Until my oldest son was born I’d only changed a baby diaper once. And that was a complete disaster.
One Sunday night at church there weren’t any adults willing to volunteer to work in the nursery. So a friend and I from youth group were put on babysitting duty and left in charge of a couple toddlers.
We took the gig because it meant we didn’t have to sit in the sanctuary for an hour listening to people request prayer for their second cousin’s wife’s bout with conjunctivitis. And we could spend the time chatting with each other about important things like who was holding hands with whom on the hay ride at last night’s youth outing.
We were just starting to discuss what exactly Sarah and Tom were doing when they disappeared for three hours during the last lock-in when, “Yuck! What IS that smell? Is that you?” my friend asked.
“What? Of course not! Is it you?”
My friend didn’t have anymore experience with soiled diapers than I did. It took a few minutes of reticent sniffing to determine which child the stench was coming from. We finally devised the offending culprit, then looked at each other.
“You do it.”
“No, you do it.”
“Fine, we’ll both do it. Put her up on the changing table.”
We were lucky that the child was compliant. She laid perfectly still and never cried once. Though there’s a good chance she’s still experiencing some sort of subconscious PTSD from the ordeal.
Somehow we managed to get the little bloomers off and the diaper open.
“Ugh!” we both said as we looked away and buried our noses in our arms.
In retrospect, it was quite mild as far as stinky, dirty diapers go. Maybe a 2 on a scale of 1 – 10.
I had a vague recollection of once seeing a mom place the clean diaper under the dirty one before taking it off, so I quickly slide one under the child. My friend had also observed the ritual a few times, and she lifted the child’s bottom off the dirty diaper by raising up her legs. As fast as I could I grabbed the dirty diaper and —
“What do I do with this thing now?” I said holding it with two fingers out away from my body as far a possible.
“I think it goes in there,” my friend said pointing at the Diaper Genie.
I fiddled with the Genie for a few minutes. “How does this work?” It seemed awfully complicated for a piece of equipment meant for disposing of dirty diapers. I worked up a sweat trying to figure out how to operate it. Eventually I just stuffed the diaper in the top and left it.
“Well, put the diaper on her.”
“There’s poop on her butt. Don’t we have to wipe it off?”
“Um, I guess.” I grabbed a baby wipe, mustered all my courage, and gingerly dabbed at the spot on her bottom. I was terrified of getting feces on my fingers. “It’s not coming off. You try.”
“Well, let’s just put the diaper back on. Church is almost over. Her mom can take care of it when they get home. How bad can it be?”
Between the two of us we figured out how to fasten the tapes (circa 1995 diapers didn’t have those nice Velcro fasteners) and get her bloomers back on.
“Oh, my word.” I was exhausted from the trial of diaper changing. “I have to wash my hands,” I said as I shivered at the memory of the contents of the diaper.
That night in the church nursery was so traumatic for me that I never changed a diaper again until my oldest son was born. I was a little more mature by then. Thank goodness. I had the diaper changing down in no time. These days I could change a diaper in the dark with one arm ( and I have). Poop, vomit and any other disgusting substance produced by the human body, well, it all washes off with soap and water.
But when I think back to how inexperienced I was when I first became a mom I wonder how did my children survive? How are my children still surviving? Sure I can change a diaper like a pro now, but I have no idea how to deal with a moody eight-year old.
Motherhood — parenthood — is the most important job you’ll find the requires no pre-qualification, no training, no licensing and comes with no instruction manual. Somehow we all muddle through doing the best we can, and these kids turn out OK anyway.
The only conclusion I can draw is that love trumps always getting it right, because I know I don’t always get it right.
I did however always wipe all the poop of their butts.
Little Girl in the Nursery, I don’t remember your name anymore, but I apologize and sincerely hope you did’t go home with diaper rash.