevered and decided to do some shopping the next day with my husband’s parents. Fortunately they were not with us when this lovely incident occurred:

There she is, sporting her pajama bottoms. At least they were dry…

I was blissfully shoe shopping at some weird Texas outlet store that I can’t recall the name of; The hubs was playing hide and seek with Izzy in the nearby women’s pajama section, and I was basking in the joy of trying on shoes in a leisurely fashion unhindered by leg-tugging and whining. Grandpa and Grandma were mercifully in the housewares section; though they are wonderful people, I doubt very much that they would have found the humor in this situation. My parents, on the other hand, would have been incoherent with laughter.

My solo shopping time came crashing to a halt when I heard my husband utter the dreaded phrase, “Honey? Izzy just had an accident.” I looked around frantically for a restroom, but being unfamiliar with the store, found nothing and decided we better get down to business. Fortunately the store was not crowded, and the shoe aisle was vacant, so I quickly began to tug off Izzy’s wet pants and underwear. Those of you who have experienced it know what a pleasure it is to handle urine-soaked clothing.

As I was just about to remove the soiled items, a familiar look came over my toddler’s face. Stillness. Redness. Straining. She was about to take a dump.

So there I was, grasping her legs while her wet undergarments pooled around her ankles, left to my own devices. I did what a mother had to do: I cupped my hands and waited.

Meanwhile, the good husband was rummaging around in the clusterf#ck we called the diaper bag for some clean clothes and wipes. As my daughter finished defecating into my hands, I calmly handed off the pile of poop to my husband, who had draped his palms with baby wipes. Off he ran for the nearest trash can, having just been tagged in the fecal relay race.

Though there were no witnesses, make no mistake, having your child shit into your hands in a shopping mall definitely classifies as either a supreme public humiliation or a cause for high fives accompanied by gifts of liquor and possibly a parade in your honor. Also? Consider bringing a pair of rubber gloves in your diaper bag when traveling… you never know when you might become a human toilet.

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