On a recent Friday night, a very pregnant Sheila Dos Santos and her husband were two-thirds of the way through an hour and a half cloth diapering workshop, trying to wrap their heads around the myriad diapering options available to the modern parent.But the article redeemed itself by injecting a dose of credulity.
Laid out on the large coffee table in front of them were dozens of types of diapers and covers and inserts, as well as a plastic baby doll to try them on.
"I'm so overwhelmed," said Dos Santos, looking down at the 11-page booklet she held in her hands.
The workshop was being given by Lena Hill, Lisa Hubbard and Jennifer Rodriguez, three new-ish moms who are planning to open Los Angeles' first cloth diapering store, Tush (www.tushdiapers.com), in early June.
For those moms who do plan to use cloth diapers, making the correct choice can be fraught with anxiety. Are hemp inserts a better bet than bamboo? What type of diaper cover breathes the best but will also eliminate leaks? Which ones are the most environmentally friendly? What is the most organic choice?
These decisions feel all the more important because, according to the Tush handout, a reasonable supply of newborn-size fitted diapers and covers can cost close to $700. And that just lasts for the first six months of the baby's life.
According to Sharon Hays, a professor of contemporary gender studies at USC, an hour and a half diapering workshop falls neatly into what she calls "the extraordinary pressure of intensive mothering."I would also like to add that most daycare centers require disposable diapers. Only stay at home moms or people with in-home nannies have the luxury to choose cloth diapers.
"Intensive mothering" is a term she coined in 1997 in her book "The Cultural Contradictions of Motherhood." She describes it as a "child-centered, expert guided, emotionally absorbing, labor intensive, financially expensive ideology in which mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture and development of the sacred child and in which children's needs take precedence over the individual needs of their mothers."
It's not clear that cloth diapers are the environmental choice in water-starved southern California. I fondly recall a Sierra magazine article doing the environmental impact study about "cloth or disposables". It was an environmental tossup EXCEPT in arid areas (such as LA) and places running out of landfill space.
In water-scarce areas, it was better to import disposable diapers than to import the water to wash them.
Cloth diapers using a diaper service were the better choice in a handful of densely populated cities (mainly in the northeast), where they had exhausted nearby landfill space. Diaper services have economies of scale when washing tons of poop-filled diapers. But diaper trucks spew pollution and burn gas (or diesel). They were not a good environmental choice unless there were large numbers of other diaper service users in your area.
In no case was washing diapers at home with bleach a good use of water and energy.
If you bought specialty diapers from Tush, you wouldn't be able to use a diaper service. So you'd have to wash them at home, adding a hefty dose of bleach to your sewage.
This is a really long preamble to a mother's choice that really matters, and a damn fine piece of reporting in the LA Times by Joe Mozingo, In Haiti, aftershocks of a mother's wrenching decision.
This mother had to make a decision that matters.
Marie Lud's recollection of what followed that night of the earthquake comes in fragments: Running through the smoke and dust for half a mile to the National Palace. Seeing it collapsed like a smashed wedding cake. Standing all night with her children and tens of thousands of others in the open plaza of Champs de Mars. People clutching whatever random items they escaped their homes with. Chanting hymns. Swatting mosquitoes. Thinking that Bernard [her husband], who had been downtown on business, was dead. That ghostly scream with every aftershock.Read the whole thing to find out what happens to this family. It breaks my heart.
The next morning, Marie Lud was desperate. It was as if all her points of reference had been wiped clean: no work, no school, no market, no home, no government. She didn't have food for her children, and was frantic about losing one of them in the crowd.
Just down the street all the inmates of the main prison had escaped. She had long had a fear that some thug would one day try to rape one of her daughters and Bernardo would be killed trying to protect her.
She kept the three children within arm's reach. A woman noticed them all, and introduced herself as a social worker. She told her that she knew of a local orphanage that sometimes fed, schooled and sheltered children whose parents couldn't do it themselves.
They both started crying. "Where are they taking us?" Bernardo screamed. "I don't want to go!"
Marie Lud couldn't hold back her tears. Her eyes always betrayed her emotions.
"Cherie, things are going to be OK," she told them. "It's only for a short time and I'm going to pick you up."
They got in, sniffling and wiping their eyes, and the car pulled away. They stared at her as they drove off.
Marie Lud didn't sleep or eat that night. She just kept thinking of the betrayed look on those two faces that were as much a part of her as her bones.
Bernard appeared the next day, his face swollen and caked with dried blood and dust. He had been knocked unconscious by the falling blocks of a hotel, and then had wandered through the chaos in a daze.
When Bernard didn't see Bernardo or Barbara, he immediately panicked, thinking they were dead. She told him what she had done. He didn't understand.
"Why did you do that? he asked repeatedly. He was furious. He wanted his children.
Later that afternoon, some thugs started screaming that a tsunami was coming, setting off a stampede. Some children were separated from their parents in the chaos, and the thugs stole whatever valuables were left behind: pots, toys, radios, portable televisions, picture frames, shoes, Sunday clothes.
Bernard then understood her decision.
I initially read this story in the hard copy format. But newspapers can't tell if people read ambitious stories like this. It's all very nice to collect Pulitzers, as the reporters at LAT have done in the past, but the management cares about page clicks.
Click on that link. Hit refresh several times. Send it on to friends and family. The LAT management spends a lot of time and energy analyzing page clicks. They are not going to do more meaningful stories like this unless you click on that link!
And I absolve you from enviro-guilt if you use disposable diapers in LA.