My first diaper bag was a pale aqua fabric monstrosity. I loved it. There was nothing it couldn’t hold. It was the Hammer Pants of diaper bags, which makes sense considering it was the 90s. Surely a genius designed every last detail of that diaper bag. There was a foldable changing pad! Pockets for everything from dirty diapers to bottles! And ROOM for all the stuff she needed as we trekked to the grocery store or spent an afternoon at the mall.
I was a failure of a mom if caught unprepared to meet all of her needs, real and imagined. That bag ensured success.
I packed thin, medium, and thick blankets. I had sleepers and onesies, brimmed hats and knit caps, little sweaters, extra socks, and diapers diapers diapers. I packed medicines, like Tylenol, Mylicon, diaper rash cream, a tiny bottle of Johnson & Johnson’s baby shampoo, antibiotic cream, nail clippers, files, a bulb syringe and bandaids. Was my 6-month-old going to find herself falling off a skateboard on a half-pipe? Maybe. I had a baby care book. She only breastfed for 3 months, so I had a slew of bottles, nipples, and carefully pre-measured powdered formula containers. I was smartly prepared, proudly prepared. If she needed anything and we weren’t home, the big bag would hold answers and rescue.
A bag like that was a tremendous source of security and pride. Good mamas anticipate. If there were Mommy Scouts, I was on my way to a sash full of patches and a commendation from the Vice President.
Over the years, through the babies, around the way, I’ve become lazier about the bags. Smug, too. The more kids I had, the smaller the diaper bags got. I learned what was necessary (diapers) and what wasn’t (baby care manual). I took more chances: Surely, Beatrix won’t poo up her back and into her hair while we are at Target picking up a prescription…
While my firstborn didn’t want for anything while away from home, Joel, our fifth, hung out in a church cry room nearly naked one Sunday morning because I forgot a spare outfit. He had a severe, epic blowout I still recall with a shudder—and I wasn’t prepared. If infant Aidan had fallen off her little skateboard, I could have bandaged her knee. When Tommy biffed it at the zoo many years later, I had to ask another mom, one with a giant diaper bag, for a bandaid.
I was becoming a diaper bag slacker. I still am, a bit. I hope by now I have it down to a science.
So, what does the diaper bag of a ninth child look like?
~It’s small. A baby, on a normal excursion out of the house for a day, doesn’t need to prepare for all four seasons or a host of medical maladies. He needs a small stack of diapers. Let’s say 5, tops. He needs wipes, one spare outfit, one blanket, and formula/food if that’s how he gets his chow. The bag also includes 2 pull-ups for Teddy—who is sorta potty training, maybe not, yes he is, no he isn’t.
~It’s actually a backpack. Our younger kids adore backpacks so they beg to carry it for us. If I’m alone with Ollie, I stick a forearm through the straps.
~It’s not too babyish. When a bag is sprinkled with pastel giraffes juggling puppies, it’s relevance is limited. Even a 2-year-old knows it’s not cool to look like a baby any more. A design that can grow with the kid extends the useful life of the bag.
~It’s not too grownup. I went through a phase when I would only carry a serious, non-descript dark navy bag. Did it house devices to catch the bodily wastes of a small child or nuclear bomb codes? LIGHTEN UP, I said to myself. When Beatrix was born, I got a Petunia Picklebottom-type of bag—Bright red, Asian-inspired fabric with embroidery. It was pretty, but I felt like I couldn’t just dump it on the playground rocks and romp. It was too prissy.
~I still make diaper bag mistakes. Like leaving it at home. I try to solve this by leaving it in the car at all times, only bringing it inside to restock. Another mistake I make is not keeping the spare outfit up to date. If the sleeper is two sizes too small or the wrong season, it won’t be helpful when there’s abounding goo.
Someday, we won’t have to haul a bag with young child accoutrements. I can’t imagine what it will be like to not have to worry about diapers. It’s been 15.5 years of non-stop little bums to change and God-willing another three or so years to go. I don’t know if the little owl bag will survive through high-jinx and playground trampling, but it’s working for now.
(off to replace the teeny spare outfit Ollie outgrew weeks ago…)