How to use cloth diapers and keep your sanity


Before you think I’m all concerned about the environment or that I’m hyper budget conscience, let me state up front that my reason for using cloth goes beyond those two pretty good reasons.

Last night while Dagny played on my new favorite gift to myself, I stood at the counter in my laundry room in quiet reflection on my day while folding diapers. It stirred a memory of my mom.

“When you kids were off to bed, I would sit with the laundry basket on the couch and fold clothes. It was my quiet time, when I could think about my day with you and be alone with my thoughts.”

So I’m a sentimentalist. Sue me.

But I’m also pragmatic and when I shared my desire to my husband not only to breastfeed until our Baby Bird turned one, but also use cloth diapers – he was entirely supportive.

Yet, like weddings (ladies, you know what I’m saying) the research to make this undertaking happen fell on my very capable shoulders.

If you’re considering cloth diapers for your babies, for whatever reason, then feel free to use what I’ve learned:

  1. It’s all about the diaper pail (or a white 12.2-gallon Hefty trash can with an easy one-touch locking lid). Not one cloth diaper pail on the market got the full cloth-diaper mommy seal of approval – they were all too expensive, too small and too faulty. I have a second trash can on the other side of my changing table with odor-locking bags for wipes and other trash.
  2. It’s really all about the diaper pail liner. Toss aside those fears of pre-soaking diapers in the pail. I scooped up one of the best reviewed liners on the market by Blueberry. It’s said to withstand months of hot washes without the liner cracking which just leaks into your trash can (gross) while being affordable and pretty cute. It fits perfectly and snugly in my Hefty trash can with the elastic drawstring. Just dump the entire load and your bag into the wash. Voila!
  3. Smell. Ya, I know you’re worried about smell and so was I. All the “diaper pail deodorizers” also got terrible reviews from some of the most well-known brands. Then, I found these amazing little Citrus Circle Diaper Pail Deodorizing Discs which comes with a couple doo-hickies to adhere to the inside of the lid. I’ve replaced them every three weeks or so. So cheap, smells great.
  4. Diaper covers or all-in-one insert diapers. It’s all about you. We’ve got a couple of the all-in-ones with the inserts, one of which we plan to use for the beach, and they’re very convenient. But the covers can go through 2-3 diaper changes provided they’re just wet. In either case, you’ll also have to decide buttons or velcro. Again, we have both because baby waistlines don’t necessarily conform to the evenly distributed buttons. Just make sure to reattach that velcro to each other before tossing in the pail – it sticks to prefold diapers like… well, you know. Lots of makers to choose from in the diaper-making world – we stayed local with Baby Frenzy in El Cajon. They offer a 15-percent local discount. All diapers are stitched together by hand at the store and if any of the diapers need repairing, they’ll do it for no extra change.
  5. Prefolds – so cheap, so versatile, so not like disposables. It’s amazing, but you can buy three dozen Gerber prefolded diapers online from Babies ‘R’ Us for $53. You use these with the diaper covers and fold them to your liking. When baby needs a change, just replace with a clean one and drop the used into your pail. We also use ours for burp cloths or lay under her whenever she’s on her back to protect against leaks. Unlike a disposable, you will get a little opening in the back when baby moves around no matter how tight you make the waist. Wet leaks probably annoyed us for two days until we got the hang of it. NOTE: You have no idea the power behind those chemicals in disposables. My first wet and dirty changes with Baby Bird amazed me; I realized how much fluid and waste she really passed. It was a lot more than disposables would lead you to believe. But because of the discomfort, we know when she’s wet right away and there’s less fear of a rash.
  6. Laundry, laundry, laundry. It’s unavoidable. You must wash cloth diapers at least every two days, sooner if you have a dirty diaper in need of a soaking. Here’s where I thought cost would really kill us, especially with a baby-bottom friendly detergent. However, I found this highly rated Charlie’s Laundry Soap that sells 80 washes per container for $12.99 on Amazon – and cloth diaper mommy’s love it. You cannot use softener on diapers because, like towels, it reduces absorbancy and Charlie’s is specially made for this reason. We like Charlie’s so much that we now use it on all our clothes. There’s no smell, the clothes get clean and even with my sensitive skin, I’ve had no breakouts.

Pros: very affordable and eco-friendly.

Consumer Reports estimates that disposables can cost around $2,500 by the time kids are potty-trained. All told, we’ve spent about $250 so far. The only thing we could expect to buy more of that’s aside from other related costs before she’s trained is wipes and deodorizing discs.

Cons: not as convenient and time consuming.

If you don’t have a private laundry room, that could make the washing process a bit more complicated and two working full-time parents probably cringe at the idea of more laundry.

One final thought: Some believe, as my mom does, that a little inconvenience now leads to less inconvenience later.

It’s a controversial debate in the cloth vs disposable world: Do cloth diapers speed up the potty-training process?

Some say yes believing that the discomfort and awareness of being wet or dirty help connect the dots faster for kids.

We’ve all seen how the disposable diaper industry has expanded their lines from diapers to pull-ups and variations therein seemingly to keep kids in some form of their product longer.

After a couple months with cloth, I can tell you that’s a very convincing selling point for parents.

So perhaps the contributing factor of earlier potty training for cloth parents is wanting to be done with the whole diaper scene.

I’m not going to tell you it’s the most magical experience ever or that every parent should stop buying disposables today. Do what’s right for you and your family.

But if you’re interested, for whatever reason, it’s not only possible but can be a very rewarding experience and with just a few tricks of the trade, you can do it and keep your sanity.

Got some cloth diaper tips of your own? Please share your tips or blog posts in the comments below.

WARNING: Cute Baby Pictures May Cause Peeing (Lots of peeing)


I’m a major sucker for cute baby pictures.

My Pinterest account’s been largely created just so I can scope out adorable, wrinkly, chubby-cheeked darlings in all their precious glory.

So, imagine my excitement at dolling up my own little princess for cutsie pics.

About three weeks before my due date, my family photographer Melissa Jacobs began asking if she could shoot our princess.

Melissa’s more than a photographer – like any great photographer, she’s part of the family.

I met Melissa while working for Supervisor Pam Slater-Price. On the professional front: she’s the best. I’ve seen her all over town, from the PRSA Bernays Awards to weddings to elected official press conferences.

I’ve recommended her to clients (and they’ve always been pleased), plus she’s done my professional headshot and some shots of us when I was five months pregnant which we used for our 2011 Christmas cards.

The one below got rave reviews from family and friends:

Right away, I pilfered my Pinterest account for this little magical shot.

In true Melissa form, she responds saying “no problem” and she can’t wait to meet her when she arrives.

What I loved about the above picture: it focuses on the size difference of the baby. Can’t you just “feel” that cute little baby’s soft skin?

I just happened to have a cute stuffed elephant my mom gave me for the nursery this past Christmas.

Here’s Hank all ready for Dagny to come home:

When Baby Bird arrived two weeks ahead of my due date, it threw off our photo session calendar and instead of being two weeks old – she was three weeks on the dot.

I thought those baby photo sites must be nuts for recommending a baby be 10 days old or younger for newborn pictures.

What’s to shoot? All she did was sleep.

Bingo.

All the mommy sites recommended I have her well-fed, calm and be prepared for another soothing feeding.

But our best-laid plans quickly devolved into a comedy of errors made more intense by her screaming bloody-murder.

  • Best lighting caused her to blink angrily.
  • Peaceful visions of a naked baby butt replaced by a screaming, kicking, Army-crawling baby.
  • Sitting up to snuggle with the elephant. No. Laying down with the elephant. Kinda (see below).
  • Peeing. Lots of peeing. Peeing on hubs (he changed his shirt for the family shots), peeing on the nursing glider, peeing on the carpet, nearly peeing on Melissa.
  • Pacifier did not earn it’s name. She would either purse her lips or spit it out like a watermelon seed. The only thing that kind of worked was giving her hubs finger to gnaw on between shots.

After the sitting up pose flopped, Melissa re-assessed.

“Let’s lay her sideways with the elephant.”

Worked in theory (like the rest of the shoot), but she kept throwing her leg up in the air as soon as the camera started clicking and showing the world her pikachu.

Hubs sighed: “I’m failing already.”

Here was the best of the lot (it’s not cropped or touched up):

We finally took the elephant out of the equation and went far more simple.

Once Dagny calmed down and focused on Melissa, some beautiful shots materialized.

Hubs and I originally didn’t plan on being part of any shots and so, we didn’t get gussied up.

But since we were throwing plans out the window, what the heck?

I’m glad we did because she snapped some candid shots of hubs calming Dagny that brought tender little tears to my eyes.

Plus, she captured the three of us in our natural three-weeks-postpartum state: tired, unsure and making lots of mistakes.

I thank God everyday for bringing this priceless creature into my life.

She’s already teaching me how to let go (quite literally).

Our deepest appreciation to our dear (and patient) friend Melissa – she’s a celluloid maven.

Here’s some of my favorites from the day:

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Childless no longer…


A slight and soft creature, a tender 7 pounds in weight, with thick dark hair and an angel kiss on her forehead lay still in the crib beside me.

Hubs matched her exhausted, motionless state in the spare bed of the postpartum room at Naval Medical Center San Diego while I absorbed the moment.

After hours of chaos, it was silent.

A nurse walked in quietly and presented a tray of food. If I could have, I might have lunged at him for what amounted to very bland hospital fair.

I ate greedily adding up the hours in my head of my last meal: about 35. The makers of Jell-O would be wise to get hungry new moms to write their ad copy.

With my tray sufficiently scarfed, I turned my attention to the gentle sleeping face of my new little girl eying every strand of hair, her tiny finger nails, the curve of her mouth knowing all that grew within me.

I laid back in bed trying to rest but it was hard. Everything about her fascinated me.

Just as I was about to drift off, she began to cry in hunger. Hubs hardly stirred as I pulled her crib to me and feebly, awkwardly lifted her out.

Once cradled in my arms, her soft eyes opened and I felt the first of many awesome waves wash over me: I’m her mother, her teacher, her life giver.

We lay embraced for some time before hubs stirred and the spell was broken with the interruptions of nurses and doctors caring for her and me.

Sunday, I celebrated my first Mother’s Day with hubs, my mom and sis, and of course, my Baby Bird.

As I got ready for our celebratory brunch, I thought of a Mother’s Day several years ago when I attended Skyline Church service alone in the midst of our infertility struggles. Countless women filled pews wearing corsages, holding hands with their children, dressed in their Sunday best.

Rev. Jim Garlow began to bless the service with a special prayer for all the women who longed to be mothers and were dealing with infertility. Painful tears streamed from my closed eyes.

The road to motherhood since amounted to as much pain and sorrow as that enormous joy payload in those first precious silent moments alone with Baby Bird.

One day in the midst of my pregnancy, hubs caught me in thought and asked why I was shaking my head to myself.

“Even now, I know that it happened, but I still find it hard to believe.”

He smiled and said: “Everyone keeps saying it’s because we stopped ‘trying.’ But we stopped when we started the foster care process. Maybe it happened because we were finally ready.”

In life, some seeds of happiness just won’t grow no matter what we do.

While they might not be what you expect, life just might surprise you with something (or someone) greater than you ever imagined.

My first postpartum nurse came in to wish our little girl a happy birthday and write a note up on the wipe board for her. She asked how to spell her name and as she began writing with her back to me, she turned around with a confused look.

“Did you make that up?’

In the weeks following our ultrasound, we slogged through the girl’s section of a baby names book several times over. One night in bed while reading “Atlas Shrugged,” hubs was rebuffing my latest name suggestion and I jokingly said gesturing at the book: “How about Dagny?”

He looked it up in the baby name book sitting bedside. Old Norse meaning “rebirth.”

In the months that followed, we “tried it on” to see if it fit and sometimes I wasn’t sure until hubs brought her to me for our first collective snuggle.

She lifted her head, opened her dark and stormy eyes and looked at me.

At 34, my life started anew.

A New Year, A New Life


New Year’s Eve. A night for letting go of the past, hoping for the future and counting the many blessings in life. No year brought so many surprises for me as 2011.

I embraced my role as a foster mom and all that entailed – foster parent classes, ceritifications in water safety, CPR and first-aid, professional and personal referrals, baby-proofing, child-rearing education and re-assessing my professional life to make room for three weekly visits with caseworkers and biological parents along with the court records that each visit required to be filed.

It was an immense undertaking, but we were ready.

Then, we found out just as we were about to cross the last “t” that we were expecting.

One might think it would be an easy shift. A better outcome.

But there’s that lingering desire deep inside transformed by compelling stories that longs to be a foster parent.

In the midst of such confusing emotions, we dealt with new weirdness: unwelcome parenting advice, weight-gain assessments, career pressures and a family torn between wanting to be involved but not knowing the child’s sex.

My growing belly and the active girl inside nevers lets me forget for a moment that I must overcome and ignore all fearful obstacles. My life does not belong to me alone anymore.

There’s as much solace in that notion as anxiety.

I try to take each day as it comes and drown out the doubts as I prepare for my most incredible life achievement: child birth.

On Tuesday, we’ll meet our doula who will be our one constant child birth expert throughout the miraculous experience. The Navy system does not assign you the care provider you’ll deliver with –  you get whoever is on duty.

In life, you get so few opportunities to feel the complete understanding and meaning of life. When this year began, I resigned myself to never having a baby.

I thank God for giving me a chance.

For all the difficulties, confusion and heartbreak, I thank God. How else would I have ever so appreciated this experience as I do?

We only get so many days on Earth; never miss a moment to be present in the good as well as bad times. Each second is a precious lesson, a chance to know yourself and be better.

So long, 2011. Thanks for the curve balls. You kept me on my toes.

“No One Will Understand What You’re Going Through”


Angels Foster Family Network classes really take you on an emotional ride.

One session, we talked about our first experiences with grief and loss. Thankfully, I was the last one to talk and I breezed through the suicide of the brother’s friend quickly because everyone was drained.

In another session, we talked about actual foster baby cases that dealt with everything from physical and emotional abuse to basic care neglect and failure to thrive.

Thankfully, most of the faces in the room went blank when the words “spica cast” were used, which is a cast on an infant from ankle to under the nipple area due to a femur break. Breaking an infants femur, due to it’s relative flexibility, is pretty tough.

The reason for these emotionally-charged classes: we will indeed experience grief in knowing how these children came to be in the system, loss when they go back to their birth parents and perhaps the worst – anger. Anger at a system that sometimes fails these kids, who we will most assuredly love.

We are not fostering babies with the express intention of adoption and knowing how we’ll deal with that sadness becomes vital to how well we do as foster parents.

Our most recent session a couple nights ago brought us face-to-face with foster parents, their foster babies and a birth mom whose baby is currently in foster care.

The first couple had tried to get pregnant for seven years – seven! They finally decided to check out being foster mommies and the orientation sealed the deal. Their cases ran the gamet from having a baby for a couple weeks to more than a year before reunification. In one case, the reunification failed and they’re now adopting him and a second baby, whose reunification also failed.

The child they reunified with was born with severe heart defects, which they were unaware of at the time they first picked him up. A system loophole allowed him to reunify with his father, a known drug user, and the baby somehow ended up in the care of another family member. He was taken to Children’s Hospital when he became very ill. That’s when Angels called the foster parents to meet him at the hospital and found him “grey, almost blue.”

The other mom said, while holding her 10-month-old: “You have all these thoughts in your mind what these bio-parents are going to be like. It’s nothing like what you think; sometimes you end up feeling like you want to foster them too. They came from the same circumstances their own kids are coming from when we get them.”

The second couple foster just to help out families in trouble with no intention of adopting. They’re on their 9th placement with a baby girl, whose mom was there. Mom currently resides in a rehabilitation facility. Her first child lives in Mexico with his grandparents.

“Fostering fills a place in our family, our hearts,” said the foster mom. Referring to two of her present foster children: “This is my baby, this is my baby. They’re all my babies.”

The young mom, who shed a few tears, said: “The first foster family who cared for her was really mean to me. They would sit at visitations, arms crossed and look at me like I was a monster. I’m not a bad person. We all make mistakes; some of us just more than others. I’m so glad I have this new family for my baby until I’m ready.”

Overall, she’s making excellent progress in her program and could be reunified as early as the six-month trial. She’s hopeful, saying: “It’s all on me to do this and I want to succeed. I don’t have any family of my own. She’s all I’ve got.”

Our caseworkers cautioned us: she’s not a typical birth mom.

The last couple still has their one and only placement. At 10 months, the little boy has seen his mother very little since he was born positive for drugs. At the six month trial, the judge rendered what he considered a generous offer to continue offering county rehabilitation services. She’s spent less than a week in any one program.

The foster mom expressed as much sadness as confusion about the birth mom, who had her first child at 15. She comes from a family of nine siblings, and from what she can tell, all but one suffers from some form of drug or alcohol problem.

“She’s made an attempt at visitations maybe two or three times in 10 months,” the foster mom said. “During a second round of visits, she suddenly showed up with a brand new baby blanket saying it’s his favorite. He was six months old at the time.”

Their county caseworker recently changed the recommendation to terminate services for the birth mother, which is a step toward termination of parental rights. Despite what might seem like a possible path toward adoption could easily take a turn, depending on the judgement of the court.

I asked the couple how their friends and family react to their being foster parents and their situation.

“No one will understand what you’re going through,” she said. “They just assume he’s staying because they look at the case as black-and-white. We know that nothing means anything unless the courts decides it’s so. We have to keep telling ourselves he could go back tomorrow.”

I asked them all the same question: “Would you do this again?”

All gave a resounding “yes,” saying that the satisfaction you feel in helping a child in need outweighs any amount of grief you feel in the separation.

As we left, I realized this isn’t just be about us being foster parents. It will affect everyone in our lives and in ways we cannot know.

Unlike coming from the hospital after a nine-month pregnancy, we could be sitting at dinner with friends when we get an emergency call to fetch a child from a variety of situations in a multitude of conditions.

Prospects seem as exciting as scary and all the while, you hope you might do some good.

The first couple took in one 9-month-old girl for a few months who experienced severe neglect. She was so stiff from lack of physical interaction and activity that she couldn’t crawl. In just a couple months, she went from crawling to standing and eventually, tried to walk.

“You’re so overwhelmed sometimes and then you have one of those moments,” one foster mom said. “It’s hard to imagine life without these kids.”

It’s the closest to saving the world we may ever come close to.