Just over eight years ago, I was twenty-seven years old and pregnant with my first child. My due date had come and gone and I was driven entirely by hormones and a strong desire to jumpstart labor. I was sitting in a pew at Mass, between my husband and my sisters. I should have been paying attention to the homily but I was restless and started thumbing through the church bulletin.
I saw an ad that Catholic Charities of Southern Nevada had placed, saying that they were completely out of diapers to pass out to the public. It had never occurred to me that Catholic Charities passed out diapers. I hadn’t spent a lot of time before then thinking about diapers at all. I wondered where someone would go if they didn’t have diapers for their baby. What would someone do if they didn’t have the support system that I did? Before I knew it, I was sobbing, loudly in the middle of a crowded church.
My husband and my sisters panicked. They wondered if I was in labor. Was I in pain? Was something horrible happening? I blubbered unclearly before slapping the bulletin into my sister’s hands. “They don’t have any diapers! Babies need diapers!” My husband and my sisters promised me they would donate diapers in a desperate attempt to stop my crying. Thus started my crusade.
I went to my women’s group, the OLLV Women’s Guild to ask for help and they didn’t enjoy watching a pregnant woman ugly-cry either so they agreed to help. That first year, we collected 1200 diapers and we were ecstatic.
That next Sunday, Monsignor Patrick Leary showed up to thank us for the donation. Sadly, he didn’t show up at my Mass, that’s just my luck. He told the parishioners that when our donation arrived, there were women in the waiting area, using gas-station paper towels and plastic grocery bags, as diapers on their babies, because it was the best they could do.
That may be the worst thing you have ever heard about babies without diapers but it is not the worst thing I have heard. Diaper insecurity is a very real problem that few people know exists.
Thirty-two percent of parents in the United States have admitted to re-using soiled, disposable diapers. One in three mothers can’t afford enough diapers for her children. That is 5.2 million babies without an adequate supply of clean, dry diapers.
These children often suffer from delayed physical and cognitive development. Otherwise joyous milestones like learning to walk become painful with chronic diaper rash or a urinary tract infection.
Diaper shortages negatively affect the whole family. A lack of clean diapers causes higher maternal stress and a higher risk of postpartum depression than even food insecurity. Combine that with increased infant crying from related discomfort or illness and it isn’t difficult to see why these children are more likely to become the victims of child abuse.
I have been listening to and sharing stories about diaper insecurity for eight years and the sadness knows no bounds. Luckily neither does the generosity of my community. Every year, we collect more diapers. The church, the school, the Knights of Columbus, RCIA, CCD, people from virtually every ministry participate now. Our goals are met and topped every year.
I just hosted OLLV’s 8th Annual Diaper Drive for Catholic Charities of Southern Nevada and we sent 75,000 diapers to Catholic Charities.
Every year to close-out our diaper drive, the OLLV Women’s Guild hosts a baby shower. Any excuse for a party. We eat, we drink, we play bingo and we take a picture with the spoils we’ve gathered.
When our truck pulled up this year, Catholic Charities had been without diapers for five months. They pass out about 10,000 diapers a month when they have diapers. That means by September the cupboards will be bare again. Unless, we can convince the rest of the community to contribute as well.
I’m brainstorming and maybe you can, too. If you have any ideas or suggestions for future diaper drives or collections, reach out and let me know. Maybe we can diaper all the babies, together.