From the Blog

What Trouble Lurks In The Depths?

So. If I were at all worried that I was neglecting the 13 year old boy contingent of my readership, it shall soon be rectified with this post. This post is the inspiration for TWO entirely new categories on this blog, which will be etched into the permanent annuals of the internet: “Here’s a Dumb Thing I Did,” and also, “Poo & Other Bodily Functions.” Thankfully, I already had an “I’m a Jackass” category.

If you come to this blog to read about downsizing or trying to live without a lot of stuff, thank you. If you come to read stories about Oregon and look at photos, thank you. If you come to just read about our life and perhaps too intimate details of Things I Should Not Tell The Internet, you are in for a treat today.

You know those things in life that happen to other people, that you think will never happen to you? That type of thing, since it has never happened to you, you sort of think, it will never happen to you? That type of thing that takes on almost a mystical quality, like it’s never actually happened ever, in the course of the universe, because you personally haven’t experienced it? You know those types of things?

Remember that post I wrote around the holidays about The Danger Toilet at my parents’ house? That was a funny story, if I do say so myself. If you haven’t read it, it might be worth a gander now, as it relates to what I’m about to say. Go ahead and take a look. I’ll wait.

Okay, got it? The great thing about that story is that no one, to my knowledge, had ever actually flooded the toilet at my parents’ house. There’s always that risk of danger, the quivering suspense, that makes using the delicate guest toilet at my parents’ house a bit of an adventure.

In our current apartment, there has never been any question about the voracity of our toilet. We live in a 120 year old building that has been remodeled. The fixtures are sturdy and well maintained. In the restroom, there appears to be no water saving measures, since buckets of rain fall out of the sky here. The biggest problem with water on the Oregon coast is how to keep it from growing moss and mushrooms on the roofs and windowsills of houses. When you flush the toilet in our house, it seems to take a full five minutes for the tank to refill. Our toilet is not messing around.

So. I don’t know if you know this, but I’m pregnant. Pregnancy does all kinds of crazy things to your body. One such thing it does, is make your gums bleed. Crazy, huh? It’s because you have more blood in your body to support the pregnancy. And it’s common to become a little anemic since you may have more blood, but not enough blood cells to fill the extra fluid. On top of that, I’ve always been a little anemic, to the point I have not been able to donate blood.

So I started taking some iron pills, along with half a dozen other vitamins I am taking. Iron tends to make you constipated.

You know what else makes you constipated? Pregnancy. Evidently, the whole digestive system slows down to squeeze every last nutrient out of your food before you poop it out. Makes sense, I guess.

You see where this is going? I drink lots of water. But really, I should be drinking lots and lots and lots of water. Lots. Of. Water. I didn’t realize what was going on in there. I didn’t realize through the laws of biology, nutrition and the unicorns, factors were conspiring together to cause constipation. Between the iron pills and being pregnant, it was double constipation.

Right. So. Nothing I can’t handle. Nobody enjoys having this sort of issue. But it’s something many of us have survived. And with our gushing, throaty toilet, I assumed everything would just work itself out.

And I was right. I was right at least about me. Even when my functions, um, slow down a little, and even when I’m taking iron pills, and even being pregnant, everything eventually comes out okay. You know what I’m saying?

Now. The flush. Hmmm. Trouble. Everything disappeared. But the water was not draining as assuredly as usual. And this was where my normal reasoning skills faltered. Truly, I have never been in this situation in my own house. What are you supposed to do? The tank refilled, and the water level seemed to return to normal. All seemed calm and peaceful. The water was clean and clear. Do I just walk away? Hope the the best? But then, what trouble lurks in the depths?

This was seriously one of those situations that has never happened to me before, so that I did not have the benefit of experience. It was one of those mythical it could never happen to me moments. What should I do? I now know that I should have gotten a plunger. We have two of them. But that is not what I did. Everything seemed so calm and normal, maybe it just needed another flush to get everything to go down.

I reached out to the handle, and I flushed again. And immediately I knew that was the wrong answer. Our big non-water conserving toilet gushed its huge tank of water, and I watched, horrified, as it instantaneously filled the bowl and began spilling over onto the floor.

“Ah! Toilet overflowing!” I yelled. Our apartment is enormous, and Dave told me later that he thought he heard a high pitched yell from someone who could not possibly be his wife. He thought it was neighbors arguing outside, or perhaps a cat being run over.

The water just kept coming and coming, flooding the bathroom floor. How many gallons was it? Five? Ten? Fifty? I pulled the tank cover off and not knowing what to do, yanked the chain. Of course, this opened the valve to the toilet bowl, sending more water onto the floor.

I grabbed bath towels. All of them. Mine, Dave’s, clean ones from the closet. I needed more. I burst out of the bathroom, and ran to our clothes closet for our beach towels. Dave was sitting on the couch in the living room. Again, I yelled, “The toilet is over flowing.”

The bathroom floor is linoleum. Since the building is 120 years old, the floors are uneven. The water pooled in the corner of the bathroom closet. I threw the beach towels down on the floor of the closet to sop up the water. I hoped that the linoleum was water tight enough that the water would not leak to the floor below.

Dave stood outside the bathroom. “It stinks in here. Did you do that?”

I was in my droopy PJs, and I kept having to pull my sweatpants up to keep the cuffs from getting wet on the floor. The water stopped flowing from the toilet. But the entire bathroom floor was covered with water.

Dave peered in. Crestfallen, he said, “You used my bath towels?”
“Yes. I used all the towels.” I hitched up my sweatpants again.
“How did this happen?” Dave asked. He began to grin.

I hesitated. How could I make this not seem so bad? I was standing in a pool of toilet water. Surely I could make something up. Surely there was a way this was not my fault.

“The toilet overflowed.” I said evasively.
“Yes, but how did it happen?”
“I don’t know. I guess I don’t know my own strength.”

Instead of struggling with my PJs, I took them off. I stood in the bathroom in just my undies, my feet soaking in toilet water, and tried to figure out what I was going to do.

Dave was nearly giddy. “I so want to tweet this.”

I shot him a hard look with burny laser eyeballs. He went off to find a mop.

The toilet bowl was still full to the brim. The water seemed clean, but in the grand scheme of things, it was still poopie water. It may have come straight out of the pipes and onto the floor, but it was still connected in some way to the monstrosity that caused of this all this chaos. I grabbed one of our two plungers and did what I should have done in the first place. In ten seconds, the water drained out of the bowl and the toilet, that treacherous double crosser, heaved a satisfied gurgle.

Dave, standing outside the bathroom, said “Yay!”

We had all manner of cleaning supplies in the bathroom closet.

“I guess I’ll clean the bathroom,” I sighed.
“I’ll clean the kitchen.” Dave said helpfully.

So I spent an hour, spraying the ever loving shit out of that bathroom. I fumigated the room with disinfectant. I mopped the hell out of every corner. We washed the sopping towels in hot water, twice. When I was done, that bathroom was the cleanest it’s ever been in its entire motherfucking life. I got in the shower and scrubbed myself under the hottest water I could stand.

The whole time, I was wondering how I could possibly explain what happened, in a way that made it seem like it was not my fault. Because I just didn’t know if I could stand living with the thought that I flooded the bathroom with my own giant um, functions. But then, I thought, if there was ever a time for it to be justified, pregnant, double constipated, now would be that time.

I’ve never thought that I was writing this blog to help people. But I hope that you have learned something today. Let’s recap.

1. Pregnancy makes you constipated.
2. Iron makes you constipated.
3. When you are pregnant, and even when you are not, it’s smart to drink a lot of water.
4. It’s smart also to eat a lot of fiber.
5. Even if it seems perfectly safe, if there is even an inkling of doubt, DO NOT FLUSH AGAIN.

Aaaand, there you have it. Perhaps the single most embarrassing thing I have ever written on the internet.


  1. Hilarious! At least it wasn’t a public bathroom :)

  2. I really enjoy a good poop story!! Keep ’em coming Heather and congrats on the pregnancy!

  3. Get a bottle of colace. Now. (It’s better known by the oh-so-lovely label they’ll have on the bottle for you: stool softener.)
    It will become your Very Good Friend over the next few months.
    How do I know this? Uh – I dunno… (she says, looking at ground & shuffling her feet to the right…)

  4. Two words: Blame Dave!

    • Gah! I so would do that! But he was a witness! And he is now sooooo proud of himself that he has never stopped up a toilet like his wife can and does.

  5. At our house it is my 15 year old son that is the usual suspect. We have a plunger at each toilet and know how to use them (close lid and place plunger on top and use another toilet until Dad gets around to doing the dirty work). Oh, and if the dreaded second flush somehow happens, there is a twisty knob at the base of the toilet where you can try shutting off the water–it is a race to see if you can twist the valve shut before that water reaches the overflow point!

  6. I had my son in June so my husband had his first Father’s Day right away. My uncle got him one of these,, saying, “You’re a dad now. You have to have a real plunger that works quickly.” And it does. And they’re cheap! We use ours on our shower sometimes too (silly, cloggy Dr. Bronner’s). You fixed the problem and alerted the entire internet to proper protocol; Dave should be proud.

    • KYouell, your uncle sounds like he might be related to my family. That would be just the kind of gift we’d give each other. Maybe I’ll get a “pretty” plunger for my parents’ guest bathroom.

  7. I still think the most horrifying part of that whole story is pregnancy makes your gums bleed? WTF? I am NEVER having babies.

    Oh, and you are not alone. I once stopped up the toilet. Tried the plunger, but that wouldn’t work. So I had to fess up and maintenance was called. Now *that* was humiliating!

  8. I heard stool softener will be our friend soon. But for now, yes fiber, and lots of veggies & fruits. I also stocked up on dried plums. I would hate to go through the pain of constipation (again) AND flood a toilet because I didn’t eat the roughage we should eat anyway with every meal. Next thing to remember, DO NOT PUSH during a bowl movement, or you’ll be writing about hemorrhoids next.

  9. I guess I fall into the 13 year old boy demographic because I loved this post. ;) It has happened to me too! This is one of the main benefits to a composting potty…no plunging. ;)

  10. Yes indeed, trouble does lurk! Yikes!! Bringing back some bad childhood memories… a neighbor’s toilet was kind of “funny” and started overflowing, as a kid I panicked and ran home like nothing was wrong and I never looked back or in the eye of the neighbor again.

    ps I swear, It Wasn’t Me! Tee hee hee

  11. I have a single word from the guest toilet…Vindication!

  12. Aimee Wynhausen says

    Ok hilarious. And I can totally picture him grinning away at the misadventures.

    And your dad cracks me up. Good luck :)

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