…these damp patches are becoming rather familiar, comforting – a warm message spreading intimately from my baby to my thigh.
I’m putting it all down to ‘rite of passage’. These are the soggy spoils of my campaign to master a lost language, a once nameless intuitive practice that has been researched, endorsed, rebranded: ‘Elimination Communication’.
The method is simple: Omit Nappy. The practice is subtle, visceral, beyond method, beyond me at times. The nakedness, the free flow of bodily fluid, can feel unfeasibly complicated, riven with practical challenge. It’s a sublime poetic vernacular and while my baby is fluent, I am humbly inarticulate, lost with only my unintelligible, useless words, hopelessly insensible in my civilised clothes. So I’m surrendering my skin in order to (re)learn…
I’m constantly sodden, and I rotate my damp trousers (not to mention the milk soaked tops…) or just go without… The ‘baby bottom’, on the other hand, must remain dry. We observe facial expressions, bodily contortions intently. We acquaint ourselves with the post-feed, post-waking eliminations, learn to anticipate them with a mixture of lingering trepidation and growing confidence. We grab the nearest suitable receptacle and gingerly hold the tiny peach of a bottom aloft to the coo of an encouraging, still rather self-conscious ‘cue’ – ‘psssspsssspssss’, ‘poopoopooooo’. In between times, flannel prefolds hover under said bottom ready to catch the misses, and proliferate in various states throughout our home: folded, dry and ready, whisked off hastily and tossed into soggy piles ready for washing, pegged up like blank prayer flags on the line, each ready to receive a new missive. An unfeasible number fleetingly address/bless the little bottom each day. I am assured this will lessen as we progress.
Why? I breastfeed on demand but this is only part of the picture. My baby’s fundamental needs are basic and few but so interrelated, so central to her experience of the world, and so crucial to my understanding of her, to our growing rapport/relationship and her sense of security. To dismiss certain needs, wrap them up and save them for later, is surely to miss out on one end (pardon the pun) of the communication …not to mention being a practice whose claim to convenience/hygiene is tenuous. Quite apart from the obvious ecological argument, I would be thrilled to be free of soiled nappies and the ubiquitous nappy bag with all its trappings. However, there is no instant nirvana. Unlike potty-training, which lasts only weeks, this is an evolving two-way communication that can last well over a year – it has to be undertaken in the spirit of process and communication rather than practical result. It need not be practised full-time though, and for many this is a ‘way in’ – the benefits are many, can be experienced at any level and it is possible to begin at any age.
So here we are at day 10. Not a single missed ‘proper’ poo today and some elated moments over the sink… but some very soggy trousers. I feel connected, alert to my little one, but our lines of communication inevitably suffer interference: toddler, telephone, tiredness… and I’m not always quite in time. My conviction often falters but she, knowing, patient, frustrated, waits confidently. I strive to meet her patience with my perseverance.
It works while we’re semi-clad and on our own at home – the floors are wooden, skin wipeable… but how on earth do we explain our bare-bottomed baby to cuddle-hungry visitors? And what will we do when we need to wear clothes to venture forth?