Diaper Dilemma


While most pregnant women are worried about important things like their diet and health, I fretted for months about baby diapers. Being the tree-hugging environmentalist that I am, I read about the carbon footprint I would be causing and leaving for future generations if I simply bought the disposable diapers, threw them in the trash, and let them take up precious space in our nearby landfill. Firstly, I could predict that my Little Lewie would probably be using anywhere between 5,000 to 8,000 diapers during his baby years, and then many reports agree that these diapers take hundreds of years to biodegrade. (I don’t know about you, but I’d like to be around longer than a dumb poopy diaper.)

My first response to this dilemma was to entertain the idea of using cloth diapers. I had read in magazines that the newest cloth diapers were hip—they used Velcro attachments instead of pins, they came in varying sizes for a snug fit, and they were designed to prevent leaks.

“Do you know how much laundry you’d end up doing?” my mom asked concerned.

“I don’t know,” I responded naively.

“We’re talking about at least one load a day. Plus, what are you going to do with the poopy diapers?”

“Well, I’d scoop the poop out into the toilet and rinse them out.”

“Annette, do you really think you’re going to have time to do that with a newborn. Let’s be serious here.”

“Well, people had no problem doing it back in the day.”

“Just ask your Great Auntie Sarah about cloth diapers. I’m sure she’ll have a few stories about their inconvenience.”

I took my mom up on the offer. Surely my Auntie Sarah would be able to provide some guidance. In fact, maybe she’d even be a little proud of me for taking up such a noble cause and doing things the right way.

“You want to do what? Use cloth diapers? Are you kidding? Annette, I slaved over those damn cloth diapers. Let me tell you. They were no easy chore. You guys are lucky to have the convenience you have today.”

“But Auntie Sarah…”

“Annette,” she interrupted. “You can’t even get those diapers clean. Oh how I scrubbed and scrubbed and still there’d be a yellow stain. Even if you use bleach, don’t expect them to be white again.”

I thought about both my mom and aunt’s remarks and realized that maybe the washing would be too difficult for me to do on my own. I went online and looked in the yellow pages for a laundry service. Surely, there had to be one that was local. Cloth diapers were a growing trend, or so I thought. After days of searching and asking around, I learned that there was a laundry service out of East Hartford and another out of Norwalk, both well over an hour away (not including traffic) from my home. Now, I’m no mathematician, but something told me that cloth diapers weren’t going to have a better carbon footprint either. Firstly, these laundry vans would be using up gas (probably diesel) to come back and forth to my house. Then, because they would collect everyone’s diapers and return a clean set (that might have been used by someone else), I’m sure they’d have to use bleach and any other harsh, non-environmentally friendly chemical to kill germs and bacteria. Finally, were these laundry services using Energy Star ® appliances? After all, I’d also have to consider the amount of water and energy they would be using in cleaning these things.

My husband kept silent during my diaper breakdown, mostly to keep away from an argument. I had to admit that he was good about recycling, about tossing food scraps into the woods, and even about shutting off lights not in use. However, his environmental efforts stopped at a point. He was no more willing to scrape poop out of diapers than my mother, my in-laws, or any of my friends who’d be watching Little Lewie from time to time.

Then, one day in April 2008, I was scanning through a baby magazine and saw the answer to my prayers—gDiapers. gDiapers combined the best of both worlds because they were cloth diapers with a disposable insert. The insert was biodegradable and could easily be placed in a compost pile or, since I knew nothing about composting, flushed down the toilet. I immediately reviewed their website and saw they were not only affordable, but they also had a lot of cute styles, too.

During the rest of my pregnancy, I bragged to anyone who cared about how I had solved the “diaper crisis.” “Oh, I’m not putting the Diaper Genie on my registry,” I’d proclaim, “I’m using gDiapers.” People were intrigued by the idea of the gDiaper and although friends of mine weren’t interested in using it for their own babies, they still wanted an update on the product once I would start using it for Little Lewie. A co-worker of mine kindly bought me a “starter pack” as a bridal shower gift. Inside the box were two tiny, newborn cloth diapers—one cream colored and the other orange. They had a little “g” written on the front and used Velcro flaps for closure. The insert, which reminded me of a wide maxi-pad, would simply be placed inside the diaper; it was definitely large enough to cover the pee-pee and poo-poo areas respectively. Still proud of myself for finding such a unique product, I savored opening the very thoughtful gift, and placed my little gDiapers and inserts into a special drawer below the diaper changing station.

When Little Lewie was first born, we used the hospital’s disposable diapers. I knew I wouldn’t have the energy to give everyone a gDiaper lesson, so I saved the very exciting experience for a private day of my own with him.

“How do those diapers work again?” my mom asked inquisitively.

“Well, when I change him, I just remove the used insert, and I put a clean insert in its place. I don’t have to actually wash the cloth diaper unless it gets dirty.”

“Are you going to throw away the insert?”

“No, I just flush it down the toilet. It’s environmentally friendly.”

“Is is okay to be used with a septic system?”

“I think so,” I muttered, frustrated that my mom may have found a flaw with my perfect diaper.

Being held up with trying the new diaper again, I researched the question on their website. The only advice the gDiaper company could tell me was to “know my septic system.” After all this fanfare, there was a possibility that our septic might not be able to handle the diaper after all. “Shitttt!!!” (No pun intended.) Having to make concessions again, I decided I would throw away the pee-pee diapers and only flush the poopy diapers.

On the day of reckoning, within minutes of dressing Little Lewie into his special diaper, he thanked me with a big stinking dump. Watery in consistency, it had soiled both the insert and the diaper itself. “Good grief,” I spoke to myself angrily as the new diaper only lasted five minutes. I removed the orange diaper, placed it in the bathroom sink to soak, and plopped the poopy insert into the toilet. Keeping my fingers crossed, I flushed the toilet and watched the insert vanish without a trace. “Okay,” I thought to myself, “this seems to work.” I placed the second cream colored diaper on Little Lewie and waited until his next diaper change. During his next change, the insert was only wet. I promised myself that I would throw this one out, but I couldn’t resist the temptation of flushing it down the toilet again. “Here, I’ll just cut off the part of the insert that’s dry so that only the wet part will be flushed down the toilet.” I flushed it down, and again—viola—it was gone.

“This is starting to be fun,” I thought to myself as I decided to use the toilet for my own personal relief. I no sooner flushed the toilet when the water, including my pee and the toilet paper, rose back up and out of the bowl like a tidal wave. “Shit!” I screamed as I watched everything in the downstairs bathroom—the sink, the washer, the dryer, and the walls— become surrounded by water. Grabbing the mop and bucket, I tried to start collecting the water, but my two week-old Little Lewie wasn’t happy about being put down.

“Lewie,” I called my husband at work, “something’s wrong with the toilet. It’s clogged, and water has backed up all over the downstairs bathroom floor.”

“Do you need me to come home? Is it an emergency?” he asked.

“Yes,” I shrieked, terrified that mold would start growing on the walls any minute now.

My husband, God bless his heart, bought a snake, dislodged the blockage, and cleaned up all the water in the bathroom, even after learning that I went against his and my mother’s advice and flushed the gDiaper down the toilet.

Fellow environmental comrades, please do not be too disappointed with me. I tried, but for now, I have surrendered to modern convenience. We use disposable diapers now.

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