Wednesday, July 30, 2008

After the Honeymoon

As you all know, I had been having a wonderful time during my first few months of cloth diapering. Using Fuzzi Bunz and microfiber inserts, with a washing machine on the main floor of our home, we have been in what AWOL Mommy calls "cloth diaper bliss." All that changed about a week ago, the Lion must have been going through a growth spurt or something, but all of a sudden we were having leaks, soaked linens, soaked laps, cloth diapers were starting to look like a mistake.

I did what I usually do when things get hard -- I shut down! For two or three days, I just ignored the cloth diapers and went back to huggies. Next, I wallowed in guilt about the investment we had made in cloth diapers. Finally, I reached the important stage when I became what my husband likes to call a "solutioner." Determined to begin again, I tried double stuffing - success! No more leaks. I also tried an extra rinse and noticed that without adding any soap there was still plenty of foam in my washer -- detergent build up can affect absorbency. This combination of extra rinsing and double stuffing has solved my problem, and I am recommitted to the cloth diaper endeavor. At the moment, I am held back by the fact that with double stuffing I now can stuff half as many diapers, but I am just going to do wash as often as I can and supplement with disposables for a while, I am not ready to invest in even more inserts just yet.

As you may guess, this journey, for me, was not just about the diapering, I am finding as I come close to thirty that I have patterns of behavior which apply to many areas of my life. As I recognize these patterns, the intermediate negative stages seem to get shorter and slightly less painful -- I can see them for what they are, and I know that I need to move past them in order to get back to a positive place. My pattern for many activities is to jump in with two feet, get really excited, have a set back, get overwhelmed, quit. The big question, it is not exaggerating to call it a question of character, is what comes next. I can joke about my "honeymoon" period of cloth diapering, but I do think this lesson can apply to marriage, and also to the time that comes after what some call the "babymoon" of motherhood. There is often a glow that comes along with the novelty of a situation, but relationships are made or broken as they get worn down or built up day by day. There can also be the fear that accompanies the realization that husbands, babies, or even cloth diapers are imperfect and now belong to you, you will live with their imperfections and they will shape your lifestyle. What are you going to do about it? Here are some of the tools that I use to get out of the negative stage, the part where I just want to throw in the towel:

1) Sort out what is positive and negative. There are lots of things that are great about cloth diapering, and when I acknowledged those I was able to see that it was worth it to at least try to find a solution to the negative things

2) Narrow in on the problems. It is not helpful to just say that cloth diapering was not working anymore, I need specific problems to solve. Cloth diapering was not working because the diapers were leaking, the bedroom was smelly, I was not staying on top of the wash loads.

3) Cut yourself a break. Deciding that while I was trying to solve my cloth diapering problems I was going to switch to disposables and not feel guilty about it gave me the freedom to work things through without the extra stress of having to change the crib sheets after every nap.

4) Consult the experts. These experts can be friends, google searches, books, or all of the above, whatever is helpful, but it is very rare to have a problem that no one else has ever had. In addition to solid advice, it can be heartening just to know that you are not a total loser for having this problem, whether the problem is leaky diapers, marital troubles or wishing you could go back to work.

5) Decide on a course of action to try. This means sifting through the expert information, you can't use all of it at once, and making the decision that it is time to stop reading/researching and now it is time to do something about it. The first solution you try may not work, so flexibility and perseverance are needed.

6) If some progress is being made, understand that some of the negatives may just be things that you have to live with. Double stuffing solved my leaking problem but gave my child a substantially more padded bottom. This is a trade off that I am willing to live with. I need to work towards accepting a reasonable amount of imperfection in my life.

7) Pray. This is not really the last step, it goes along with every step, but praying throughout the process for the fruits of the Holy Spirit can be really helpful. These gifts are invaluable and will help you in different ways at different times in your life.

8) Let go of guilt. Guilt is useless, it is a tool of the devil. If you are making use of the sacrament of confession, the past is in God's mercy, the future is in God's providence, and you need to be dealing with the present. If there are legitimate reasons for guilt, get to confession, do your penance and then freely move on, you cannot make progress with the albatross of past mistakes hanging around your neck.

You may think that comparing cloth diapering and marital problems is ridiculous, but I have found that sometimes it is easier to achieve personal growth through the less important problems in my life, the ones where the pressures are smaller, to come to know myself and the best way that I can make progress. I am very hard on myself and others and I have a tendency to become despondent. I can take these lessons and apply them to really important problems, like, after the rush of joy of moving into our new home, how are my husband and I going to manage our time now that we have a long commute, a large home and yard to maintain, and a sixth child on the way?


B-Mama said...

Wonderful lessons to read, MA! Breaking down your approach as a "solutioner"is brilliant bc you tackled the diaper problem like such a pro. Often we miss recognizing that there are clear steps in finding a solution to an issue. Good marriages (good anything, for that matter) are not created overnight, but require constant checks and balances that you describe here.

I assume that if I'm not working on my marriage, something else at that moment is working against it. Yes, there are times of feasting (after a baby's birth, after accomplishing a big feat--i.e. the law Bar!!!!!!), overall though, marriage and life are mainly composed of the in-between times; the nitty gritty that requires LOTS of prayer and LOTS of attempts at solutions!!! Thanks so much for recognizing this for all of us, MA! Blessings...

AWOL Mommy said...

Mary Alice, can you come live with me and be the Jiminy Cricket over my shoulder? I identify with your sentiments 100%. Shoot, I would have thrown in the towel on cloth diapering after a week if B-Mama hadn't shown me the light! She led me back into the land of cloth diapering bliss. On a larger scale I feel like I am coming up short every day. I feel like I have no idea how to be the wife and mother that my husband and kids deserve. You are right -- the only thing that can resolve this feeling is the Fruits of the Holy Spirit. I need one of those Edible arrangements made of Fruits of the Holy Spirit delivered to my house daily. Can we arrange that somehow?

Seriously, your logical approach to the emotions that accompany womanhood is timely and invaluable to me right now, thank you.

l. said...

Quoting b-mama:

"I assume that if I'm not working on my marriage, something else at that moment is working against it."

That is such a great nugget. Funny how sometimes just a quick line just hits you. Thanks b-mama!

Kat said...

"There can also be the fear that accompanies the realization that husbands, babies, or even cloth diapers are imperfect and now belong to you, you will live with their imperfections and they will shape your lifestyle."

This is so true, MA - you have a wonderful way of being funny yet totally real at the same time! I think that all of us have had that moment of "Wow, this X belongs to me and right now I don't know how to deal with that!" Whether it's a baby that seems to cry 24/7, a family member that constantly criticizes, or even just a new paint color that doesn't look quite how you envisioned it...All of us have had those moments!

I also like your depiction of the phases that many of us go through - jumping in with enthusiasm, facing a setback, becoming despondent, and then going into "solution-finding mode". It's this last phase that is a real triumph, and I fear that oftentimes I don't make it there and stop with the despondency! I suppose that only God's grace helps me to move out of the rut of self-pity/guilt and into a solution-finding mode! Thank you for this very encouraging and humorous post :)

B-Mama, I also appreciated your marriage reflections, thanks!

Anonymous said...

Just on the cloth diaper issue -- what detergent are you using? has a great list of detergents that work and those that cause wicking. We've discovered Charlie's Soap (google it, they don't charge for shipping!) and love it, love it! It cleans so well, is cheap, and is the best for cloth diapers and covers. Ok, just my two cents!! :)

AWOL Mommy said...

Seriously, B-Mama, did you write that yourself: "I assume that if I'm not working on my marriage, something else at that moment is working against it" ? It is so profound. Mr. AWOL and I were discussing your point and he says to tell you that "you are deep." Maybe Baby J is making you wax philosophical?

B-Mama said...

Thanks AWOL! Get ready for a marriage post coming tomorrow, inspired by this very topic! :) You can gain more of my philosophical, pregnancy wisdom. lol. To God be the glory!

4ddintx said...

Thanks for this great post. I think there is lots of food for thought for a lot of us.

As for needing more inserts for your diapers, have you tried microfiber shop towels? They are cheap at big box stores or warehouse stores in the cleaning supplies or automotive depts and they are THIRSTY. I use these as doublers for my heavy wetter. Sometimes even dollar stores have them. I bought mine over a year ago, but they were about $12 for 15 cloths. I've even used them as a dipe, snappi'd on in a pinch.