Back in 2009, one of my cousins in the states cloth diapered her oldest child and immediately I was astounded. I didn’t even think about cloth diapers as being a possibility. As someone who always had a desire to be earth-conscious, I promised myself that when I started to have children I would remember to think about cloth diapers and ten years later I did.
However, as I perused the Facebook groups and marketplaces, watched Youtube videos and read websites, something was missing. What it was, I later discovered, is that the lack of people who look like me. I have nothing against middle-class white moms, but they come from a land of privilege that I do not and that makes a huge difference in perspective. So when I inserted myself into a community that was primarily filled with them, it started to feel lonely and impractical because…there were all these…rules? For example, you HAD to use a certain detergent and you HAD to wash it a certain way and you HAD to buy only from certain brands.
It seemed so out of touch.
Let tell you something, dear reader: about 30% of the people who call Guam home live below the poverty line. Many people are on some type of financial assistance. Cost of living is extremely high here and earning a living wage is difficult. Indigenous people are homeless in their own native land. All before the pandemic.
So what happens when the pandemic hit that shut down the entire island and created an entire community without employment? Diapers were sold out everywhere. People were not even able to afford diapers even if they were in stock. People kept diapers on babies for a longer time because they didn’t know when they’d be able to afford any again.
In the midst, some people started realize that cloth diapers were a thing and started researching cloth diapers. Good news, right? But here’s the thing: the most popular online cloth diaper resources make it hard.
Even if that’s not the intention, there is gatekeeping.
Let’s say I’m a woman who is looking into cloth diapers because she really has to stretch her money. And I find your facebook group that shames me for buying Alva diapers, because US-based cloth diaper donation organizations for “better brands” don’t reach Guam. For not buying the correct detergent or testing my water because I can’t afford it. For not being able to tell you my washer model to make an “approved routine” because I can’t afford my own washing machine and visit my cousin’s place whenever I need to do laundry. How accessible do you think it makes cloth diapering?
It doesn’t. So that 30% of people who need diapers the most? Can’t afford it by the standards that the cloth community has been creating.
I chose cloth diapers because an artist’s life is not financially stable and I wanted to know for sure that I could afford diapers. It was about waste not going to the landfill but it was more importantly, a practice that I myself could sustain.
It’s not fair that even though I ended up being able to read between the lines and find spaces that uncomplicated cloth diapering…that the community is still over-saturated with these “rules”.
It so hard to convince people that cloth is an option because then it makes cloth diapers look like a luxury, expensive and almost like it’s supposed to be a collector’s item...when it’s not. They’re diapers. For poop.
So I started to write. I started to post on Instagram, hopefully to educate my fellow Guåhan-based friends that cloth diapering is attainable. That it can be easy, that it can be inexpensive. That there aren’t really hard and fast rules to keep your diapers clean.
I’m doing this so that I can make cloth seem possible for people who look like me, who see the world the way I do, who have the same cultural values and practices that I do. Because it matters. Because seeing people do something successfully, who look like you and live where you do matters.
So the answer to the question “Is cloth diapering on Guam hard?” is no. It’s not because I do it and have been doing it for nearly two years. But a lot of popular cloth diaper mom Facebook groups are making it seem like it is.
That’s why I love Nerdy Mommas and the community that Anna has created. She really helps to turn around this mentality that there is a “right way” to cloth diaper. And I’m so grateful for her giving me a space to write and tell you how important that is. And to share the stories of what it’s like to cloth diaper in a U.S. Territory on the other side of the globe.
And if you’ll stick around longer, I’ve got a little bit more to say and the next one is a more in depth look at the diaper need here on Guam in 2021.
ALSO: I’d like to acknowledge that while I was born and raised in Guåhan (Guam), I am Filipino. I do not claim to be Chamoru (the Indigenous people of Guam) nor do I claim to speak for them.
Ruzelle is a long-time Guild Member of Nerdy Mommas. You can learn more about her cloth diapering journey by following her on Instagram @Zellez671 and by checking out her other resources in her linktree: https://linktr.ee/mizzalmonds