Anthropologist Underground

Anthropologist Underground
October 13
I'm Terrie Torgersen Peterson. I hold a BA in Anthropology from the University of Wyoming. I've done archeological field work at Haluzta in Israel, San Juan River cliff dwellings in the American Southwest, and in the Big Horn Canyon in Wyoming. I'm currently a writer and stay-home mom to two gorgeous, laughing children. I enjoy exploring the intersection of science and culture and my own life as ethnography. I also write for and You can email me: anthropologistunderground [at] gmail [dot] com.


JANUARY 18, 2010 10:04PM

A Woman of the Cloth (or not...) II

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images moontomars/ado.jpg
After returning home from a really fun MLK holiday doing really fun things outside with me, his sister, and friends, my gorgeous son, built like a Massai warrior, was desperate for my attention.  I was neglecting him to prepare dinner (which he predictably declined to eat).  He surprisingly declined my invitation to help make dinner--a task he is usually very enthusiastic about.  
In a prepared environment filled with engaging puzzles, blocks, art supplies, and Legos, his only recourse was to mess around with the (expensive) vacuum cleaner, which he accidentally broke. I could see that it would be easier to fix when I was not elbow deep in sharp knives and vegetables, so I set the repair project aside and resumed dinner preparations.  
My trophy husband often works well past dinner time, so my efficient attention is in high demand with dinner, baths and bedtime routines. I can occasionally feel a bit frantic as the clock ticks toward "past bed-time" and the Little Anthropologists begin to go loudly insane. 

Less than five minutes after the vacuum cleaner was rendered unusable, my beautiful daughter, whose name harkens to the origin of our species, said: 

"Mama! Mama? Booopeee." 

Me: "Are you poopy?"

She: "Yeah."

Me: "Okay, let me finish chopping this piece of chicken, and we'll go change your diaper."

You may recall that I am currently engaged in a cloth diapering experiment. Throughout the ages, parents have successfully used cloth diapers.  Unfortunately I seem to have a fairly steep learning curve regarding the basic logistics of a cloth system. I'm college-educated.  I should be able to figure it out... eventually. 

I am using the gDiapers system with the reusable cloth insert and a flushable overlay for solids. The system works amazingly well for wet diapers.  My only complaint is that the cloth is so absorbent that it takes forever to dry after a wash. Until today, I had happily avoided the combination of excrement and cloth diaper. On this day I had neglected to include the flushable overlay.  Sensing my uncertainty, the toddler with the ancient name started kicking and trying to scoot her soiled tushie across her down comforter. 

After I got her cleaned up and into a fresh g, I was left with an open dirty cloth diaper and a handful of soiled disposable (not flushable) wipes. I was at a loss about what to do next, so I gathered up everything and headed to the bathroom.  When I unfolded the diaper in the bathroom, I realized that I should have removed the cloth insert to avoid getting excrement all over the outer pant.  Without the flushable overlay, I wasn't sure how to get the semi-soft excrement into the toilet.  Too soft to scrape off easily, too solid to just leave for the wash.  I grabbed one of the overlays to use to scoop and scrape. 

The overlays are designed to allow liquids to pass through into the cloth insert and retain solids at the surface for easy removal.  It's a bit like cheesecloth.  I tried not to retch as I felt warm, sticky baby poop cover my fingers. It occurred to me that toilet paper would have been a better option.   

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diapers, parenting, culture

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A.U.- I could not do this! Honorable and valiant of you.
Linda, Thanks for the comment!

I think my own fumbling makes it sound worse than it is. Hopefully I will reach a level of competency that makes it reasonable to do part-time/at my own home. Without getting feces all over my hands!

Other mothers appear able to casually cloth diaper their children on multi-day wilderness expeditions, so it can't be all that hard, can it??

I'm starting to suspect that this is one of those parenting choices where proponents wildly overstate the benefits/ease of use and wildly understate (or don't admit to) the challenges.
You are a good environmentalist! I honor your bravery. :)
holicrap, literally, I can empathize with the baby dung. Wow. I looked into the diapering services when my eldest was a newborn, but I live way too far in Northern WI to be covered. So with my baby now, I didn't consider it. But the type you have discussed here seems to be a 'do-it-yourself' model. I'll have to look into that! Thanks for helping save the environment for our wee ones:)

very funny writing...
Thanks for the comments Sparking and Y Heron!

I'm not totally convinced that the water usage in a desert climate is significantly more environmentally responsible, but we do the best we can...