As I prime myself for my second child, these feats of motherhood seem astounding. Pregnancy’s morning sickness, swollen ankles, and heartburn – five times over? And how much sleep, exactly, does a mother of seven get?
But what really astonishes me is the fact that these women literally changed diapers for decades.
Perhaps it is selfish of me, and I’m sure parenting guru and pediatrician Dr. Terry Brazelton would disagree with my motivations, but Elle has in the last weeks been on the fast-track to diaper freedom. This is because her mother is dead set on having only one child in diapers at a time. Luckily, Elle has seemed to pick up on my urgency (as in, I’ll have a whole new slew of diapers to change in less than a month so you’d better start going pee-pee on the potty now, kid.) And, so, Elle has graciously taken to using the potty without excessive begging or bribing on my part.
Yet as one child parts ways with diapers and I look ahead to the impending avalanche of new diapers to come with the next, I am compelled to reconsider my diapering methods.
Expecting a second child is so much more straightforward than expecting a first. You’ve done all of this once before, and have at least an inkling of what’s in store. In other words, I don’t think I’ll be looking at this newborn like a deer staring blankly into the glare of an oncoming Mack truck (as I did with my first.) A second child also provides a second chance for you to do better the things you didn’t do so great the first time around.
In my case, this boils down to committing to cloth diapers.
I didn’t totally surrender to the convenience and ease of disposable diapers with Elle, at least not right away. She was swaddled in G Diapers, the “cloth” diaper for people with laundry phobias like me, for her first six months. These really were easy to use, even for a deer-in-the-headlights first-time mom, thanks to their “hybrid” design that lets you toss out the soiled liner (guilt-free, since they’re biodegradable) and only wash the over-diaper when there is some overflow.
The G Diaper seemed to me to be the perfect remedy for both of my diapering dilemmas: One being my heartfelt desire to be smiled upon by Mother Nature’s muses, who would take Karmic note of the four thousand or so diapers I didn’t mindlessly toss away during my child’s diapering years and which would still be in the landfill when my grandchildren were having grandchildren; the other being the knowledge that I stink at doing laundry, and have a limited amount of time and money to spend on such things as diapers.
Of course, the G Diaper’s perfection vanished as soon as the supply of liners I had received at my baby shower ran out, and it became apparent that I would need to start selling my belongings on E-bay (or find some other source of income) to pay for thousands more of those little absorbent pads to stick under my baby’s bottom. Doing the math, I figured out that I could buy roughly two of the expensive organic – but still landfill polluting – disposable diapers for the price of one G Diaper.
The dollar reigned supreme over environmental ethics. Eventually, spending twice as much on an “organic” disposable diaper went by the wayside as well. When I bought my first bulk box of Huggies, I decided it was time to start potty training Elle.
This time around, I feel renewed albeit cautious enthusiasm for cloth diapering and the proliferation of Karmic value that will ultimately follow. What is heartening although still mind-boggling to me as I prepare to attempt this endeavor is to know these two things: The mothers who raised the babies of my parents’ generation didn’t have disposable diapers at their disposal (disposable diapers, first produced by Johnson & Johnson, weren’t even invented until 1949 – the year of my parents’ births.) Those moms typically didn’t have automatic washing machines to launder their cloth diapers, either. And, they all seem to have survived, often having diapered more than twice as many kids as Craig and I plan to have in our lifetimes.
My grandmother remembers hanging her babies’ diapers on the outdoor clothesline after they had been laundered – even in south Texas it could be blistering cold during the winter months. “They’d be stiff as a board when I’d bring them in, so I’d have to let them warm up before I could fold them all,” she told me. Even when she had pneumonia, my grandmother still went out into the cold to hang those diapers on the line. “It wasn’t an easy job… but it was all we knew.”
Making the transition from the toss-and-forget-about-it disposable diaper to cloth won’t be easy, even if it is my second time around the diapering block. Yet I feel obliged to stick to my non-disposable guns on this one this time… And when the smelly stacks of cloth diapers begin to overwhelm me in my cozy laundry room, I’ll bring this picture to mind: my grandmother, bent against winter’s chill and winded by pneumonia, hanging my father’s cloth diapers on her outdoor clothesline.