In the carefree days before little Mikey actually arrived, when I tried to conjure up a mental picture of the toil and struggle of parenting, it would always be diapers. I would see the America's Funniest Video's clip of the hapless dad, clad futilely in a goofy bandanna, trying to change a dirty diaper. He is overcome by the abject nastiness of the dirty diaper and succumbs to pitiful uncontrollable gagging. In my mind, dirty diapers were the worst that parenting had to offer. Boy was I wrong. But, let me give them their due. Diapers do suck in their own special way.
It all starts with the very first diaper. For me the first diaper came mere minutes after the absolutely mind blowing experience of watching the birth of my son. Suddenly I was a fish in an aquarium in the newborn nursery at the hospital. A crowd of family and friends were on the other side of the glass, bristling with cameras and holding little mylar balloons tied to teddy bears. I was on stage, so every motion and gesture became cinematic and awkward. Was I looking doting enough? Should I sigh? My little Mikey, hot off the presses and still covered in Poltergeist goo, lay before me under the warmers wearing naught but his ill-fitting Huggies diaper.
My spiritual guide was the wizened hospital nurse. When the time came, she said, "Are you ready for your first diaper?" Here it was. I was going to reap what I had sown. I undid the little psuedo-velcro tabs and grimaced in anticipation of the horrors that I would behold. I won't explicitly describe what I saw, as I believe that parents talk too much about poop as it is, but it wasn't pretty. We wiped and scrubbed and fought against the vile ichor until all was ready for a clean diaper. The nurse handed me a neatly folder clean diaper and simply stared.
I could feel the eyes from the other side of the glass watching expectantly. I could also feel the panic building inside. What the velcro do I do with this thing? Which freaking side is the front? Which is the back? How does it buckle? Where are the buckles? I knew I would fail at parenting. I should have just had cats. They use a litter box.
The nurse finally stepped in and showed me that the tabs always go at the back. For any of you single guys or expectant dads out there: there might come a day when you are changing your first diaper. Just remember, the tabs go at the back, under the baby. When your moment comes, take this knowledge and diaper that baby like a hero.
Since that day, I have changed hundreds, if not thousands of diapers. The vast majority are the extremely harmless wet diapers. These are identified by checking the feel of the diaper. Modern diapers feature dryness technology, so they turn jelly-like when they are wet. The only problem this variety of diaper causes is the horrific clogging of landfills.
The parent's real enemy is the euphemistically-named "dirty diaper." Oh, these diapers are dirty in the same degree that Niagara Falls is "wet." We parents have many words and phrases for this ever-present threat: swamp butt, dropped a deuce, got a problem, might have something going on in the diaper region, ridin' dirty, Oh gross, or here, honey, you take him.
In the early days, the diapers are more an oddity, a carnival of strange colors and textures. These lull you into a false sense of security. I began to wonder just what that guy in the video clip was making all the fuss about. Then came solid food. Do you have any idea what happens after a baby eats a pound of edamame? Pray that you never find out.
The funny thing is that diapers really are not that bad. The thing that I dreaded turned out to be one of the easiest things about parenting. Sure, they are a ridiculous money sink and the occasional source of pure disgust and fear, but most diapers are harmless (until it is time to clean out the diaper genie, that is).
The real enemies turned out to be subtle things: sleep deprivation, rhinoviruses, head bonks on the floor, and baby shoes that are hard to put on. Those are a tale for another posting.