No. 33 – Changing a Cloth Diaper in the Middle of the Night (A Monologue)

AUTHOR’S NOTE – This was originally written as an edition of a weekly family newsletter I wrote called The Skull Report.  I was really into skulls for like, a long time.  Now everyone is putting skulls on everything all the time, so I’ve had to move on.  Anyway, what follows was one of the more popular ones.  And it involves diapers.  So I’ve included it.  It’s from a time when we had just the one baby.

Just one.

We were such wimps at that point.

Picture blissful sleep…

Then picture screaming and crying, followed by burning bright lights, a cold journey into the next room. There you will find a changing table. It is 3:04 AM. Chances are, this is not your first visit to the changing table this night, nor will it be your last!

You undo the baby clothes only to find that your wife has double-bagged your offspring. You undo a second layer of clothing. There it is…the diaper. You open the diaper, knowing what your eyes are about to see will be both mesmerizing and horrifying. It is never the same, it is a new journey every time: Color, consistency, quantity, it always changes.

You try not to breathe.

With your left hand you hold onto the baby’s little feet. Any failure to do so will ultimately result in a pink-sock version of Riverdance in the dirtiest part of the diaper. With your right hand you attempt to position the dirty diaper. Too close to the baby and you will only be spreading the mess. Too far will fail to catch the inevitable ‘second wave’ that is usually induced through the exposure to cold air.

Having forgotten to get a fresh diaper before opening up the dirty one, you struggle to pull one out without the whole stack coming with it. The baby sees its chance and goes for a suicide roll off the table! But your iron grip on its feet foils its plan.

Having acquired a new, fresh diaper, you now move to clean the baby’s bottom. Front to back you chant as your midnight mantra. Despite all attempts to avoid it, you manage to drag the loose end of the wipey through the dirty swamp of poop that festers inches from your hand. This manages to transport small ‘deposits’ to your hand and wrist, and to the baby’s legs and clothes, without your knowledge.

It is not until you believe yourself to be done with this particular part of duty that you find these ‘deposits.’ A second wipey is employed.

Finally, the bottom is clean. A moment of calculated decision making is at hand. On the one hand, removing the dirty diaper and replacing it with a clean one will protect the investment that you have made. On the other hand, placing a clean diaper in harm’s way before the job is completely finished, and the cold air is removed, has sometimes proven unwise.

After a moment’s deliberation you choose to protect your investment and risk the fresh diaper. You make the switch as quickly as possible, seeking to avoid the ultimate disaster. No explanation needed.

After the switch, you work quickly, keeping one eye on the face of the baby. Any twitch, any grimace brings out a scrambled attempt to switch the diapers back. After a few false alarms, you grow complacent. You are content to powder the baby’s backside with leisure. You fail to notice that special gleam in the baby’s eye. They know they have you right where they want you. They have won.

“NO!” you scream, but not so loud as to let the wife hear you. Another diaper soiled. A powdering job ruined. You set aside your emotions and work quickly. Another wipe job, another powdering, a third diaper, you work like lightning. You know that some night, eventually, probably, a fourth diaper will be called upon. But not tonight, not on your watch!

You finish like an Olympian, setting some obscure record. You make the cold dash back into the bedroom, and return the baby to its resting place. You drop back into bed, exhausted. The time is now 3:45 AM. Sleep comes easily…

Blissful sleep…

Picture screaming…bright lights…

The time is 4:55 AM.



In that troubled moment, I vaguely remembered the exchange of cash with a bearded man who spoke some form of German, little bottles were received in exchange for said cash.