This is what my brother asked me within minutes of meeting my then-2-month-old baby Oskar over the holidays. My husband and I, baby in tow, made the eight-hour trek by car (typically five hours, but baby adds three) specifically to introduce our new bundle to my family. The highlight of this visit was that Oskar would have the opportunity to meet my brother’s baby — Oskar’s cousin — for the first time, along with a host of tittering aunts and fawning uncles and fussing grandparents. We arrived and made the whirlwind of introductions, barely surviving the onslaught of camera flashbulbs that went off when the babies held hands upon meeting. Then, not long after,
“Why does your baby look like a Who?”
“What?” I asked.
“A Who,” my brother replied.
“A Who. You know, from Dr. Seuss?” he clarified.
“Oh,” I said. “As in, Horton Hears a…”
“A Who.” My brother pointed at my baby’s butt.
I looked at Oskar and realized what my brother was trying to say in his typically colorful way. Oskar did look somewhat like a Who, one of the tiny, cheerful, and vaguely pear-shaped inhabitants of Whoville, with his one-piece romper stretched over his little body and his especially rotund bottom. That’s because Oskar was sporting our pocket diaper of choice, a Smartipants, double-stuffed for the long car ride, and was looking extra-fluffy that evening.
Since he was about a month old, Oskar has been in cloth. We never planned on cloth; it never even occurred to us. We figured we would have enough on our plates with a whole new person living in our house, leaving a trail of soiled laundry in his wake. But a few things happened right after Oskar was born. We became tired of the constant trips to the baby store for diapers and wipes, just in the few weeks our baby lived in disposables.
We were appalled by the sheer volume of garbage we were tossing into our trash can several times a day — made even more embarrassing by the fact we were tossing said garbage into the can directly next to the recycling bin we proudly frequent, the one right behind our hybrid car. We educated ourselves and I spent lots of time over at educated; I spent lots of time on Kim’s website, Dirty Diaper Laundry.
I was shocked at how different cloth diapers are from how I’d imagined (in other words, they didn’t necessarily involve giant safety pins and a backbreaking laundry routine). We became sentimental; how could we possibly have been prepared for just how much we could love this new little person, for just how fervently we would want to give him the very best we could?
And so I explained to my brother that Oskar looked like a Who that night — and in fact always looked like a Who — because he wore cloth diapers. I waited for the standard response.
“Poop? In your washing machine?” He raised an eyebrow.
And, as I always do, I resisted the urge to reply, “Chemicals? Against your baby’s skin?” or “Trash the planet your baby will inherit?”
Instead, I simply smiled and said, “You bet.”
By Patti W-C.
Dr. Seuss photo courtesy of PBS