the poop, the bad & the ugly

I promised (or threatened, you decide) poop in my very first post on this site, and I am not here to disappoint. With two small children (one still in cloth diapers), two dogs, and, for the half of year I’m in Mexico anyways, a horse or two in the back yard, a significant portion of my daily life revolves around poop management. I try not to brag about it too much–I don’t need everyone getting all jealous & stuff.

For the most part, I have my systems working well. The horse manure gets composted to build up my garden soil. The dog poop gets tossed because I haven’t gotten around to building a composter (a large garbage pail with the bottom cut out & holes drilled up the sides, buried up to the rim in an unused corner of the back yard works surprisingly well). And as far as the baby goes… Well, to be totally honest, I’m really most proud of my poop management skills in this area.

I’ve been a committed user of cloth diapers for almost all of my 4 babies’ first two years of life. I’m really proud of the effort and determination to keep as many diapers as possible out of the landfill as I possibly can, because it is not a walk in the park to use cloth diapers. Like a lot of other types of ethical convictions, the commitment to avoid disposable diapers as much as is humanly possible takes hella grit & gumption, and no small amount of lifestyle adaptation. Literally, my life 95% revolves around diapering–not just washing & folding (I use primarily flat diapers for the ease of washing/drying and better fit), but also much more frequent checking and changing because unlike disposable diapers, you need to change after every pee. For most babies, that’s like 8-10 changes a day, minimum.

Which is where elimination communication comes in. You can google it if you want, but basically it’s an approach to managing infant toileting that uses a cue word or sound and frequent potty opportunities (“pottitunities,” of course) to work with an infant’s natural, instinctual impulse to not soil itself. This approach is practiced in most parts of the world where Western-style diapering is not the norm, and was likely practiced in Western cultures too, before disposable culture took over and all that knowledge was forgotten. Anyway, here we are in the 21st century trying to re-learn it all again and making it all granola-mama fancy with the name “elimination communication” when it’s really just the most basic common sense ever: don’t train your baby to sit in its own waste. If given the opportunity, babies will eliminate on cue from birth.

It’s really quite amazing, actually. I didn’t learn about this super-hippy crunchy mama thing until my 3rd baby was about 4 months old, and even with this late start she totally caught on. And with baby #4, well. I was on it from the first 24 hours–and successful enough that for the last 15 months, poopy diapers have been a relatively rare occurrence. And when you are using exclusively cloth diapers, that is a big freaking deal, because washing out a poopy diaper…. It is really not fun.

Unfortunately, there’s this thing called “potty strikes,” which often coincide with big developmental milestones, especially around mobility, but also with significant life changes. And in the last week and a half, we’ve had a pretty significant life change (moving countries), plus baby boy has just learned to walk. With all the travel and upheaval, we had about a week and a half with mainly disposables, but once we started to get settled down I transitioned back to cloth, along with the potty we had in storage up here which is quite a bit different from the one baby boy is used to. Of course, we’ve gone through an epic potty strike (refusing to sit, getting off & doing business on the floor, poopy diapers galore…). It has been exhausting. And gross. And so, so frustrating.

But tonight, finally, a breakthrough. Sitting contentedly instead of screaming and writhing to get off. The first successful #2 in the potty since before we left Mexico. Finally, some light at the end of the poopy tunnel! That is, until Lil Big Sister, in a fit of careless silliness, upended the pot and turned a success into a big messy failure…

I needed to take a long walk after that one, and reflect a bit on how it’s okay to be tired and a bit depressed because the last couple of weeks have been a lot to handle, and big changes are tough at the best of times. We’ve been so lucky to have some amazing friends help us along the journey from there to here, including one person who drove for 20+ hours return trip to help us get the dogs on the last leg of the journey, not to mention the friends who let us store our trailer on their property and put up with us for a week after we landed and got stuff sorted, and the friend who took time out of his one day off to help us get the trailer into the shop after our truck broke down on the morning of our appointment. I’ve been feeling a lot of gratitude for all of the good & giving people in our circle.

And there’s other good news, too. Despite the fact that I’ve only made it halfway to my fundraising goal, I was miraculously able to pay the remaining fees on the horse training retreat thanks to a small inheritance from my Grannie that I just found out about days before the payment deadline. I’m still kind of shocked and stunned that it all fell into place just in the nick of time when it looked like such a completely lost cause… and also just a little bit panicked about how I’m going to make it all work with two kids and two dogs in tow (plus the cost of travelling there and back…).

But right now all the impossible details need to take a bit of a back seat while I catch my breath. I have a whole new daily routine to work out, and I’m not quite there yet. Right now it’s hard to see past the poop, but I know with a bit of patience we’ll all get through this adjustment eventually and settle into an easier, more contented place and pace. Baby steps are just where we’re at right now, both literally and figuratively, so I’m slowing right down to take it all in. Thanks for sticking with me <3.

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