In the late summer of 2012 I was hugely pregnant with my first child, the view of my feet long gone, the ache in my hips a constant throb. I had decided not to go back to teaching 5th grade that fall and spent my time obsessing over baby things to distract myself from the huge and unstoppable life event spiraling toward me. I sat on the floor, sorting through baby shower gifts and I recall looking at the mama and baby on the front of the Moby wrap packaging; ‘Well, this looks easy enough! Look how happy they are,’ I mumbled out loud. I opened the bag, un-twirled the soft black fabric, and watched it ribbon down in a never-ending heap at my feet. ‘Um, what is this? Window curtains? A tablecloth? Why is there so much of it?’ I grabbed a gray and white stuffed owl off the nursery shelf to use as a makeshift baby, and got to work wrapping myself in this obscene amount of fabric. Keep in mind, the swollen belly housing my beastly baby. The whole scenario was a disaster. I was sweating, and crying, and I ended up tossing the huge heap of it in the closet, never to be seen again.
I know this sounds dramatic, but it kind of was. I had envisioned so many unrealistic things on my journey to motherhood. I had planned for a natural birth, an easy newborn, a smooth and happy transition like so many other people I knew. I saw myself wearing my sweet baby in that beautiful soft wrap, walking on a sunny fall afternoon as my boots crunched through the leaves. My introduction to motherhood was anything but; it was traumatic and sad and hard and I had to fight every day to make it through. Depression plagued me and I felt so lost for so many months. Forget about that wrap with all the yards of fabric sitting in the closet. It didn’t even cross my mind.
When my son, Ben, turned four months old, I wanted to start walking outside more, and the woods behind our home didn’t make using the stroller very easy. I got on amazon and on a whim bought myself an ergo baby carrier, it was soft green, the color of leaves in the spring, made with organic cotton, and had soft brown swirls on the hood. I waited for the UPS man every afternoon (and seeing as this was one of my first amazon purchases, we hadn’t become friends yet, but oh how we would over the next two years)! It came late in the day, so the next morning my husband and I read through the instruction manual front-to-back, and he helped me squish our 20 pound baby in, slipping his legs in just the right spot, adjusting his hips, making sure he was ‘close enough to kiss,’ and we walked hand in hand back into the woods. It was January, and the earth was wet, but the sun was warm. My son felt so good next to my chest. It brings tears to my eyes even thinking about this moment. I felt close to him, not only in body, but in spirit. It was the first time I had felt this way. We walked and he fell asleep on me for his nap and my husband and I smiled and I breathed him in and for the first time in so long, I just felt happy. I recall commenting how ‘primal’ I felt, like I could be a woman from anytime in history, doing this natural thing, wearing her baby on a journey.
And just like that, my life was changed. It was a pivotal moment. I wore my son everywhere. Into the grocery store, walking on the beach, hiking the mountains, vacuuming the house, checking the mail. After months of emotional pain over the loss of our beautiful birth, the days spent crying over how hard breastfeeding had become, the nights pacing our tiny house, tears streaming down my face with a colicky baby, never knowing how to make anything right. Finally, finally I felt like I was doing something right. Finally, I felt connected to my beautiful baby. And I think I owe almost all of that to the beloved green ergo with brown swirls on it. That ergo almost became an extension of us; it traveled to Canada and Hawaii, down the beaches of Oregon, was periodically covered in spaghetti sauce or breastmilk, and carried Ben on my back until he was 2.5 years old while his sister lived inside of me. When I sold it this year in the Target parking lot to a woman I met on craigslist, she had to pry it from my hands. I might have dramatically given a speech about how special it was and how I hoped it brought her life the same joy it had to mine. I think she was probably just happy about the killer price I was letting it go for and wanted to be on her way. But still, I think about that ergo and imagine the babies it will carry in the future and hope it helps other mothers the way it helped me.
In 2014 my husband and I were just finishing up a week-long adventure in Europe, our first time away from our son and our first time really connecting again as just ‘us’. It was a cool morning in May and I stood in the bathroom at our friend Nicolas’ apartment in Belgium; I could hear the two of them laughing in the kitchen, but behind the door where I stood I was watching two tiny lines turn pink on a stick. Thankfully there’s no language barrier when it comes to a positive yes. Adrenaline surged through my body with excitement and possibility as I squealed to myself, knowing this time how both magical and difficult motherhood could be. This pregnancy was so different, in so many ways. I think when you know better, you do better. We had a successful home birth, unmedicated vbac with a midwife who gave me a chance and believed in me. I planned to give myself a lot of care in the 4th trimester and thought deeply about the ways I wanted this experience to be better, for both my daughter and I. I knew it was going to be beautiful. And I was right. When she was born on a stormy February evening, she floated gently into the water beneath me, reaching up with arms outstretched for her mom and I brought her right to my heart. And she hasn’t left since.
This time, I did research. I watched tutorials on how to wrap and wear my newborn. I had an arsenal of baby wearing contraptions I couldn’t wait to put into use, anxious to discover which ones worked the best for Ellinor and I. I look back on the time with my son and I can’t imagine how I ever survived that newborn phase without baby wearing. There is so much newness in life outside the womb. I love that wearing her made her feel safe in those early weeks, as close to ‘home’ as she could get. My smell, the beat of my heart, the warmth of my body, my reassuring voice. I couldn’t have survived without being able to carry her, with my arms free to love and care for my toddler. Baby wearing gave me so much, throughout so many different phases of motherhood. Now, she’s 9.5 months old, and we’ve settled into a comfortable routine using our ring sling for trips to the park, where I can take her in and out easily, or for quick jaunts into the store, the library, or walks around our property. I also use a wrap conversion buckle carrier for longer walks or morning outings where I need a hood to put up if she’s going to take a morning nap. Recently however, I decided to dive a little deeper in the rabbit hole of baby wearing and bought my first woven wrap. I became enthralled with the beautiful patterns and textures, the variations of the fabrics, the unique and individualized ways to wrap and wear my baby. And even though I’m no longer a newbie baby wearer, I was immediately overwhelmed with what exactly I was supposed to do with ALL the dazzling fabric that showed up on my doorstep. This time, instead of crying and throwing it all in the closet, I watched videos online and called an experienced baby wearing friend over to help me. I practiced and practiced, and now I can’t imagine my life without this glorious woven wrap. It’s by far and large offered the most versatility of any baby carrier I’ve ever owned.
Before I continue on about my love affair with baby wearing, let me make a quick clarification. I believe that all mothers should have options and resources. Just because something works for me, doesn’t mean it will work for you. Strollers have their place, just like stretchy wraps and ring slings and soft-structured carriers do. If all of your friends are buying a tula, but you aren’t sure it’s right for you, borrow one first! A new wrap or carrier is an investment. I think this is part of the social media we need to be aware of…not simply wanting something because we are being inundated with it by other people. Maybe baby wearing just isn’t your thing, and that’s okay! Baby wearing isn’t a religion, it’s just one of the tools we have available to us as women to connect with our babies and maybe ease our life a little by giving us rare moments when we can use two hands. That all being said, I’m finding so much use out of my woven wrap because of how customizable it is at providing a comfortable and perfect fit for Ellie Jo and I! The fabric disperses the weight so evenly around my body and I have zero pressure points, where I will often find I get an ache or cramp in my should or back with some of my other carriers. I’m having a lot of fun learning the many, many different ways to tie and wrap her, on my front, hip, and back, and the more I wear this fabric, the softer it gets.
One of the resources I’ve used most recently for baby wearing help is Maggie from Purple Elm Baby. Maggie is passionate about helping other women with their baby wearing needs. When her first daughter was born, she lived in New York city, and knew that pushing a stroller through the snowy streets of the city in the winter to get to the subway wasn’t going to be an option, and from there her love for baby wearing was born. Her business grew out of a need for wanting to help families be together in the most enjoyable way. I love her site because she has so many ‘how-to’ videos on how to baby wear and wrap, and she has great sizing charts and other helpful information! It’s a fabulous place to start if you’re curious and want to follow step-by-step tutorials (which is so awesome if you’re a visual learner, like I am). Her instagram feed is brimming with gorgeous photos of her darling daughters, and genuine passion for baby wearing. I hope you all will take a moment to check out her site, where you can find ring slings, buckled carriers, and wraps. It always makes me happy to support other mothers pursuing their passions. Maggie recently mailed me the gorgeous hemp/cotton blend wrap you see in many of the photos here; the geometric checkered triangles makes me swoon and the hemp/cotton blend is so nice to work with.
I’m so thankful for everything that baby wearing has given me. I will always be grateful it gave me the relationship with my son I so desired. I’m so thankful I was able to bond with my daughter, keeping her close to my skin, while also playing with my son. I’m so thankful I could nurse her in the carrier while out for a hike, wear her close when she isn’t feeling well, and snuggle her whenever I want. My little gal is tiny, but she’s busy and fierce and I know these days and months will melt away into years and she will no longer want to be wrapped around my body. Like her brother, she will someday be too heavy to carry, and the sweet scent of her baby-ness will give way to child. These years are intense and exhausting and overwhelming and I know they will pass me by so much faster than I want. I know I’ll look back with warmth and tears at the memories I made with both of my babies, wearing them close to my heart.