The last words I heard my daughter utter, slur, really, before she was diagnosed with the brain tumor that would eventually take her life were, “Change your diaper, change your life.” I remember it like it was yesterday, but it was almost seven years ago now.
Donna had been not herself for a couple of weeks and we had been admitted to Children’s Memorial the night before to expedite an MRI scan which would give us answers to the questions we had. I woke up with her early and bent over the hospital crib to change her diaper. As we had done thousands of times before, I set Donna down and got to work. Our ritual, since shortly after birth, was to share the words, “Change your diaper, change your life.”
It was a clever little mantra that came to me early in Donna’s infancy and struck me as so simple, so true. As she had countless times before, Donna repeated the mantra to me, except her words were slurred. She crashed moments later, we were rushed into the CT room within minutes, and our lives changed forever when we learned of her cancer.
Donna lived for another thirty-one months, and all of that time was spent in diapers. Despite being four, Donna never outgrew her diapers. She would always say, whenever we flirted with toilet training, “I am too young to use a toilet.” It was hard to argue or force, as so very many things in Donna’s life were out of her control. So we didn’t, and she remained in diapers.
I remember just how proud she would be when she grew into a new size. At her death, that number was 5. That’s hard to imagine as our baby, now just four months old, is bursting out of his size 3 diapers.
Now, when I change a diaper, I say the same words, sometimes silently, sometimes out loud. I never fail to think of Donna when I do, and I never fail to recognize just how profound the words are. Think about it. There is your baby or toddler sitting or standing or sleeping in wet or soiled diapers. And then mom or dad or nanny or grandparent comes along and changes that wet, heavy, poopy diaper. Blessed relief!
Something so simple completely changes that baby’s life. I mean it. Your baby’s life is vastly improved with the act of cleaning and drying and creaming and powdering and swaddling their little bottom in a new diaper. Wow. Don’t ever discount the act again. It’s transformative. That is some powerful parenting shit, pun absolutely intended.
I think about this sometimes when the sheer volume of diaper changes gets to me. I think about it in those moments when I am counting pennies and realize just how much a diaper costs (just under a quarter a pop, or .24 cents for the accountants in the house; and, for the love of all that is good and holy in this world, don’t anyone tell me I should not use disposable diapers). I think about it when I realize how profoundly lucky my husband and I are to have adopted our newest little one, and to have the opportunity to love and nurture and care and provide and support another child.
Full disclosure, diaper changing has never bothered me. I know many of my friends say with relief, “Whew, I am SO GLAD to be done with diapers,” but for me, it’s never been a thing. It’s a brief couple of minutes in your child’s day where there is lots of sweet eye contact, playful exchanges between you and baby, and there is a clear beginning, middle, and end. Mission accomplished, you know?
Change your diaper, change your life. Yes, mam, it’s true! I will happily and gratefully and playfully change those diapers and know, really know, how very lucky I am that my simple act of parenting is profoundly changing my baby’s life, if only for a moment.
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