How NOT To Change A Diaper

A discussion on Facebook reminded me of this story that happened a LONG time ago. Hope you enjoy it, Penny Z. — and I strongly recommend that you NEVER try this yourself.

The date: some time in the early 1980s. I was a young soldier. While I’m no longer a soldier (and may or may not still be young 🙂 ), I still have one thing in common with those days…

I cannot stand strong, stinky odors. Like the kind that emanate from a dirty diaper. Thankfully I have a loving wife who takes care of such things nowadays (not to mention the fact that both of my younger children are way past the diaper stage — OK, my OLDER children are ALSO past the diaper stage, and I somehow sense that they’d like to leave no doubt in your mind about that…). In fact, I have a GREAT wife who lets me get away with all kinds of stuff and still loves me at the end of the day.

But “back in the day”, I had no such luxury. I was “expected” to do my share of Dirty Diaper Duty.

Which usually consisted of something like this:

  • Strap baby to changing table so she didn’t fall off (both of them were “she” back then).
  • Run out on the balcony and draw in a quick, deep breath of fresh air.
  • Hold that air.
  • Run back inside and “take care of business” until I had to take a breath.
  • Say a quick prayer that Baby would not think to touch themselves in certain unclean areas of their body.
  • Run back outside and grab another quick breath of fresh air.
  • Hold breath again.
  • Repeat process until the stinky stuff was either 1) gone, or 2) thrown over the edge of the balcony (or 3) neighbors pounded on door, wondering why I was throwing poopy diapers over the balcony!) (No, I never really did that; it just makes the story slightly more interesting. The part about the diaper over the balcony. But the rest is true.)

Not exactly the best way to handle the situation (especially when I forgot to unstrap the baby after I changed the diaper…). But it sure beat cleaning up another mess that would have been caused by a hyperactive (and extremely effective) gag reflex!

One day I got a brilliant idea. For whatever reason, our unit commander wanted us to keep our M17A1 protective masks (otherwise known as a “gas mask”) with us at all times. I’m not sure why he did this, but his reasoning is not all that important; the simple fact of the matter is that my unit did issue them to us and told us to keep them with our alert gear (this was in Germany, back in the early 1980s, when we thought that the communist hordes were going to roll across the inter-German border without warning. We pretty much thought of ourselves as speed bumps anyway, which means that we — being the lower enlisted cretins — didn’t really give it a whole lot of thought, but apparently the officers they gave us — whose job it was to worry — thought differently. Whatever!).

When my turn next came up for diaper duty, I realized that I had a device in my possession that would effectively eliminate those odors. Yes, thought I, why not use the aforementioned M17A1 protective mask while changing the diaper? Problem solved! No more strapping Baby to the changing table, no more running outside to snatch a breath of fresh air, no more imaginary poopy diapers to fling over the balcony… An absolutely perfect solution, right?

Uh, NO. Tom forgot one small factor… and I do mean a SMALL factor…

…which I’ll get to in a minute. First, take a moment to consider what an M17A1 protective mask actually LOOKS like.

This mask was not only made to filter the air that the wearer is breathing — it is also used to protect the skin and is part of the suit used to protect the wearer from exposure to chemical elements. It wasn’t made for good looks; it was made for survival.

The mask itself goes on over the head and fastens itself to the back of the head with a black, elastic harness. Six straps attached the harness to the mask itself: two above the temples, two just below the temples, and two somewhere else (memory escapes me…). The mask itself was a black thing, with two big triangular-shaped plastic openings so you could see out the thing. The front had an oval-shaped gizmo with a vent that allowed the wearer to exhale; it also had a little tube you could connect to a canteen so you could drink while wearing the mask (nothing like an enforced water fast in an airtight suit that made you sweat like a pig to lose weight. You could always tell the people who didn’t do their required training in the suit; they ended up on the weight control program!).

Of course, this arrangement left the neck and head exposed to the elements — CHEMICAL elements, no less — so there was a green hood that attached to the mask that you could pull over your head. Straps hanging off it attached under your arms so it wouldn’t come off (easily). The hood itself attached to the eye openings (which, in turn, had another plastic shield which helped secure the hood to the mask), around that oval-shaped gizmo, and around the two air intake valves on either cheek.

So when the whole thing was done, all the observer would see was somebody covered with an ugly GI-green hood, with two huge triangular openings for the eyes, that round gizmo in front, and two small round thingys — one on either cheek — that were black and allowed for air intake.

In other words, you looked like some type of monster to the wearer. Especially one that had never seen someone wearing an M17A1 mask. Which led to the small factor I was talking about a few paragraphs ago.

Yeah, the small factor lying on the changing table, waiting for her diaper to be changed.

Slick Dad slips on the mask in the bedroom, rounds the corner prepared to work…

…and baby screams, nearly jumping out of her skin.

I think she was constipated for about 3 years after that little incident.

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