I vividly remember the first babywearing meet I went to. Ziggy was 4 months old, I was frazzled, stressed out and on the verge of tears. He wasn’t sleeping, he had been sick, he needed holding all the time and I was having an ‘oh my god I can’t cope’ day. I walked into a room full of mums I didn’t know, found a seat at the very back of the room, and sat there, holding Ziggy, holding back tears, and wondering where the hell to start.
There were 4 tables, covered in bright colourful carriers. Ring Slings, Wovens, Wraps, Ergos, Tulas, Mobys, Mei Tais. I had no idea what half of these things were and I felt totally out of my comfort zone. Everyone else seemed to know what they were doing, they were milling around the tables, grabbing different carriers and trying them on. I just sat there, watching with my grizzly boy, overwhelmed.
One of the mums saw me, and came over to see if I was okay, did I need any help. Oh man, I almost lost it right there and then. Yes I needed help.
And help I got.
The carrier I left with that day, was a Mei Tai. Until then, I had never heard of a Mei Tai. I wouldn’t have known what to do with one if it was handed to me. It was beautiful. Soft fabric, long wide straps that didn’t dig into my shoulders. A hood to support his head once he fell asleep. I was shown how to wear it, how to adjust it and, even with a crying baby wriggling around trying to find a boob while I was trying to learn how to tie it properly, I could tell it was going to be a game changer for me. I was in love.
I tried it out later that same day, after Ziggy had woken from his nap and was in a better mood. Once he was nice and snug, we went for a walk around the garden. I can’t describe how that felt. To be able to walk around my backyard, with two free hands, a happy baby snuggled against my chest. I was beaming from ear to ear.
The Mei Tai gave me a freedom I hadn’t had until then. Ziggy loved being carried this way, close to me, cuddled in close. And I loved being able to walk around, holding him, but not holding him, having two free hands. I went shopping! I actually went to the mall, browsed through the racks and tried on pants. While wearing my baby. Okay, so tops and dresses were out of the question, but I walked out of the mall that day with the first new item of clothing I had bought since I had given birth. It felt great.
I went walking with some mama friends. I was probably a bit too adventurous for someone who had done little to no exercise since giving birth, as we went for a 3km walk up a bloody mountain, but it felt great to be out and about and able to do these things.
AJ enjoyed it too. He found it a bit tricky to get on, I would help with doing the straps up correctly, but once it was on, he and Ziggy had a blast. Walking through the shopping centre the two of them had every female within sight turning their heads as they walked past. Some would come up to us and ask about it, others would come up to goo over Ziggy. I had to laugh, I received nowhere near that level of attention when Ziggy and I went shopping, but there is something about a babywearing dad that gets the ladies swooning. Especially a good looking one with a super cute baby.
We had the Mei Tai for one month before we had to return it to our local baby carrier library, and in that one month we used it so much, We went walking together, we took Ziggy to a car show, I wore him when I was out shopping. No more lugging around an awkward car-seat for us! Giving it back was not easy, we had grown rather attached to this sanity saving, beautiful carrier.
In fact, I was so attached to the Mei Tai that I recently bought one to call my own. It’s not as flash a one as I hired from the Carrier Library – there was one of those for sale recently, in a beautiful green, however I procrastinated and missed out (I find it very hard to justify spending money, even on something as useful as this). It is a different style, with narrower straps and a funky black and gold bird pattern. It is beautiful, and it’s mine. Here it is:
The next carrier we tried was an Ergo. Ziggy and I were heading up North, and we were going to miss the next babywearing meeting. I was rather upset at the thought of going an entire month without being able to wear him. Also, going on this road-trip without AJ meant that I would be the one lugging around the carseat each and every time and I wasn’t looking forward to that at all. I got in touch with the babywearing group and one of the wonderful ladies that runs this service offered me the use of a carrier called an Ergo that her son had grown out of, for as long as I needed.
The Ergo is totally different to a Mei Tai. It buckles instead of wraps. It’s easier to get in and out of. It doesn’t have the same ‘wow’ factor, but it’s more convenient for quick dashes. And I found it faster to adjust when he needed feeding. I could even put it on, and get him in it sitting in the backseat of the car (which we did when we had a toilet stop on our road-trip). We used it every day of our trip. It was so much easier than getting the carseat in and out every time we needed to go anywhere.
I loved having him so close, and Ziggy enjoyed it too. Often, he would fall asleep and I perfected the art of taking it off, and, without waking him, putting him down on a bed. Then I could run away and ‘adult’ while he napped. Once I even managed to transfer him from the Ergo to the bed, and then, 10 or so minutes later, to the carseat . . . still sleeping! #winning.
I wish I knew about proper babywearing earlier. My days have become so much more manageable. In the mornings, Ziggy and I get up, I shower, get dressed, then pop him in the Ergo and go out to feed the chooks. Then we come back inside, make breakfast, have a coffee, hang out the washing, do the dishes etc.
All the jobs I struggled to do before, were possible now I could wear him. Most mornings he would be asleep again within an hour or so of walking up, I’d transfer him to the bed and have time to myself to garden, work on the blog, or just sit down and watch TV. On days when he was unsettled and cried every time I tried to put him down, the Ergo was a lifesaver. I could wear him in the kitchen, I could wear him in the lounge, I even wore him to the toilet. We would cry there together. Me from the pain, Ziggy just because . . . who bloody knows . . . that was the type of day he was having.
AJ also enjoyed the Ergo, more so I think than the Mei Tai as he could get in and out of it with ease. He would often strap Ziggy in and take him for a walk around the backyard to feed the chooks, or wear him in the evenings to send him off to sleep. He even wore him at his workplace to give me a break, and I caught a few zzzz’s on the couch. His boss is pretty awesome like that.
It was with the Ergo that I experienced one of the coolest acts of kindness I’ve been lucky enough to receive. Jessie, the wonderful lady that loaned it to me, on seeing how much joy and use I was getting from it, gave it to me. I was blown away. It was this gesture that inspired me to gift my Moby to a new mum, and I hope Clare gets as much joy and use from her Moby as we have from our Ergo.
One of the carriers I had admired at the Babywearing meet, but didn’t have a clue what to do with, was a Ring Sling. It just looked so damn cool. I wanted to be that cool. I wanted to look like that alternative mum with a baby on her hip all snug and comfy in a beautiful swathe of fabric. All the mums I had spoken to said they loved their Ring Slings, these were the ‘dash from the car to the post office’ carriers. The carrier you just whipped on for short trips, quick, comfortable, convenient. That sounded like me!
So, at the next meet, I plonked myself next to the Ring Sling table and, along with a small group of other interested mums, was given a quick Ring Sling 101. Holy crap can we just take a moment to laugh about how uncoordinated I am. You have to ‘put it on’ which is theory is simple, you decide what hip you want bub to sit on, and you throw it over your shoulder. Except the unco in me could never work out which shoulder went with which hip, and I’d always put it on back the front or over the wrong shoulder. AJ clicked straight away, of course. As soon as I bought it home he was keen to give it a go. He put it on, sat Ziggy in it, and off they went to feed the chooks.
I’ve taken a bit more time to get used to it. I love the fact that Ziggy loves it, his face lights up and he starts to laugh. Then he hugs me as he sits there on my hip, but I’m not yet as confident with this as I am the Mei Tai and Ergo. It’s just going to take a bit of practise. Luckily I get to use it for a whole month, so I have plenty of time to practise, and I mean look at it, how freaking cool is this thing! I want to use it as much as possible while it is in my possession.
Babywearing, as well as saving my sanity, opened up a world of like-minded people and interesting things I didn’t know were there. I started Kangatraining, a type of exercise specifically designed for post-partum mothers to assist with regaining core strength and pelvic control. I met wonderful mums, mums with the same interests as me, going through the same things I was. Cloth nappying mums, baby-led weaning mums, bed-sharing mums, coffee appreciation mums. Mums with babies that don’t like to sleep, mums to have playdates with, mums who enjoyed having someone to talk to. My calender has never been so full!
There is a warning that comes with babywearing. It’s addictive. You get the bug and you want all the pretty carriers! But, unlike my pre-pregnancy addictions, this one is much better for you and easier on the lungs . . although possibly just as hard on the wallet if given half the chance!
If you are pregnant, or have a new baby and have not yet discovered the world of babywearing, please look into it. Look on Facebook and see if there is a babywearing group near where you live. Don’t be shy! You can go while you are still pregnant and practise with one of the dolls they provide. I really wish I had known about this when Ziggy as first born. Our Moby would have got much more use and saved me many tears if I had.
I often have people comment on how relaxed Ziggy and I seem to be, how happy he is, how calm I am. Not all the time of course, there are times when he’s crying and I’m stressed out, we all have those. But for the most of it, these days we’re doing really well. I’m happy, he’s happy, AJ is happy. I credit a big part of that to babywearing. It changed our parenting lives.
Did you miss part one of this journey? You can read it here.