Tuesday, June 14, 2022
I just returned from a long weekend with my daughter, who is pregnant and due to deliver a baby on the 5th of July. A friend of hers hosted a baby shower for her last Saturday, and we spent Sunday evening doing a maternity photo shoot at a local park. As of this moment, we have about 3 weeks before this new little person comes into our lives. And how she will change the lives of everyone when she gets here! At the baby shower, and shortly thereafter, I learned about how the business of childbirth and early parenthood has changed since I last had a child nearly 4 decades ago! Since this is their first child, and my first grandchild, we’re all a little confused about how things should be done at this point in time. The kids are counting on advice from someone experienced with raising kids, but it’s been so long since I was a young mother that I’ve got some things to catch up on! And things have changed.
For instance, when my daughters were infants, I used a diaper service at first. I think it was called Tidy Didy Diaper Service or something like that. In the era of the early 1980’s, I did this not so much to be ecologically correct and not fill up the landfills with dirty diapers, as I did because things like Pampers and Luvs were a new thing and I felt like I wanted my daughters not to be wearing plastic and rubber. Also, we lived in a second story apartment at the time, and it was a long walk to the laundry room, so washing diapers on the regular was not a thing that would be practical to do either.
In those days, it was thought that if you stayed on the diaper changing, it was less likely that babies would get a bad diaper rash if you used cotton. Once they were soiled, I rinsed them out in the toilet and then put them in the diaper pail they gave me each week. Once a week I set the pail out on the front porch and the Tidy Didy Diaper Service took it away, leaving me a fresh one and a stack of clean diapers. We still used diaper pins to fasten them onto the baby.
When my siblings and I were infants, my mother used cloth diapers as well. This was during the 1950’s and 60’s. Very few mothers of that era, including mine, ever did any breast feeding. It was considered gauche, and too animal-like for women of that era. In fact, most were given some kind of hormone after birth that kept them from producing milk, and babies were put on formula right away. Being the oldest of four children in my childhood home, learning how to make the formula and clean and disinfect the bottles was a part of what I did as mom’s helper. I knew how to do all that stuff when I was still very young. By the time mom had her last baby, when I was 10 years old, I was an old hand at changing diapers, washing and folding them, making formula, and making sure the bottles and nipples were sanitized by boiling them. The best bottles were the plastic ones that had a plastic bag insert that you put the formula in, because they were far less likely to cause gas in the baby, since, if they were handled correctly, they didn’t produce air pockets.
By the time I had my children, in the early 1980’s, women were routinely breast feeding. I didn’t do very well with this, and the breast feeding didn’t last more than a couple of months – or even weeks – before my daughters turned to the bottle. This was partly because I had to return to work right away after having my first daughter, anyway. I returned to work when she was 2 months old, and although I tried pumping, it just didn’t work out for me. My second daughter nursed a bit longer, but by the time she was about 6 months old, she was over the whole thing. She had been given a bottle a time or two, and knew it was easier and more filling than breast milk. She simply refused to nurse. So, there I was. If I wanted my daughter to eat, I was going to have to give her a bottle. Bottles were made of plastic, and/or they had plastic bag inserts. This was true whether you used formula or breast milk.
During that era, if you didn’t breast feed, you were looked at somewhat askance, like somehow you weren’t quite right as a mother. Sometimes it seems like no matter what you do in life, you’re made to feel like it just isn’t quite right. I say the heck with that! We have options now.
Anyway, when my granddaughter is born in a couple of weeks, I’ll be on the same learning curve as my daughter and son-in-law, so many things have changed since I had my kids.
When I returned to work after childbirth and had to take my kids to a babysitter during the day, we ended up switching to disposable diapers as well. There’s only so much that is practical to do when the bottom line is, you must go back to work right away. Some babysitters wouldn’t deal with anything other than disposable diapers, for instance. Now my daughter has purchased these newborn diapers that are fabric and come in various colors. They’re very soft and they close with snaps.
I’ve never seen anything like this! The inside has a pad, almost like a sanitary pad, that can be removed and rinsed out and you can put a new, clean, and dry one in. My daughter is very aware of the ecological impacts of billions of soiled disposable diapers in the landfills every year, but I don’t remember that ever even being a topic of conversation when I was having my kids. Of course, she’s right and not only are there disposable diapers in the landfills from babies, but many older people are wearing adult disposable diapers and pads as well. All of this is going into the landfills, and it takes almost 550 years for one disposable diaper to decompose.
So, the diapers I used on my kids 35 to 40 years ago, have still not decomposed in the landfills and they won’t for another 500 years or so. There is something like 18 billion diapers a year going into landfills, just in the United States alone. However, not all disposable diapers end up in the landfills right away. There have been a few times when I’m out in the tulies on one of my photo road trips somewhere, only to find that someone has changed their baby’s diaper and left the old one right there on the picnic table at the rest stop rather than packing it back home. They don’t want to ride around in their car for the rest of the day with a dirty diaper stinking the place up! So, the next person or family who comes along must deal with it somehow.
So yes, many things have changed in the intervening years since I had my kids. Yes, yes, many young adults in the 1960’s, 70’s, and 80’s were ecologically conscious. I would like to say I was, but I really wasn’t. My generation – the Baby Boomers – may have started Earth Day, but in 1970 when it started, I was still in junior high. At my school we had a special day to recognize the first Earth Day, but it was mostly used by the school administrators to get the students to pick up their own trash. “Don’t be a litter bug!” I grew up in an era when the most liked products were those that were meant to make life easier, and the ecological impact wasn’t really considered at all.
Nowadays, my husband and I participate in the city recycling program and recycle everything we can, that is, whatever things they say can be recycled. The fact is the recyclers don’t take everything that has a recycling symbol on it. So, my husband mostly, spends time every other week going through our trash and separating what can be recycled from what can’t. A few times, the recycling truck has come before we’re finished with this task, which then necessitates us driving our stuff to the city recycling place ourselves. I know, I know, organized people always get their recycling done on time!
And along these lines, another shitty deal is the whole dog poop disposal thing. Good dog parents take their dogs for walks, right? But if you want to be considered a good citizen and a responsible dog parent, you must take along, or have access to these little plastic bags and plastic gloves and a little plastic shovel of some kind, to place your dog’s poop in and then dispose of either right there at the dog park or trail, or you should take it with you. Not all the so-called biodegradable dog poop bags will biodegrade though, especially if they end up in a landfill where they don’t have access to oxygen. Things in landfills don’t get much – if any – oxygen, and they need that to biodegrade. So instead, dog poop becomes “mummified.”
So, this line of thought got me to wondering about composting cat litter. We all need something else to do in our copious spare time, right? So, to compost cat litter, you first must buy compostable cat litter. Turns out not all cat litter is compostable. Most kitty litter, and I’m sure the kind I use anyway, is made of clay and silica. It is mined, which is not good for the environment, and it creates dust, which, if you have asthma or other breathing issues, can cause problems up to and including lung cancer. Oh my!
They say the best, most sustainable type of kitty litter is made of crushed Iowa corn cobs. It’s free of chemicals, additives and preservatives and it’s fully compostable. It costs $31 a bag at Walmart. This isn’t necessarily the most economic choice.
The most budget friendly, ecologically sustainable kitty litter I’m told, is made of pine shavings. A 40-pound bag of these pine shavings will run you about $15 to $20. I have two cats, and I use about a half a bag of clay kitty litter every week. One 20-pound bag runs about $5.99 a bag, so that’s $3 a week in kitty litter. And then there’s the plastic bag that lines the litter box. This is absolutely necessary, especially in the winter, when you can’t clean the litter box as easily as you can in the summer, when you can use the hose to clean it out and let it airdry in the yard for a few minutes. If you live in a more temperate area, like Southern California or something, this is less of an issue, but I live in Western Colorado. Even though we don’t get a lot of snow in the winter, it’s still cold and the hose bibs are turned off and capped, so they can’t be used, and they also won’t freeze. Frozen pipes can be very expensive to fix!
It’s no wonder that people have a hard time doing the right thing ecologically while also trying to maintain sanity and a busy life.
I guess one solution is not to bite off more than you can chew at any one time. So, take one issue, like disposable diapers, or cat litter or dog poop, and re-train yourself on that one little issue until it becomes second nature. It does require a change in attitudes and thinking to make these things happen, and they probably aren’t going to happen naturally without us ever noticing we’ve changed our behaviors. Don’t try to take on another thing until you’ve fully incorporated the first change first. Depending upon the change, it could take weeks, or maybe months, or maybe even a year.
To be honest with you, I’ve had a heck of a time just remembering to bring cloth bags to the grocery store on a regular basis. Just about the time I started getting the hang of it, Covid happened, and they said, at least for a year or more, that they wouldn’t allow you to bring your own cloth bags into the store, and you couldn’t use them. Now they say you can again, but now I have to re-train myself to bring them along. Plastic shopping bags are also not recyclable through the city, but they must be returned to the grocery store, where they somehow recycle them there. And don’t forget those thin little plastic bags you put your produce in and then those thin little plastic bags go into the bigger plastic bags … sheesh! That doesn’t mean to give up though.
Maybe we all just need a sustainability support group.
Or something exciting to look forward to, like a new grandbaby.