Recently I got into a discussion (if you can call it that) on Instagram with a friend about diapering and I was inspired to write down my thoughts on diapering and natural infant hygiene. Be warned, as with most things in my life, I have very strong opinions on diapering, and if you think you'll be offended by my words, then by all means, you have the power to closer your browser window. You've been warned.

When we were expecting our first child and exploring the cloth diapering options (as one does as a homebirthing Crunchy in San Francisco) I was both overwhelmed by the choices and also grossed out. I couldn't believe my unborn child would be one day wearing giant, absorbent underpants and shitting in them. And then one day we would take the giant underpants off (of the now toddler) and say, "Just kidding! Use this bowl instead."

That sounded highly disrespectful in so many ways. (Both the letting them shit their pants and also changing the rules after three years of allowing them to shit their pants.)

But I honestly didn't know what other option I had, so I did the only thing I could do and just avoided the whole decision. Because she wasn't born yet, remember?

Randomly, a co-worker mentioned off-handedly that some people don't use diapers at all and have babies use the potty. She sorta, kinda said it as if it was crazy? But it stuck. And then I put two and two together. Don't like the idea of diapers + random comment = solution!

Just before Paloma was born I checked out and read Diaper Free Baby from our local library. It was the only book I read on the topic, but I bought her Kool-Aid hook, line and sinker and was on board to do EC (Elimination Communication) with the baby. I wish I'd had time and foresight to read more on the subject, but I didn't, and that's that.

I've done EC with both my children since birth, and I tell you, it's MAGIC. Neither was ever "diaper-free" - both wore (and one is still wearing!) diapers for when we "missed" a pee or poop. But the majority of their waking hours are spent diaper-free (or in undies) so that they can use the potty at will.

Paloma and I worked on EC together for a long time, but she was 100% diaper-free by 22 months of age. LESS THAN TWO YEARS.

Arden basically took over my EC efforts and won't allow me near her when she's getting near the potty, or onto the potty, or thinking about the potty, but she will book it from the other side of the house (often with a book in hand) and make it onto the potty (unassisted, mind you!) and pee or poop or both. (She does have an occasional accident.) She is currently 16 months old. LESS THAN ONE AND A HALF!



While this isn't that sort of blog (a mommy blog?), I do feel strongly about this enough to write this post and share our experience. But I really wanted to clarify what was perhaps being misunderstood on Instagram: I do EC for the Earth. I really do.

You basically have two options with diapers: cloth or disposable. Many people debate the two options thinking that cloth will save the Earth. It doesn't. All diapers are dirty. When you do the math and factor in manufacturing, water, soap, (soap into our water), energy, shipping, packaging, disintegration, etc. they all come out just as dirty as the next diaper. The truly green option is to use less diapers. Less at a time, and less over time. That's the beauty of EC. You save diapers and you get out of them quicker.

Diapers weren't even a thing until recently. Everyone did EC. In most parts of the world they still do EC. Sadly, we've lost that knowledge, although it's not more than a few generations behind us, and we're having to relearn it (not unlike breastfeeding), but it can be relearned and retaught. We can do away with diapers.

But on Instagram it was pointed out that there's a "third option" in the Bay Area: compostable. Ok, true? I consider this a disposable as well, for my argument's sake, but I see how with a bit of greenwashing it can be viewed as a third option. It's not. You still have to factor in all those factors I listed above...plus an intense amount of heat/energy to compost them safely. Yes, they're now dirt! But no, you did not just save the Earth.

I'm sorry. You didn't.

Yes, it sucks to think about all the waste your baby's waste is creating, but this is why I feel so strongly about EC. It isn't "potty training" by any means. I've heard it called "potty learning" which is more accurate.

I feel it is this:

You are creating an opportunity and knowledge about toileting that is respectful to both the parent and child and the Earth. You are not forcing or coercing or bribing with stickers (because I'd like to see a 2 week old care about getting a sticker!). You are watching your baby closely for cues. You are meeting their need to eliminate with a solution that keeps everyone clean. You end up knowing your baby better than anyone else. You can read their face, as they grow, better than anyone else. And you won't have to ever potty-train. Ever. Never. (And once they start solids? You'll be SO grateful you didn't change all those poopy diapers.)

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Paloma,

Tomorrow you are forty eight months old.



You have spent the last two nights with your grandparents at their beach house, and I was a bit sad we missed your last moments of being three. You came home late tonight, in time for a snack and bedtime, and I gave you a kiss goodnight, wishing you a happy birthday tomorrow.

I put your sister to sleep; Papa puts you to sleep. But tonight he came in and got me, saying you were over-tired and needed help falling asleep. I happily climbed into bed with you, nuzzled in close. I told you how much I missed you over the weekend. We talked about tomorrow. We decided on which cake to bake. I told you I'd be there for your birthday celebration at the end of the school day. And then with my nose pressed to your face, sweat forming where we touched (you are the hottest sleeper I've ever met), you fell asleep, breathing even, Lady in your arms, all tucked in, with the smell of your skin and sunscreen in my nose.

This is exactly how I want to remember three.



Happy Fourth Birthday.

Love,
Mama




Paloma,

Two weeks ago you turned forty seven months old.



All we have heard about, since December!, is your birthday party. Sometimes you tell people you are four as if that will magically transport you to a party already in progress celebrating you. (It doesn't.) You are the definition of slow to warm up, and it has taken you four years on Earth to come to love birthdays. I hope your special day is as every bit special as you're hoping it will be.



We have entered the phase of WHY. But you don't exactly ask Why? as much as you want definitions for things that are better left undefined. Like church. What is a church? Goodness. Where do I begin? I think this is the core of parenthood: A million answers flooded my brain and all I could manage to mutter was, It's where people go to be together.



I read a book on sexuality a long time ago and it made it clear that children want literal answers to literal questions. Where do babies come from? Mom. The end. Two years later, that'll get redefined, but at that moment it's literally WHERE. Except you saw your sister come out of me, so we'll never have to go there, but you get the idea and that's how I've tried to keep it when answering complicated questions from you. But I'm beginning to sense this is just the tip of the parenting iceberg.



As I sit here, finishing this letter, I'm thinking about next month, and how you will be four. I think three has been hard. I think the odd years always are. I see peace and growth next year. I see a more confident and capable child. You asked me if four is when you'll be big and I think you're onto something. Four is going to be grand, my dear, I can feel it.



Happy Forty Seventh Monthday.

Love,
Mama

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Paloma,

Today you are forty six months old.



This month I must have lost my mind. We were snuggling in bed, before bed one night, and I can still wrap my whole body around yours. I can still tuck you all in, swallowing up your ever-lengthening limbs with my own, but just barely.

This month I showered with you and your sister, separately, while we were traveling, and that's when it became painfully clear how different you are from your sister, in age, at least. Your sister, now a toddler, is a big chunk of baby, one I can press my fingers into, and they just about disappear, surrounded by so much chub. But you, you are firm and strong. Lean and bony. Elbow-y. Firm. It's like, you're, a person? You are a tiny PERSON.

So I had you all wrapped up and I actually asked if you could just stay three years old forever. I said that. Outloud. It just sounded better than you being twenty three. Somehow. Maybe it's the unknown. Or the pains we'll go through to there. But for all its drawbacks, three is pretty sweet, too.

You were a bit confused, but you reassured me that you would always be my baby.



Happy Forty Sixth Monthday.

Love,
Mama

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Paloma,

A month ago you were forty four months old. Today you are forty five.



This morning you asked what you were getting for Christmas. I told you it was a surprise.

You hate surprises.

For the rest of the day I have considered what to do. Tell you or not. It seems so strange to me to tell you what you're getting. Then how is it a surprise? Right? Do you see?

But then I've considered what I want as the gift-giver. I want to see you excited, thrilled, gracious, delighted. I want you to feel seen, considered, known.

To get what I want, I have to give you what you want. And you want to know.

So, tonight, or some time before the big day, I will tell you. I'll tell you every gift I gathered up for you this year and how they'll be in your stocking, waiting for you on Christmas Day. And then when that day comes, you will be ready to receive what I have to give. And if that metaphor didn't hit you over the head, then I give up.



Happy Monthdays.

Love,
Mama

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