By: Precious Yarborough
“Thank God for disposable diapers.”
I whisper this to myself as my youngest daughter, Ivy, scoots her poopy butt down 2 flights of stairs. As she makes her escape to the kitchen, her 5-year-old brother shouts at me from the landing, “Moooom! IVY POOPED!”
There was a horror scene in my head as I ran full speed to head her off and contain the mess. Just what I needed at the end of a long day at work, right? As much as she has tried to remove her diaper lately, I imagined that she must have taken it off and been smearing a trail of shit all down the carpeted stairs. I rounded the corner to the stairs, rushed down and scooped her up, checking around for any sign that all the berries she ate for lunch might have escaped. WHEW! No smears. The disaster was very well-contained in her size 5 Luv. Crisis avoided, and after thanking the Creator for the magic of throw-away baby butt covers, I felt myself silently apologizing to other crunchy parents for how easy cleaning this was. I felt the pang of guilt that comes from my choice not to do this with cloth diapers “the traditional way” as I have heard so many times is the “right” way to diaper a baby. Recently I have heard about elimination communication, and memories of people concerned by the way our society is “so dependent on diapers” threatened to cause an anxiety attack. We live in a society where “perfect parenting” articles float in our faces all day long, causing our brains to swell with doubts that swirl constantly about how to do it right. As I wiped Ivy with my favorite brand of store-bought wipes, I felt deeply saddened that making things simple for myself is not an acceptable style of parenting. While I do acknowledge and respect traditional practices and those who uphold them, I am reminded every day in so many ways why some of those practices, no matter their origin, are not at all applicable to my modern life. Why do we have such a hard time realizing that there are so many wonderful ways to parent? The “best” is exactly who we are.
Some of the best advice I have ever received about parenting was that it is ok to make things easier for myself. I hope that some other parent read that line and took those words to heart, the same way I try to. As a breastfeeding peer counselor it is my job to promote “breast is best”. There are moments where parents are in my office begging me to give them the ok to use expressed breast milk or formula. Begging me not to judge them, and feeling like they somehow fail for doing what is easiest for them. I totally support and believe in the miracle of breastfeeding. BREAST IS BEST. I know it. I. KNOW. THIS. AND, as a parent of 4 children who were all newborns once, I know JUST how fucking tiring and lonesome breastfeeding can be. I feel so conflicted when I tell parents to do something I am rarely able to do: “Take care of yourself so that you can take care of your baby. Don’t give up. Remember, this is worth it.” It is always hard for me to give advice that I have trouble swallowing. I cannot will myself to tell a single mother of 5 to run on empty just so that I can say I am pro-breastfeeding. The surest way for her to discontinue breastfeeding is if she has no support and no rest on top of that. No way I am going to shame her if she whips out the Similac.
In my organization, there are those who frown their faces up anytime formula is mentioned, just as in my social circles there are parents who frown at the thought of disposable diapers, any foods including gluten, sugar, soy, dairy or anything tasty. In both places there are people who judge too harshly, as if they have never been there. As if they have not been awake at past midnight, with a t-shirt soaked in the tears of both mom and baby, understanding what it is to feel driven to madness. As if they have never been tempted to do anything to get a good night’s rest. As if they have never been on the go and fed their children whatever was within reach. The Frowny Faces are the ones who speak of “The Village” as if it were a tangible place. “The Village”, they preach, as if it were a real place where we could hand our babies off to the nearest aunty’s waiting arms anytime we needed a moment to ourselves or a breast to take the place of our own. A place where breastfeeding in public was the social norm, and where milk-sharing is a beautiful and sacred act, respected and honored by all. WHAT VILLAGE, BIHH? Am I missing out on some magical place? Often, there is no tangible village. There is only a parent and their choices. Breastfeeding parents are so often the constant and ever-present solution to our babies’ inconsolable screams. THAT SHIT IS HARD. It is so so hard to always have a baby shoved at us when anything goes wrong. Baby looks hungry… I’ll offer my breasts! Baby too hot? Undress him and break out the boob. Cold? Boob. Circumcised? Boob em. Sky blue? BOOBIE TIME!
Leak… do not rinse your bra. Feed. Repeat.
I reflect on the times when I have been awakened by my screaming Ivy and denied her any boobie, even if only for a few minutes, patting her behind instead in an attempt to quell her cries and hoping desperately to have a moment where no one is asking me to give of my body. These are the real stories that peek out from under my peer counselor hat, the moments that play in my mind when I want to tell a parent to give baby abottle. It is those moments when I tell parents that the “traditional way” has to change its course because we no longer live traditionally. Those are the moments when I fervently defend their choices and affirm that parenting is lonely sometimes. Unless you live near your people, there is no sisterhood of women sitting next to you and cheering you on as you care for a little person. Sometimes there is not an extra set of hands to help with diapers. Try as we might to connect in person, most of our villages are digital, our people harder to touch. Knowing that like me, some people live 35 miles from their closest friend, I cannot help but secretly cheer when parents take the “easy” way out in favor of keeping their sanity. If it means you’ll hold your baby a little tighter because you have gotten a moment’s rest, grab those disposables, pacifiers, and yes, a bottle.
Don’t tell my boss.
***This post is in no way promoting the use of formula or any diaper type, it is simply a reflection of understanding.***
About the Author:
“I am a wife, mother of 4 amazing children, Breastfeeding Peer Counselor and an organizer for Puget Sound Birth Professionals of Color. I can be reached via email at Tribelovedoula@gmail.com.”