Archive for the month “February, 2012”

Pooped Upon

Does all her own stunts. Makes all her own sound effects.

I’m gonna go ahead and assume that it’s just the parents reading, and the ‘ewww, poooop’ folks are avoiding this particular post. So I’ll tell you Cozy woke me up this morning with a fart and a smile. And that nothing gets me out of bed faster than the promise of avoiding a poopy diaper. I caught one! But then, the morning poops are the easiest to catch.

Let me explain.

A few months ago, I was asked to speak to a new moms group about attachment parenting (not as an expert, just as a Real Life Example). In preparation, I made a list of Weird Things We Do so I could sort out which ones were related to attachment principles and which ones were just weird. Then, just for fun, I tried to rank them in order of their weirdness. It was a strange exercise, and didn’t accomplish much. And it was kind of hard to determine what would stand out in comparison with a “mainstream” or “normal” perspective, because a) that is, of course, impossible to define and b) I don’t seem to have a good frame of reference to even guess at it anymore. I hang out with a wide variety of weirdos.

Sometimes I temporarily lose the ability to see that the things I do could seem odd to others. You know how if you say a word over and over and over and over, it starts to lose its meaning, and finally becomes just a random sound you’re making with your mouth? It feels like that, in reverse. I happen to glance sideways at The Way Things Are, detect a glitch, change myself and my patterns to reflect the new idea, and eventually wonder how it ever felt normal to just go along with that particular thing. It feels like remembering something long-forgotten. Some days, though, I can also kind of remember what I was like before I asked these questions.

Yeah, I guess we do some weird stuff around here. But I promise we’re not doing it just to be weird. We really truly are following our guts and our research, making the choices that are best for our family, and living our lives in the most joyful way we can. I imagine, though, that some of it may look positively insane to a casual bystander.

For example, we help our 7-month-old baby pee and poop without her diaper. We’ve done it since she was born, and we did it with her brother too. It’s a practice with a couple equally-odd-sounding names: Natural Infant Hygiene, Elimination Communication. We call it EC, “peeing the baby,” or “catching one.” We are not alone in this practice – there’s an international organization! It’s called Diaper-Free Baby.

No, really. I inherited the local EC email list, and currently host the metro area’s Diaper-Free Baby meetings. People gather at our house once a month for support in this idea, and to share tips for things like determining when a baby is about to go,¬† sources for waterproof pads, and the best way to clean upholstery. We have a good setup for this type of gathering; our floors are tile and concrete, and there’s a deck out back to pee off of. We have two little potties and a small seat for the toilet. Several guest babies have peed in our sink. See, it’s starting to sound a little weird now even to me.

It’s not all that weird, though, is it? Most babies around the world do this. Their mothers don’t have the luxury of choosing between buying magic chemical pellet diapers or continually washing cloth ones. But those mothers also don’t want to be pooped upon, so they figure out how to tell when the baby is going to go, and how to help the baby get it in the right place, until the baby can do so herself. Here, glance sideways at this plan for just a second: help a baby pee and poop in her pants exclusively from birth through age 2 (or 3?), just when she has developed Very Strong Opinions and a desire for control over her environment, then announce that pee and poop no longer belong in pants and should be deposited elsewhere (and please note that the depositing of pee and poop is one of the few things in a toddler’s life over which she actually has complete control). That plan actually sounds kind of insane.

Wait, am I judging you for putting diapers on your baby? Oh, no I am not. Most definitely not. It’s what people do around here, and we do it too. Our diaper-free baby wears diapers.

Because, you see, we are half-assed ECers. Not only do we do this weird thing, we also don’t do it the Right Way. There are EC books and training programs and online support forums and, like, professional EC coaches, and everything. You’re supposed to be consistent about it, even when only doing it part-time. You’re supposed to really pay attention, and always follow your system of signals, develop your sixth sense of pee intuition, or it won’t “work.”

That poop doesn’t fly at If And When HQ. The only really consistent thing about our household (other than LOVELOVELOVE) is inconsistency. We like to keep each other on our toes, that way we are reminded to expect the unexpected. Now that Sylvan’s older, there are snack trays to assemble, forts to build, dance parties to join, bus ride adventures to take, and the baby is strapped to me for a good part of all that. If I’m not constantly wondering whether I’m about to be pooped upon, I find I can roll with the flow of our days much better. So Cozy usually wears diapers. And when we are out and about, or when we’re too distracted to recognize her particular “gotta pee” squawk (quite a lot of the time), she usually goes in them. When we catch one we say yay! I caught one! When we miss one, well, we miss one, and wash one more diaper.

I could also mention that we usually use disposable diapers at night, exposing Cozy’s little sleeping butt to those magical chemical pellets and making a regular stinky contribution to the landfill, but allowing mom and baby both to sleep mostly uninterrupted. Then I could be wrong from three distinct directions, on the single issue of baby pee and poop. Isn’t that exciting?

Wait, am I accusing you of judging me now? Nah, you wouldn’t do that. People don’t, usually. What you might do instead is feel defensive about your own baby poop choices, which are of course different, and then feel compelled to justify them in detail, like I just did. If we were talking about nutrition, or sleeping, or education, or childbirth, or whatever other thousand situations we have to sort out as parents, you’d have a story for all of those too. Maybe you and I are a little bit unsure about how this is all going to turn out. Because nobody knows. You could try to do it all the Normal Way, whatever that is, and your kid could still turn out to be super weird. Or you could make the fringiest decisions possible, just for kicks, and your kid could turn into Alex P. Keaton.

All this is to say that I’m pretty sure all that matters is the LOVELOVELOVE anyway, and that whatever works for now to keep the family connected and happy is the best way.

So we focus on that, and let the poop fall where it may.


I Am The 1%

I’m feeling grateful for my exceedingly good luck today. Just how lucky am I? Well, let’s see.

I’m alive right now. The people living on Earth right now comprise approximately 6.5% of humans ever born.

And life right now, as I’m living it, is pretty good. For example, a nutritious, tasty variety of food – including chocolate bars,¬†vegetables, 35 different kinds of grains and legumes, peanut butter, tomato sauce, spices, salt, fruit, noodles – is available to me. I don’t even have to grow it myself, though I could do some of that if I were so inclined – instead I pay money and pick out stuff to stock my cupboards. Hey, I have cupboards! Also, where I am living right now, it is standard practice to outfit each living quarters with a machine that keeps food cold, one that keeps it frozen, and one or two others that heat it up. Right here in my house!

Check this out: if I get thirsty, I have but to turn a handle on any one of these three sinks, and clean, cold water is delivered right into my cup. Wowza! No, seriously, it’s actually pretty amazing. Not only did most of the people who were once living on Earth not have this, but 14% of those now living do not have access to clean water, much less running water indoors. Bonus: there’s a machine in my house that washes clothes. I just put them in there with some soap and close the lid, and then later, my clothes are clean! Hot water comes out of my shower whenever I ask it to, for as long as I want. I poop in water and push a button and it goes away. How many kings and queens through history could say the same?

My living quarters are also equipped with electric lights, secure doors and windows, comfortable furniture, and climate controls. My family sleeps relatively safely and comfortably every night.

Speaking of my family – in keeping with the leading trends of the right now that I’m living in, my husband is not only socially expected and legally bound not to kill or assault me or our children, but is willing to be an equal partner in household tasks and parenting. Woohoo! This is totally amazing, or at least it would be to billions of women who lived before me. They might also be amazed that I could own property, vote, study or work in any number of fields, remain unmarried, wear whatever I please, and move about freely in public.

We’re just getting started here.

I own a car, a machine that can get me and my family anywhere in this city within the hour, and across the continent in a couple days. If I really wanted to, I could buy a seat on a jet plane and fly through the air to anywhere on the planet within a day or two.

I have a mobile phone, a little machine that I carry around with me that I can use to instantly talk to anyone else who has one. I can also use it for electronic messages. If I am lost it will tell me where I am!

I can listen to any type of recorded music wherever I am, quietly so no one else can hear, or loud enough to rattle the windows and bug the neighbors. (Hi, friendly neighbors!)

I know how to read. I have a library card. I can choose from thousands upon thousands of books. Until the day it again becomes possible for me to read a whole book (T-minus 10 years?), I can read about anything I can think of on the Internet in bits and pieces.

Oh yeah, the Internet. I can write what I’m thinking and set it loose in the cloud of information, and other people can read it and tell me what they think. I can converse with strangers all over the globe. We can change each other’s minds, or we can cheer each other up, or we can spout meaningless drivel, or all three at once! We can topple corrupt governments! We can find recipes for salad dressing!

And here’s where I get political, so bail out now if you’d like to simply bask in gratitude for the day.

Though most of those reading this are, like me, living more comfortably than billions of the other humans now on the planet, never mind the trillions who lived in the past – for a select few, even this is not enough. For these few, the 1% of the all-time top 1% – no, even just a fraction of those – this life of unprecedented possibility and resources and leisure and bliss is still not enough, and they actually fight to deny their fellow citizens the peace of mind of affordable healthcare, adequate housing, nutrition programs, student loan reform. They fight to make the rest of us pay, with our paychecks and with our blood, for their bad financial bets and their wars of aggression. They fight not only to keep what they have, but to take more.

This is what I get angry about, and why I support the Occupy movement. Hey, you few at the top, when will you have enough? If living better than kings and queens doesn’t do it for you, what level of dominance will you ever settle for? If nobody stands up now to stop you, will you ever stop?

Standing invitation to that 0.001%: send me an email and grab a seat on a jet. I’ll pick you up at the airport in my car, welcome you into my safe, comfortable home, where you can sit and look out this window at that blue sky, sip a glass of clean water, and breathe a deep, alive breath. I’ll even share my chocolate with you.

How could this not be enough?

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