Cabbage Patch Kids and the environment

As a baby shower present, my mom got us two months of Soggy Bottoms Diaper service.

Soggy Bottoms is a locally run cloth diaper service for ecologically minded and lazy. Or for folks like us: the ecologically minded and small-apartment-bound.

When Marta and I first started talking about diapers, I was bent on using cloth ones. She was bent on not having a smelly house. This was during the first trimester, when just about any smell made Marta turn green. It was probably not the best time for me to try to win the argument.

Then we discovered Soggy Bottoms. One of about two cloth diaper services that have “expanded” to the Iowa City area, Soggy Bottoms has a picture of a smiling baby on its web page and reasonable prices (about $19 a week) along with some stats about disposable diapers to help you feel magnanimous when spending said $19 a week: “20 billion disposable diapers end up in a landfill every year” the site informs us, adding that “it takes 250-500 years to decompose.”

A while back I actually once spent a great deal of time researching trash and landfills (for an essay I was writing) and discovered that diapers, while indeed scary, are not the biggest problem at landfills. Paper is. Paper makes up the bulk of trash in landfills. But diapers are no innocent bystander in our slow creep toward waste overload. And so, Thank God for Soggy Bottoms Diaper Service.

On Wednesday, we had scheduled our initial delivery and set-up. I’d been corresponding with a woman named Wendy about this and, because I never fully read my emails, I had assumed she’d be the one showing up with our starter kid. Instead it was her husband, a tall lanky man named Trent who kinda reminded me of someone you’d meet at a Nascar race. Granted I’ve never been to a Nascar race.

He came in carrying a basket the size of a kitchen trashcan, a industrial looking bag filled with something (I assumed diapers) and a generic Cabbage Patch Kid doll.

“Since we don’t yet have a baby in the house, I brought her along,” he said, holding up the doll, who was, of course, wearing a cloth diaper.

Then in a surprisingly routine way, he showed us what he’d brought: diaper pail with deodorizer, zip-able diaper bag, and a shit ton of diapers, pun intended. There were 80 or so newborn cloth diapers and a handful of premies, just in case. Trent pulled out the premies just so we could see how small they were. I thought of my sister and Linnea, of course.

Then he whipped out a newborn diaper and flopped the generic Cabbage Patch kid on his knee along with a diaper wrap.

These days, only the most nostalgic use diaper pins. Diaper wraps, which you can rent from a service like Soggy Bottoms or buy at any big box store, make putting a cloth diaper on a baby much easier. As Trent soon showed us.

“After about 80 of these you’ll not even think twice about how to do it,” he said, lifting a Cabbage Patch bottom to wrap the diaper around and then tuck it inside the wrap. “Give me a disposable and I’m lost. Cause all I’ve done are these.”

Trent said he and his wife Wendy found out about disposable diaper services when they were living in Madison and had their first child. When they moved back to the Iowa City area, they decided to start up their own service. They have an industrial sized washer and dryer in their house. Every Wednesday, Trent drives from Muscatine, where they live, to Iowa City, Davenport and a few other towns, picking up bags of soiled diapers from people’s porches. He then leaves a fresh bag and cloth diaper supply for them to use in the coming week. Simple as pie.

“Any questions,” he asked.

“So, when the baby is born…” I hesitated. “We should give you a call?”

“We expect to be the very first call you make,” he deadpaned. I was shocked in that brief second before I realized he was kidding.

“No, give us a call whenever,” he smiled. “I’m sure you’re gonna be pretty busy those first couple weeks.”

And then he swaggered off, Cabbage Patch model in hand. We placed our new Soggy Bottoms Diaper Pail in the corner next to the dresser, right beside the bassinet and waited for our doula to show up. She was meeting with us one last time before the birth and brought along her own doll, which she used to demonstrate the route the baby would take when descending from the womb.

I was fascinated. Marta flinched and squirmed.

That’s the funny thing about these last couple weeks. I’m getting so excited I sing strange songs to Nico/Marta’s belly and want to hug people like Trent and our Doula Amanda all the time. Just because they’re happy for us, too.

Marta, meanwhile, is slightly more muted. Mostly because she’s scared out of her mind. She is not a woman who likes pain. And yet she’s also the kind of woman who goes searching for descriptions of childbirth online and reads how people have described it as your body being ripped in two.

When Trent was leaving yesterday he said to us:

“My favorite part was the actual birth. Everyone’s so excited and happy. They’re running around and there is so much going on and it’s just so exciting.”

After I closed the door after him I turned to Marta.

“I bet his wife didn’t feel the same way.”

Being the partner of a pregnant woman has it’s disadvantages. You never have the same intimacy with the child. Doctors and nurses look through you during check-up visits. Your partner develops all sorts of strange smell phobias and cries at the drop of a hat. But there are advantages too: namely, lots of excitement with none of the fear.

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