I have been looking forward to writing this post for quite a while. I was going to call it – ‘Babywearing changed my Life’, but as I started writing, I realised one post was not going to be enough, so I’m having to spilt this story into two parts. You may think that sounds a bit . . . dramatic, being life-changing and all, but it’s true. Babywearing, (correct babywearing) changed everything for me and I’m so bloody excited about it, I want to shout it from the rooftops! Except my roof is only a single story and only my immediate neighbours would hear, and the house to our left is empty anyway . . . so in order to get it out there to more people, I’m blogging about it instead.
I’ve been holding back from posting a bazillion babywearing photos on the Facebook page, because you need the back story to put it all into context and I had to get all the other stories out of the way first. But they are done, rejoice, you won’t hear about my bum or mastistis again in the near future . . hopefully not in the far future either because I’m not planning on getting mastitis again, and my bum will one day be fixed. I hope. I’m on a waitlist for a 3rd surgery, so fingers crossed hey.
Anyway, back on track. My English teacher used to accuse me of waffling in my writing, and I’m guilty yes, but who doesn’t like a good waffle every now and then. Especially with whipped cream and maple syrup.
My babywearing journey was a bloody mess at the beginning. I was gifted a Moby wrap when Ziggy was born, and I had no clue what to do with this extremely long piece of blue fabric. When Ziggy was a few days old, we had a friend visit. She was excited about the fact I owned a Moby and helped Ziggy and I put it on properly. Holy heck, it was amazing. We went shopping at the supermarket when he was 5 days old and left a trail of excited ovaries in our wake. I took him in to work for a visit, and everyone could coo and goo over him without getting right up in his face, although, he handled it like a pro and slept through it all anyway!
I loved having him so close to me, snuggled up nice and tight. Unfortunately, as soon as Janine left, I forgot everything she had shown me. Wrapping and babywearing was something I had no experience in, and, while the Moby came with instructions, I just couldn’t seem to get the hang of it. I gave it my best shot, I just couldn’t quite work it out and it didn’t feel like Ziggy was as secure as he was when she wrapped me. I tried to watch videos while wrapping him, but he would get upset and cry, and I would get upset and give in. I didn’t know of anyone to ask for help, so, frustrated and despondent, I balled it up, chucked it in the cupboard and forgot about it. Probably a good idea when I look back at the photos of my attempts, shocking!
But, as I had a ‘I don’t want to go to sleep’ baby, I still wanted to find some way of carrying him, while being able to get things done at the same time. One of the gifts I had been given when I left work was a 3 way baby carrier, one of the generic, narrow based carriers you can get from say K-Mart or Farmers on the cheap. You also see a heap of them in second hand shops for a few bucks. Don’t, just don’t go there. Knowing nothing about babywearing, I didn’t realise that this style of carrier is no good for babies hips, and while it was a tricky contraption, lots of straps and buckles, I could eventually work it out and get him into it, with less angst than the wrap. However, once we got him in it, well it wasn’t all that comfortable. It hurt our shoulders and Ziggy didn’t like it either. We used it a few times, but I wasn’t confident in using it out and about, so that was also consigned to the cupboard. (It was so uncomfortable, I don’t even have a photo of it in use).
Another thing we tried, in order to get him to sleep, or just to get out of the house, was walking. Before Ziggy was born, I, like pretty much every mum I know, ‘nested’ and one of the purchases I bought was a very cool pram. One with both a bassinet attachment for while they are young, and a seat attachment for once they can sit up. It had big wheels too, perfect for long walks. I was going to me one of those ‘fit mums’ you see in their exercise gear, chatting away happily as they took their well behaved, sleeping babes for long walks around the lake, along the river, wherever you could fit two prams side by side. Hahaha, oh I was optimistic. I tried to take Ziggy for walks in the pram, but he hated it. Hated. He would cry and cry and cry. If I timed it perfectly, he would maybe sleep for 20 minutes or so, but he would cry before going to sleep, and again once he woke up. It was stressful and the whimsical notions I had while pregnant of long walks by the river with my boy seemed to be unattainable. I took him for a grand total of 3 walks, before giving up. The pram, while too big for the cupboard, was parked in a corner of the ‘nursery’ and forgotten about.
When Ziggy was around 5 weeks old, my Nana and Aunty came to visit. Jo asked if there was anything we needed, and I said yes . . . a good baby carrier. I didn’t know what a good baby carrier was, but I was hoping that whatever she found would be easier to use and more comfortable than what I currently had. It had been 5 weeks of non-stop holding this bundle of cuteness, and failing to get him to sleep in the pram. While I loved holding him, I really wanted my arms back, even just for an hour or two a day. Aunty Jo showed up with a Phil & Teds carrier. A bit like the 3 way carrier I already had, but better quality, a better fit for Ziggy and slightly more comfortable.
For me, this was a game changer. It was easier to get in and out of, it wasn’t too uncomfortable, and Ziggy didn’t seem to mind being in it. Again, I look back at this photo and I grimace at how uneducated I was (I mean just look at those dangling legs!), but at the time, I thought it was wonderful. I had a freedom I hadn’t had since Ziggy was born.
I could hang out washing. As long as the washing basket was on something high, like an upturned bucket or our picnic table. Bending over was a bit tricky. And I’ve ever been good at bending at the knee squats! I could even bring the washing back in again. Bonus.
I could nurse him in it, which, while a tad awkward, was great as it would stop his crying straight away and allow me to finish hanging up said washing. We could even chill in the backyard, taking selfies while AJ tended to our bees.
And, unlike the other carriers we had, it was simple enough to get in and out of that AJ would wear him too. He would pop him in it during the evenings when Ziggy was sleep striking and game.
And he would wear him out and about in the backyard. Just not while checking the beehives! Ziggy is still a bit too small for the child sized beesuits . . . but it will happen one day.
As long as we stayed vertical, it was great. I had found a new freedom. I could walk to the shops just around the corner, I could take Ziggy out to feed the chooks. I could do dishes and make something to eat. But still, it wasn’t perfect. I didn’t use it for any length of time. A stroll around the backyard or getting a few things done in the house was about as long as Ziggy or I could manage. There were times I felt very ‘stuck’ in the house as getting out and about wasn’t the easiest, but I tried to make an effort to escape at least every few days. To visit friends, see AJ for lunch, or pop into my work to show Ziggy off. I mean what mum doesn’t like to show of their baby and have people tell her how beautiful he is. I don’t know any.
Shopping was another chore that I didn’t look that forward to in those first few months. My first solo shopping trip was a comedy of errors! Just getting the carseat out of the car, pulling a trolley out of the rack one handed and clipping the carseat on top was hard enough. Then I’d hoon around the supermarket (which is not easy to do with the large trolleys) keeping one eye on Ziggys ever changing emotions hoping he wasn’t going to pitch a fit in the cereal aisle. The first time I ‘flew solo’ I banged into someone in the checkout line. Talk about embarrassing! And that wasn’t the end of it. I had to then get the shopping out of the trolley, unclip the car-seat from the top, shove the trolley into the ‘return’ lane with one hand, and get the shopping bags, and capsule with a now crying baby back into the car. Whew! How do mums do it? And that was just a ‘quick’ shop to grab the necessities.
I don’t have the worlds biggest muscles to begin with, and I have a weak back, so when you combine those with a large awkward car seat, a spot of retail therapy now and again was out of the question. We’d go grocery shopping on the weekend, as it was easier for one person to do the mad dash around the shops and the other to stay in the car with Ziggy. On the occasions we did take him into the supermarket we would rush about as fast as possible keeping one hoping that he would stay in a good mood long enough to do the shopping and get out of there. No leisurely strolls along the lanes once you’re a parent!
But to be honest, not being able to go for walks, and rushing through the grocery shop wasn’t that big of a deal. Annoying yes, but not too upsetting. The biggest frustration for me, that was weighing on my mind and getting me down, was that I couldn’t get out into the garden. Well I could walk around it, but I couldn’t get down and dirty, planting, weeding, sowing, harvesting and all the jobs that springs brings. Before Ziggy, my garden was my happy place. It was a source of immense joy and pride. AJ and I spent a lot of time together there, and grew everything, from popcorn to chilis, from purple potatos to black tomatoes. Zuchinni, kamokamko, kumara, pumpkins, strawberries, blackberries, broccoli, cauliflower, too many more to list. But now, now my gardening was limited to rushing out in the 20 minutes Ziggy was sleeping, getting as much done as possible, all the while running back to the house every 5 minutes to make sure he hadn’t woken up and was crying along in an empty room. Yes, I had a baby monitor but I couldn’t – still can’t -figure out how to work the damn thing!
One of the many groups I am a part of on Facebook is a gardening page. They are my people and have been now for a few years. I had posted up a photo of my tomato . . . jungle . . . as snipping laterals and tying up plants was yet another job I hadn’t managed to do, and while most people were congratulating me on the healthiness of my plants, one lady picked up on my frustrations in not being able to garden like I used to. She asked if I wore him and I explained my total failure with the Moby and the carriers I owned.
Well . . . you know how when you become a mum, it’s like you’ve joined a secret society that you had no idea about before you had kids? Babywearing is another one of these secret societies. It is a world that I never knew existed. A world of Wraps and Wovens, of Ergos and Tulas, of Ring Slings and Mei Tais and other beautiful exotic sounding devices for carrying your child and keeping them close.
This wonderful wonderful lady Tania, who I have never met, who lives nearly 1000 miles away, who was in the middle of shifting house, took the time to help me. She sent out a call and found a babywearing community in my town. She added me to Facebook groups I didn’t know existed, and, she sent me a present. A wrap of my very own. One from her stash, one that she hoped would find a new home with Ziggy and I. I was overwhelmed. By the kindness shown from a stranger, by this new and exciting world that was opening up to me, and by the possibilities ahead. Things were about to change.