I have been a confirmed environmentalist since elementary school. I embroidered the words "Save the Earth" on my burgundy JanSport backpack. I cleaned up Soldier's Delight Park on Earth Day. I cut six-pack plastic rings so that birds and fish wouldn't be choked by them. In short, I tried very hard to remember that we only get one planet, and that it won't last forever.
Back then, my uncle was married to a true earth mother type who ran a daycare out of her home. My sister and I spent a fair amount of time helping out with the daycare (and being watched ourselves, but I didn't realize it at the time). Debra diapered her son, my cousin Jeremy, in traditional cloth diapers--the kind that you safety-pinned on and covered with a plastic urine-containing second layer of defense. Observing the use of these diapers, and noticing the way Debra left dirty diapers soaking in the downstairs toilet prior to laundering the nastiness, truly challenged my commitment to environmentalism. If that was what I would have to do in order to keep disposable diapers out of the landfill, then I would have to embrace my hypocrisy once I had a child.
Several years later, I was a responsible adult with babies--two cats and a dog, to be specific. Part of the joy of pet ownership is the consistent need for dealing with animal feces. After daily pickups of Obie's contributions to the local landscape, and years of being on catbox duty, I was willing to rethink my stance on cloth diapers. If I was able to handle the incredible output of which a greyhound is capable while never missing a beat during my cell phone conversation, then I thought I could take on the challenge that is reusing the diaper in which my child poops.
Adding to my new sense of comfort with cloth diapers is the fact that poop-cloth technology has come very far in the 20 years since I watched Debra laundering diapers in her toilet. My dear friend Erika highly recommended Fuzzi Bunz diapers, which feature snaps instead of pins, moisture-wicking technology, a waterproof outer covering, and awesome colors. While I was pregnant with LO, I got about 12 of them. I couldn't wait for LO to use them.
When we first brought LO home, he was too small for the Fuzzi Bunz, so we started him off with the free disposables the hospital sent home with us. I started to appreciate the beauty of a disposable world. Nastiness just went in the trash. No need to deal with it. But, as a once and future environmentalist, I started covering LO's bum with cloth.
Tonight, we learned why this can be hazardous. LO's Auntie Tracie is visiting. When LO started fussing this afternoon, Auntie Tracie gamely went to change his diaper. It was an epic diaper bomb. LO had apparently saved the mother lode for his auntie. (This was yet another situation, along with LO's engaging habit of stealth puking, wherein we spent several moments asking "How did you get THAT THERE?") We cleaned up the baby, and I took the diaper to the bathroom to clean it off. I have a sprayer attachment that makes it unnecessary to soak the diaper in the toilet. Repeatedly murmuring, "Oh, G-d!" I cleaned off the diaper and placed it in the diaper genie next to the changing table.
When I went back into the bathroom to wash my hands, I saw something that struck fear in my heart. There was a smear of baby sh*t on the floor of the bathroom. There was a footprint right in the center of it.
I had apparently tracked baby poo all around the hallway and living room. Somehow some had fallen on the floor, and I'm just glad I was shod at the time. I called for paper towels. My husband, who was barely restraining himself from grabbing the car keys and starting the process of moving to an uncontaminated house, threw me a roll of paper towels. I started cleaning, laughing so I wouldn't cry.
Once I had cleaned the floor with paper towels, wet swiffered the floor, and then washed my shoes because the cleansing power of fire would probably ruin them, I wondered what Al Gore could actually do to me if I went back to disposables.
Several hours later, I was working on the computer while Auntie Tracie was reading in the living room. "'It smells like Death s*** in here,'" she said.
"Really?" I asked, jumping up to grab bleach and a lighter to make sure the floor was absolutely clean. "I thought I got it all. I'll mop again."
"No," she said. "I'm reading S*** My Dad Says. It's something his dad said."
Okay, so at least there's no noticeable stench. And maybe like cleaning up greyhound poop, there's a learning curve for becoming an expert in dealing with used diapers. But I suspect I will continue to treat each diaper like a un-detonated bomb until I know for sure that it is only wet. And I'll hope and pray that LO saves his diaper grenades for when it's J's turn to change him.