The first diaper I ever changed was of a 2 and a half year old little girl who was taking antibiotics for an ear infection. I was 16. I puked while changing it.
And then I didn’t touch a diaper for literally years. Not out of fear or disgust, but mostly because I didn’t have the occasion to. When you announce “the last diaper I changed made me vomit,” most people will just quickly take the baby from you and go do it themselves.
So naturally, this belief that all diapers would make me throw up weighed heavily on my mind while pregnant with Rose.
But then, a few hours after she was born (and after our family and nurses had left the hospital room and Tommy and I were all alone with our little girl), Rose needed a diaper change. She was crying for no apparent reason: she’d been fed, she was clothed, we were holding her…But, she was sitting in her own filth, so of course she’d be crying.
We laid her onto the little changing table/bassinet, that clear little box on wheels that looks so uncomfortable, yet at the same time seems to be the safest place for this new little creature, grabbed the hospital issued Huggies and wipes, and did for the first time what now happens nearly a dozen times a day.
Her legs were so little and thin, like tiny popsicle sticks that look like they’d snap in half if we weren’t careful. She cried the whole time (I would’ve too) and Tommy rubbed her head and whispered in her ear, trying to calm her down as I lifted her legs and turned her every which way to make sure she was clean.
8 minutes. It took 8 minutes to change that first diaper. And I’m sure it felt like sheer torture to that tiny, little, almost 7 pounds baby who had been nice and comfortable in my belly just hours before.
But she needed a clean diaper, and sure enough, when we picked her up and held her close, the crying stopped and the peaceful, newborn calm returned. She snuggled into my chest and fell asleep, and I held her for the next couple hours just marveling at everything about her: the tiny fingers and (surprisingly long) fingernails, her perfectly curved ears that looked just like mine – with dangly earlobes and a slight tilt out from the head, the button nose that could’ve been taken off a baby-doll, her giant feet on the end of her long legs…She was perfect, and mine, and with a clean diaper, really quite happy.
In the 8 minutes to change that diaper, both she and I were in a state of panic: me, for fear I was doing it wrong and her, for being manhandled while a cold wipe was rubbed all over her little behind. But in the 8 minutes of cleaning her up, as efficiently as a I could and hoping I was doing it right, I didn’t gag once. In fact, the desire to puke didn’t overtake me at all. In fact, I’m pretty sure I didn’t even smell anything. I just wanted to hurry up and get her clean, because I knew that’s what she needed to be happy. I knew sitting in her own filth was causing her distress and discomfort, and as her mom, the only thing that mattered in that moment was ensuring she was no longer dirty.
She may have been crying and my heart may have been breaking, but that diaper needed to be changed. She may have hated it and I may have been upset to be causing more distress, but it had to be done: and in the end, she (and I) were both happier for it.
This seems to be a lot of parenting: we know what needs to be done, and so we do it. We let them fuss in the crib for a few minutes, because we know they need to sleep. We make them wait just a few minutes while the bottle warms up, because we know a warm bottle is better than a cold one. We change the diaper, as quickly as we can, because we know sitting in their own poop is far worse than a few minutes on your back on a changing table.
We do for them what they cannot do for themselves – what they don’t even realize they need, and perhaps even protest in the process. We give and sacrifice and provide, to a tiny human that only consumes and takes and receives.
The same happens for us: the Lord gives, abundantly and without end, and half the time we may not even realize it’s what we need, or we resist thinking it’s certainly not what we want. We whine and cry in prayer, making demands upon God thinking we have the best idea ever, and then eventually recognize and accept His will above our own, resting in His goodness. We sometimes begrudge Mass, thinking we know what will spiritually feed us, only to realize the Source and Summit, the Eucharist, is the only thing that can ever satisfy our hungry souls. We go kicking and screaming into the confessional after we’ve sat in our own sinful filth for who knows how long, our souls are cleaned up, and we emerge, at rest and happy, ready to lean upon the heart of God once again.
It’s taken changing my daughter’s diaper, hundreds of times in the past five months, to recognize, more and more each day, just how dependent and needy I am, and how good, gracious, and perfectly loving the Lord is.
The baby’s starting to wake up from her nap now, no doubt with a dirty diaper…duty calls.
(Ha…duty…had to make at least one poop joke in a blog about diapers)