Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Truth in Diapers
When we switched ten days ago from disposable to cloth diapers for Violet I felt good about making the earth a little less of a (literal) shithole. I felt bad about turning my own home into more of a shithole. It seems there is an unavoidable truth that is this: Babies shit. Someone deals with the shit. If you do not deal with your own baby's shit, someone else (or likely, several someone elses) will have to do it for you.
On the one hand, you have the baby who shits (or pees, but, let's talk about the deuce for comparison's sake) in a disposable diaper. Up until this month, that is where Violet was doing her business. She takes a couple of two-spots a day and probably wets 3-4 other diapers. Those size 4 Pampers or Huggies or Luvs--we've never been brand loyal, whatever was on sale she soiled--mostly got put into our Diaper Genie. Occasionally a wet one would be tossed into the regular trash, but typically, they got gobbled up by the Genie. Changing a baby in a disposable diaper is a cinch. Peel back the tabs, wipe the privates, fold the wipe(s) up in the dirty diaper and mush the whole rancid mess into the blue plastic liner of the Diaper Genie. It's a thirty second procedure from start to finish and after the diaper had been used, I'd toss it and never ever think of it again. Except when it was time to change the Diaper Genie.
The day I, or, more frequently, Shawn, empties the Diaper Genie is a cold, scary, time when you come face to face with the enormous sack o shit you and your tot will be sending to the landfill (or here in Indy, the incinerator). For those who haven't seen what comes out of the Genie here's the gist: it is like a sausage. The casing is made of the Diaper Genie bag and the meat made of poo and pee diapers. It is as thick as your thigh, as tall as your knees, weighs about 5-8 lbs, and smells like the zoo on a humid day. And Violet was making one of those A WEEK. So, sickened, saddened and embarrassed, I began losing sleep. Then, I started researching alternatives to the disposables. That brings us to cloth diapers.
The variety in cloth diaper styles is staggering. As I started asking around, I found out there are many more kinds of cloth diapers than there are kinds of disposable diapers. There are Chinese prefolds, Indian prefolds, pocket diapers, cloth diapers with disposable liners, cloth diapers with washable liners, and about a thousand variations within those categories, i.e. hemp, cotton, unbleached cotton, organic, etc... To say I was overwhelmed as I tried to decide which cloth diaper would work for Violet is an understatement. The thing moms who diaper using cloth kept telling me was that once you get the hang of it, cloth diapering is just as easy as using disposables. This is a lie.
Remember earlier when I mentioned that someone has to deal with your kid's poop? Well, with cloth diapers, that someone is YOU. You deal intimately with said poop. With disposables, the rest of the world deals with the poop. With disposables, it is out of sight, out of mind. The cloth diapers are never really out of sight.
I settled on a cloth diaper called Flip. I bought one of their day packs for forty bucks to see if we liked it before investing the hundred or more dollars it takes to really start using solely cloth. The Flip system has two parts: a pretty pink cloth pair of snap on pants and an absorbent cloth insert made of cotton and microfiber. The pink pants are can be reused without being washed unless there is poop on them; they just require a new insert. The inserts are absorbent enough that Violet hasn't leaked through one yet and they do a good job keeping her dry. If she's wet, I just wipe her, throw the wet insert into the diaper pail, and put a new one in her pink pants. That really is quite easy. It's the poop that presents a challenge.
On the first day of cloth diapering Violet let go a #2 that would have tested a disposable diaper. It was like the universe was asking me if I really wanted to do this by throwing out the gnarliest test immediately. The poop was like a peanut butter clay and it was EVERYWHERE. The instructions that come with the Flip diapers recommend "tossing solids right into your toilet." They did not have a recommendation for how to handle a dump that was neither solid nor liquid nor gas, but was actually a unique fourth stage of matter that has never before been seen on earth. I held it over the toilet and wiggled it gently, trying to get it to slide off of the insert. I knew that eventually this thing was supposed to go in my washing machine but I had no idea how to get enough of the crap off of it to get it to that point. Realizing the poo was not going to budge by the force of gravity alone, I dunked the whole mess into the toilet and let it soak while I called my mom. She cloth diapered 2 of her 3 kids so I thought she might know what I had done wrong.
"I've missed a step," I told her and explained how the poop was all over the insert, the pink pants, and now, all over my toilet bowl as well. "I mean, I don't see how this works without me having to touch the poop." And that's when she told me the secret cloth diaperers do not share: "Honey," she said, "You do have to touch the poop sometimes."
So I stood there, peering into the toilet and contemplating how I had gotten to this point. Any poop touching that has occurred in the last 18 months has been accidental. A wiggly baby, an occasional smear--gross?--hell yes, but nothing a quick hand washing can't solve. But to deliberately touch poop repeatedly...I just don't know about that. I considered throwing the whole thing away and closing the book on cloth right then and there. I mean, Violet will likely be potty trained in a year or so, that's not that many disposable diapers more, is it? But, I flashed back to the Diaper Genie Crap Sausage and I shuddered.
Either I deal with her shit or someone else deals with her shit.
So I reached my hands INTO THE TOILET, and I swished the diaper vigorously enough to remove some of the peanut butter clay. I flushed. I repeated.
I am proud to say, I am getting the hang of using cloth diapers and I feel pretty good about it. The peanut butter clay crap is not Violet's norm and I often can simply "toss solids right into my toilet." I purchased more diapers and we have enough to get through about 1/2 the week without washing with is fine with me. I even bought cloth wipes which I though were just for crazy hippie moms who don't eat buy paper towels or eat sweetened peanut butter or let their kids believe in Santa. Now I understand that using cloth wipes makes sense when you are using cloth diapers because you can throw them all in the same diaper pail rather than putting your diapers one place and finding a separate trash can in which to throw away your wipes. And, really, the thing that skeeved me out about re-usable wipes was the hygiene factor but after I see how clean the diapers are after washing, I realized that wipes will be the same way.
Al Gore is not coming to my house to give me a medal for making the choice to cut our consumption by repeatedly touching poop. Violet won't ever care what kind of diapers she used. But I'm saving money on diapers. And I'm cutting down on our carbon footprint. And I would probably be a stronger contestant on Fear Factor.