Sunday, August 25, 2013

Why You Might Choose to Cloth Diaper

Post #2 in my little series explaining the meaning being the madness of some of my "weird" choices. :)  Again, this is in no way intended to condemn, belittle or ostracize those who've gone a different route-- just trying to explain my own reasoning.  

Diapers.  They happen, even to the best of us.  They stink. They need changing.  Usually about 5 times a day.  For a few years.  Yeah, even on your perfect angel child.  (Cue Dinosaur Train song "Every Dinosaur Poops...")  Hah.  [Note: As if to prove my point, I just had to take a break to change a truly loaded dipe.  Thanks, son.  Keepin' it real.]

So.  Why in the world would anyone CHOOSE to revert to cave-man ages involving diapers that must be not only reused, but washed?  Isn't that disgusting?  Unsanitary?  Extra-poopy?  Time consuming?  Wasteful of water?  Well.... maybe not so much.  Here are the reasons why many parents (ourselves included) have chosen to be so "unmodern" in the diaper arena:

1.  Money don't grow on trees-- I'll be honest; this was the first jaw-dropping motivator for us as young parents.  When you go shopping for those cute little plastic packages & see the prices increasing with diaper size even as number of diapers per package decreases, you quickly realize that a much larger portion of your paycheck than you ever thought will literally be thrown into the trash.  There are several articles calculating the cost of disposable diapers, from $800 for the first year alone if you bought Huggies, to several thousand over the 2+ years most American kids are diapered.  True, there are ways to save, from diaper subscriptions to coupons to buying generic brands ($425-600 is this couponing mama's best estimate,) but there is no way to beat reusable.  It is entirely possible to diaper your child, birth to potty training, for $100 if you use the cheapest option (or make them yourself, or even use household items) & restrain yourself from buying any more.  Most families spend more like $200-400 for their "stash," buying a mix of used, new, more expensive or cheaper styles, using coupons, buying in bulk to get free shipping and/or freebies (sometimes splitting them with friends), and getting amenities like a diaper sprayer and wet bags.  Where the truly spectacular savings comes in is when Baby #2 comes along (or when Baby #1 doesn't potty train as quickly/easily as you'd like, though, cloth-diapered kids usually train earlier!)... you spend nothing.  We have spent around $300 for both kids, birth to potty-training, and I foresee our current stash of diapers lasting easily through 2 more kids!  Or, if we don't have any more, I could easily get most if not all of my money back by reselling them, or bless another mom by just gifting them along.  [I hope to post soon about our own favorite diapers, how we care for them, and where to get them.]

2. Diapers don't grow on trees-- by this I mean they are extremely "unnatural." Yes, there are now brands of disposable diapers with fewer chemicals, etc, and for this I rejoice!! However, they are pricier and they aren't most people's go-to.  In most diapers (Huggies, Pampers, CVS, Luvs) reside the following chemicals:  sodium polycarbonate, dioxin (carcinogen & endocrine disruptor), toluene, xylene, ethylbezene, styrene & isoproplybenzene (respiratory irritants), not to mention plain old plastic and bleach.  Considering that infants wear them around the clock while they are developing incredibly quickly, this is concerning.  If there's ever a time to avoid toxins, hormone disruptors and carcinogens, it's childhood.  Also, since disposable diapers don't breathe as well as natural materials, they have been found to raise the scrotal temperatures in little boys, to the point where researchers fear it will cause lowered sperm count (possible infertility) later in life.

3. Diapers don't turn into trees (decompose)-- right now the average American child contributes a LOT of diaper waste to our landfills, estimates ranging from 1/2 ton- 2 tons over its diapered life.  Then, those tons of diapers (usually with feces in them) sit around for at least 500 years. Honestly, diapers haven't been around long enough to decompose, so we don't really know how long it will take. We don't tend to think much about our trash, but it doesn't evaporate when the garbage truck comes by!  Waste is a big deal environmentally.  Even if it doesn't affect us personally, it will affect someone, a someone who is our "neighbor." I think I'd rather leave other legacies... [While critics of cloth diapers argue back that cloth diapers use more water (to wash), I would point out that water is endlessly reusable.  Land, however, is not.  We only have so much of it.  Also, the amount of water used to wash cloth diapers is about the amount that person will use for the rest of their life (through plumbing & clothes washing).]

4. Diapers don't help trees (or the environment)-- The process by which diapers are made is also quite environmentally unfriendly, using both crude oil and wood pulp, and producing large amounts of chemicals as by-products (usually dumped into water).  This is a figure from 1991, so it may be less now, but this source estimates 300+ lbs of wood, 50 lbs of petroleum and 20 lbs of chlorine are used to make ONE baby's diapers for ONE year. I like how this mom put it here.
"Dear Customer,
Our diapers are made from a variety of non-child friendly products including bleached paper pulp, petrolatum, stearyl alcohol, cellulose tissue, sodium polyacralate, and perfumes. Some or all of these ingredients may cause adverse reactions to the wearer, including reduced respiratory function, so please exercise appropriate caution when using our product.
Our products are not biodegradable or environmentally friendly and they may contribute greatly to environmental pollution. Although recycling disposable diapers is a possibility, we do not, at this time, use any of these available methods as the monetary costs are too great. Thank you kindly for using our products anyway.
Sincerely,  A Large Disposable Diaper Company"
ok enough about trees... :)

5. Poop is gross anyway-- changing cloth diapers is only marginally grosser than changing disposables. Either way you've got to wipe off the poop.  I've found that cloth leads to fewer blowouts, so it's less full-body poop wipe-ups (yay!).  Then there's the question of what to do with the poop.  With disposables, most parents don't do as they "should" and dump the solids into the toilet, but rather throw the whole thing into a diaper genie or trash can, where its smell will linger.  With cloth, you "deal" with the poop by somehow getting it into the toilet, flushing, and then it's gone.  At least you don't have to smell it for days!  As for whether or not it's gross in the washing machine, well, I wash puke-soaked clothing and all sorts of other filth in there.  I'm just thankful I don't have to scrub by hand!   Hot water, detergent, white vinegar, enzymes, periodic oxygen or chlorine bleach, and UV (from the sun) are all disinfectants used to clean cloth diapers (and your machine) quite effectively of fungal (yeast), bacterial & viral particles.

6. Cloth diapers aren't that hard-- there are some that look just like a disposable diaper, and so are very easy to figure out.  Even the most "intimidating" (flats & covers) only take a few seconds for a pro (tri-fold or bikini twist, then snap or velcro the cover shut).  Throw the bin or bag full of dirties into the washing machine every 2-3 days, rinse and repeat.  I like to line-dry most of mine (UV disinfects!), but am thankful for the dryer too.  I really like diaper laundry; it's so fluffy and cute!  Babies bring lots of laundry... and then little kids do... and then boys do... so it's best to get in the habit of staying on top of laundry, right? :)

Fellow CD-ers, what were your primary motives?

Monday, August 19, 2013

Why You Might Want a Natural Birth.

It's been so long since I've blogged.  I miss it.  And I haven't.  I've been quite present online, whether on diaperswappers or Facebook's newsfeed or various forums or discussion boards, or Instagram or craigslist... to the point of having to seriously limit myself.  But blogging, not so much.  I've been seldom opening the computer between one thing & another (smart phone, hello!), and when I do it's usually for a specific task, like DOULA CERTIFICATION COURSEWORK!!!!  (might be slightly looming over my head)  All that to say, I do have a few posts rolling around in my head-- mostly ones that will be helpful to my expectant mama clients.  It's on the brain, what can I say?  If you choose to read this, please know that I am NOT in any way suggesting that those who go a different route-- whether by choice, happenstance or emergency-- are failing, stupid or "wrong."  I'm simply trying to explore the rationale behind the choice, since you know we get asked it! :)

Childbirth-- it's a big deal for most women.  It's something they either look forward to, fear, find inspiring, find intriguing, or find disgusting.  Or, more likely, all of the above in varying degrees.  Movies portray it as a scream-fest involving a scared husband watching his wife being wheeled away as the doors slam in his face, her threatening divorce until she gets an epidural, then sneezing and popping out a pink clean chubby baby (and all the moms say "no way is that a newborn").  Why would anyone want to endure THAT unmedicated??  Isn't it so dangerous, so painful?  I mean, didn't women DIE all the time from childbirth a hundred years ago?  Well... not exactly.

There actually are several reasons why mothers might chose a natural birth, despite having access to medication & technology.  Here are a few I thought of, in no particular order:

1.  God is smart.  He designed birth, and it's a complex, intricate, miraculous process that even the best doctors don't fully understand.  From what begins it to the hormones that regulate it to the way various organs in both baby & mom change radically throughout the process, it's just really really cool.  For thousands of years, women have given birth.  What about the Curse, you ask?  Didn't it mess up childbirth?  Well, yes, women's main role-- as relational care-givers-- is now hard.  But the pain in child-bearing extends far beyond conception, labor & delivery.  It's just as seen in rebellious toddlers, in horrific accidents taking teenagers, and in sending your dearly beloveds off to take their place in their own families.  We mothers will always suffer in so many ways.  But pain & death doesn't summarize motherhood any more than sweat & frustration summarizes work (the arena where men were cursed)-- and neither does it summarize childbirth.  Yes, things can go wrong there, and yes, there is much that we humans can do with the intelligence God has given us to intervene skillfully when those things do go wrong (placenta previa, shoulder dystocia, maternal hemorrhage, etc), but, just as in the rest of life, stuff usually goes the way it's supposed to go.  Great sermon from John Piper on the suffering of motherhood.

2.  Women's bodies were made to birth.  Not only do we have all the right organs, we have all the right hormones & instincts.  This is the fundamental difference between [most] OB/GYN perspectives and a midwife's:  the former views pregnancy/labor/birth as one of many pathologies of the female reproductive system that must be "treated."  Midwifery views it as a natural process, and trains practitioners to watch for warning signs of problems & otherwise just empower women to labor on their own.*  I'll briefly touch on a few aspects of the intricacies of birth:
- the hormone cascade, in which oxytocin (mood-altering bonding hormone & pain killer), prolactin (milk-making hormone), adrenaline (strengthening hormone) and beta-endorphin (opiate & analgesic) all are precisely released.  There is no way to artificially mimic these-- synthetic versions can't cross the blood-brain barrier so can't act as pain-killers, and once the cascade is interrupted  it's difficult to get the train back on the rails, so to speak.
- the beginning of labor itself, which I've blogged about before.  Pregnancy generally lasts longer than the 40 weeks we've come to expect (especially in Caucasian first-time mamas).
- position & its effect on pushing, which is far more instinctive than we Westerners tend to think it can be.  Laying flat on your back is probably the absolute worst way to push, yet if you are medicated & monitored, catheterized and hooked to an IV, it's about the only way you can push.  Women who are unmedicated and thus in tune with their body's instinctive positioning will usually choose to push in a crouched, standing, hands-and-knees or squatting position.
- baby's rotation as it descends, which can be affected by Mom's position while in labor.  Again, an unmedicated mom will be in tune with what she needs.  Here again laying still on a bed is not helpful.  The "wrong" position will be agony, the most helpful will provide relief.
Recommended reading: Ina May's Guide to Childbirth, by Ina May Gaskin

3.  Birth is empowering.  Just like people voluntarily climb mountains, bike across the US, and run marathons, so there is joy in physically, mentally & emotionally "pushing yourself" and seeing just how far you can go.  The bear went over the mountain, why?  To see what he could see!  And probably, to see what he could do.  When women are properly supported in labor, they are admired, affirmed, and encouraged, perhaps like never before in their lives.  They are doing something unique that no one else can ever do:  bring forth that child into this air. The incredible endorphin rush after birth had me saying, seconds after my daughter emerged after 45 hours of labor "let's do that again!"  I have never forgotten the incredible sense of accomplishment and thrill I got from birthing each of my children!  Anything worth doing is hard, and we know that deep in our bones.  After my first natural birth, I felt inducted into the kinship of all the mothers before me, including my own mother, grandmother, and even that teenaged girl laboring in a barn in 1st century Palestine, bringing forth my Savior.

4.  Human imitation is always, at best, just a mimicry-- with plenty of [often unforeseen] pitfalls & side effects not present in the Original.  Think margarine instead of butter, aspartame instead of honey, 'ostomy bags instead of colons... The more we know about birth, the more we realize we don't know about it... and the more amazing it is that so many babies/mamas emerge relatively unscathed in all the impositions various centuries have tried to force on it (Victorian diets of crackers & water & indoor confinements, restrained "twilight sleep," among others).  There are pitfalls & risks at every stage of intervention, from induction (lots of aspects of risk here, from autism to use of pitocin to accidental prematurity), to restriction of food/water intake due to IV use, to use of artificial hormones (pitocin, cervadil), to use of drug-analgesics (such as epidurals), to guided pushing, to use of forceps, to use of surgery.  We simply don't know the long-term effect medications have on infants who receive them (many studies suggest that it's not good), and it's well-documented that epidurals are hard on babies during delivery, and that's just the tip of the iceberg.  Recovery & long-term health for mom, future pregnancies, health of baby, mom & baby's early relationship, all can be affected by interventions. Recommended reading:  Henci Goer's Thinking Woman's Guide to Better Birth. Recommended watching: The Business of Being Born

5. The skills found in natural labor are very beneficial in other areas of life.  Learning to manage pain, to work through physical exertion, to relax & focus despite circumstance, to keep outcome in mind despite process-- these are all very useful!  Labor can be a tremendously powerful unifying agent to husband & wife, sister & sister, mother & daughter, too.  There is something sacred about any birth, and natural birth is particularly beautiful to be a part of.  Spiritually, I learned to trust God for strength in the moment in a way I'd never had to do before.

6.   Pain is not the problem; suffering is.  There are other ways of managing pain besides drugs-- to either minimize, remove, manage, or remove it from the foreground of experience.  This is a crucial point to make.  While I accept that pain may be a part of most women's labor, just as it is in pretty much any other intense physical feat (distance running, team sports tournaments, weight lifting...), suffering can be avoided.  Those of us who birth without pain meds don't like pain.  We just know that some pain can be managed, gotten through, used-- and true suffering can be avoided.  Some methods include:  hydrotherapy (laboring in a deep tub of warm water is called "the midwife's epidural" for good reason!), aromatherapy, massage, position, use of a rebozo (shawl/sling), emotional support, internal focus, self-hypnosis, sterile water injections, movement (slow dancing, belly dancing, walking, swaying, rocking), and controlled vocalizations.

Mamas who've done this, what would you add?

*Note:  notice how OBs usually talk about "delivering a baby," or even "delivering her of a baby" while midwives usually speak of mothers "delivering their babies."