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?