Once upon a time, Mike and Bridgett had the worst summer of their entire marriage. It involved the following:
a) no money: Bridgett wasn't teaching anymore and it had been a year since her paycheck.
b) no money: Mike was a consultant in an economic downturn (Fall 2001-Summer 2002)
c) lead paint: Sophia tested high enough on the blood lead levels to get the city to come out to our house and put up "toxic lead hazard" tape around our house and paint the whole dang thing with creepy rubberized sealant paint of some kind
d) lead paint: until the city came out (a true catch-22 I can tell you about some other time), we didn't know where the lead was and so in a panic repainted all the painted surfaces in our house
No money plus lead paint costs (the city job was free but the inside work we did ourselves--in the end, all was well, Sophia's lead levels plummeted almost immediately, and life. went. on. But at the moment...) meant we were broke. For really the first time--I mean, our first year of marriage, I taught in the city schools and made lots of money (the most I will probably ever make, actually), plus our rent was only $295/month. Things like that. Suddenly we had a toxic house and a baby with an uncertain future and an overwhelming sense of doom.
We made several small important changes that summer to our budget. We ate less meat. Mike took his lunch to work. I started doing his shirts at home. Little things, but they added up. I can't even remember all the little things we did because so many of them became ingrained in who we are now...frugality became important and we kept it up.
One of the things we changed was diapers. We'd always just used disposables and didn't think about it. And I will admit that if we'd laid out for a whole new set of cloth diapers that summer, it would not have been cost effective (she potty trained at 25 months). But my friend Cathy had this box of cloth diapers and covers. And then another la leche friend passed along some others. If I washed diapers every 5 days, I realized, it was feasible. Water is a flat rate in the city, so I'd only be paying to heat the water...and I was always a line-dry kind of girl. With Cathy's advice taken to heart, I took the plunge.
It was easy.
I made some of my own, out of flannel sheets I bought at Value Village. Being a long time fiber art person, I had the scary detergent that sucked all the fabric softener out of fabric (it's called Synthrapol and its warning label is literally bigger than the bottle itself). It roughs up fabric and makes it absorbent. So I would then cut the sheet into rectangles and sew them 8-ply. Stick two of them inside a polyurethane lined cover and voila. I also used the heck out of the hand-me-downs. And, like I said, Sophia potty trained early (for these days) and the diapers got packed away.
I pulled them out for Maeve. By then, we weren't in the financial position we'd been in with Sophia, but there was no reason not to use what we had. By then, we had a front-loading washing machine with a "sanitary" cycle designed for diapers (because, ahem, a year of breastfeeding saves you approximately the cost of a large household appliance that would otherwise be spent on formula). Baby Maeve was easy--in so many ways--and the first 9 months or so, we used exclusively cloth diapers. As she got closer to a year, we would occasionally sneak in disposables, especially when we traveled. By age two, I'd just about given up. Not entirely--see here for a horrible story about my diaper pail--but I got lazy. Maeve took forever to potty train and I was tired.
But here comes new baby. We unpacked baby clothes today and filtered out the over-the-top girly stuff. And Mike brought down the big rubbermaid container of diapers. I opened it and just stared. Sighed. And began to separate stuff into three piles: to use immediately, to use as he gets big enough to need them, and to toss in a far away trash can right now. I mean, really. Some of the diapers had been through two of Cathy's kids, Sophia, and Maeve. They were pathetic little rags. I feel bad enough about the "oh, I'm having a baby? Really?" attitude about number 3. I think maybe I can spring for a few new diapers.
I do prefer cloth to disposables, especially the first 6 months (exclusively breastfed babies, you don't even rinse them out). I have some very cute 0-3 month fleece all-in-ones (Mike's favorite--you take it off and toss the whole thing in the pail). Some small Bummis in really good shape (there's a reason people call them Bummi "Industrials"). The washcloths are usable. But the 8-ply flannel sheets with blueberry stains (Maeve)? I just can't. I can go buy another flannel sheet at Value Village and make all new ones. Or I can go down to that adorable store in South County and purchase a few new diapers.
So I tossed out over half of what I'd saved post-Maeve. I have a lot of my grandmother in me (oy, my basement), but not enough to rehabilitate these diapers. There has to be some advantage to being #3. I think cute new diapers will be part of that.