Farts - Reflections During a Pandemic

We are about one month into our government’s prescribed isolation measures to slow the spread of COVID-19. So perhaps it is the last 4 weeks of myself, my husband and our two kids aged seven and four, being confined to our 1500 square foot house. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t rather be ‘isolated’ with anyone else, but honestly, that’s a lot of busy bodies to be cooped up with 24-7. Perhaps it is this insanity that is causing me to start stewing about farts. Farts is the obscure topic that my brain decided to ruminate on while I wandered the grocery store yesterday afternoon. Farts is where my mind went while I was trying to make sure I followed the correct directional arrow down the toilet paper aisle and that I stood directly on top of the social isolation dot on the floor. Farts. Seriously?! As I mentioned, my kids are seven and four and I’m not sure if incessant fart talk is normal for kids this age (I’m only hoping it is so that I don’t further question my parenting methods), but they are constantly talking about farts. Actually, any kind of bodily function or body part that includes some kind of excretion is frigging hilarious. But mostly, farts. They fart by accident and laugh. They fart on purpose and laugh harder. They fart on each other, at each other, and will drop the most horrid silent fart bombs and quietly slink away. Then they howl at how hilarious they think they are when we start fanning our noses in disgust. Right now, I think farts are their favorite thing. I will admit outright that I get totally sick of hearing about and smelling farts. I definitely snap at them and ask them in my best Mom voice, “ Is this appropriate behavior?”. They of course sheepishly reply no, while trying to stifle a grin. Mom fail. So as I was standing on my red isolation dot at the store, I was pondering farts a bit more in depth. The truth is that while my kids just relish the hilarity of farts, I’ve had a pretty crazy relationship with them for most of my life. I figured I’d write about it because, well, we are in a pandemic and all. I remember in elementary school, there was a boy in my class that was a bit different and whom most of my classmates made fun of. I remember him farting by accident during story time. I remember my peers pointing and laughing at him. Some even moved away from him, while holding their noses, to sit on the other side of the carpet. I was totally distraught. I felt bad for the boy but more so I think seeing this boy being made fun of for his accidental toot made me fearful of farting in public and receiving the same harsh judgment from my peers. Therefore, I rarely ever farted. I would hold in the gas until it rebounded up into my belly with a loud and uncomfortable gurgle. I remember doing this as a child. Putting myself in the utmost physical discomfort to avoid any public shaming by my peers. Internal physical pain was better than emotional pain. I remember amping up my anti-fart determination once junior high came around. I wouldn’t even allow myself to fart when I went to the school bathroom in case someone in the stall next to me heard me and knew it was ME. How totally embarrassing. Worse, they would certainly make fun of me behind my back. If I did let one go, I’d lift my feet off the floor to make sure they wouldn’t recognize my shoes and then I’d wait until they were gone from the bathroom before I even came out of the stall. I shake my head writing this now. Really I just want to go back in time and give that little me a big hug and tell her not to care so much about what others thought of her. And to think these revelations come from thinking about farts in the middle of a grocery store during a pandemic. (Shrug). There have also been times in my life when I couldn’t fart. Like, not at all. Not even if I tried. At the age of 21, I was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis. When I was finally diagnosed, I was in such poor health that I was hospitalized for a month. If you have IBD or perhaps IBS, then you would know the sense of urgency one experiences when you have to go to the bathroom during a flare. It has to happen NOW. There is an incredible sense of panic that washes over you when you reaslise that you are going to shit your pants. OR when you think you only need to fart and wayyyy more than that actually happens. The insecurity I felt as a young person worried about letting one rip in class was taken to a whole new level in living with Ulcerative Colitis. During the bulk of my hospital stay, my gut was so ulcerated and inflamed that it simply wasn’t working. I could not fart. Any attempt of my body to move my intestines only sent me reeling in pain. Bathroom trips happened multiple times an hour and produced mostly just blood. Simply passing gas was a long forgotten luxury. I remember sitting in my hospital room one day about 3 weeks into my hospital stay. My gut had started to show signs of healing. I was still being fed through a tube, but I didn’t need as much pain medication and I was more coherent. I was sitting there talking to my dad when all of a sudden, I farted! I couldn’t believe it. I had almost forgotten what it felt like. I smiled, perhaps even cheered and both my dad and I laughed out loud at the silliness of it. I had avoided farting like the plague for most of my life and now I farted with someone else in the room and it was the best thing ever! From that point on in my UC journey, being able to pass gas was always an indicator of the health of my gut. Lesson learned. After living with UC for 11 rough years, I decided to have my colon removed and so began a whole new relationship with my body and farts. I was required to have an ostomy for 13 months. You think farting from your butt is weird? Try farting from a stoma on your abdomen! Farts that developed from my butt in the past had at least given some warning. Farts from my stoma were totally random and uncontrollable. Sometimes they were short little toots and sometimes they were deep rumbling farts that went on for several seconds. I remember more than a few strange looks from people I didn’t know when my stoma let one rip. It was quite hilarious actually. After 13 months, my stoma was taken down and I went back to living with a functioning rectum. If you are wondering how farting (or pooping) works with no colon, basically my small intestine connects to my rectum and stool collects in an internal pouch called a JPouch. Seeing as my intestinal tract is considerably shorter than it used to be, I go to the bathroom more often and this is now actually the ONLY time I can fart. And I mean REALLY fart. Louder than I ever remember farting before. I’m more worried now about trying not to let people on the other side of the building hear me, let alone the next stall. Luckily for me now as a 41 year old woman, my loud farts might be embarrassing but I realise that they have no bearing on my self worth. If anything I’m more rad for having lived through all that I have and for the fact that I can write a blurb such as this about farts and not think twice. If you want to know one more crazy thing about farts, (maybe tmi but what the hell), the only time I can fart now, besides when I am on the toilet, is when I’m laying on my back. I should use that interesting fact the next time I play Two Truths and a Lie. I would totally win. I’ve gotten to what I think is the end now, and I’m not really even sure what the point of these ramblings was. I know one thing however, I have laughed out loud a few times while writing this and maybe that was the point. I think we all need to laugh more, especially at ourselves. The world is entirely too serious and laughter just has a way of lightening things. And it’s way easier to laugh at ourselves and at our blips or ‘farts’ than to get hung up on them and criticise ourselves. Maybe my kids farting will now forever just be a reminder to laugh. I would be okay with that. I think the other thing that has come out of this rant for me, whether anyone reads it or not, is remembering that we all have a story that is worth sharing. Our stories are all unique and valuable. Right now we need each other’s stories and unique gifts more than ever. Through our stories we connect, we find hope and we are inspired. My journey has spurred me to learn more about my own health and wellness, but also to give me tools to help others who are suffering. Where I realise that I have gotten stuck (as many of us do) is in the fear of sharing my story; the fear of exposing my true self and not being accepted, of being laughed at and criticized. In this way, I guess farts are a metaphor for me. I have realised I can sit like I did as an insecure child and be afraid of letting what’s inside of me escape, OR I can say to hell with it and spew my inner truth from the rooftops (or more on point to this discussion, from my butt). To some it might smell like shit, and that’s okay. To others, it will smell like roses and resonate with them deeply. These are my people. In all, I think after 41 years, I believe enough in myself to not care so much anymore how people think my farts smell.

Maybe the next time my kids are rolling around on the floor, farting at each other I should just go over and join them. If I laid on my back I might be able to let a good one rip too. God knows that would generate some good belly laughter. It would also be a lighthearted way to help me remember to keep sharing what’s inside of me.

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