What first interested you in babywearing?
Even before having children, I had very strong ideas about how I wanted to be a parent. I wanted to hold my children as much as possible. I wanted to breastfeed on demand. I wanted to respond to their cries. I wanted to practice co-sleeping. I was not interested in bottles or cribs or pacifiers or nannies. I wanted my children to be integrated into my life completely, and yet I somehow thought that a stroller would be an immediate necessity from birth on!
When I was pregnant with my first son, I had only a peripheral awareness of the concept of babywearing. I remember filling out my shower registry at Babies R Us and stopping in front of a giant kiosk devoted to the latest models of Baby Bjorn. My husband and I puzzled over the options -- did we want the simpler-looking standard model, or were we more in the market for the top-of-the-line-serious-looking carrier with lumbar support? Bright, happy faces of parents and babies shone out from the glossy fronts of the Bjorn boxes, encouraging us with their perky smiles. We knew we wanted to wear our baby, but still, we felt overwhelmed. Could this contraption really be comfortable and practical? And how would we ever learn to put it on? Most of all, where in heaven's name would we be carrying all the BABY STUFF we were in the process of registering for?!? I envisioned taking a jaunty (short) walk in the park with the baby in the carrier, my husband pushing the STUFF in our giant stroller. OF course, if I needed to DO anything, I could just put the baby in the stroller and carry on...
Little did I know that within months I would get rid of that precious stroller (and cumbersome Bjorn) and find myself gallivanting all over the place with my baby held close to my body in a wrap and the drastically edited stash of BABY STUFF handy at my hip in a compact little bag. It really took having my first son and experiencing life with him for a while for me to mend the disconnect that had led me to initially overlook the amazing array of baby carriers that are out there. My first conversation with an experienced babywearer caused an "ah ha!" moment and I immediately became obsessed with learning more about wearing my son. Becoming connected to the vast and exciting community of passionate babywearers helped even more to show me that this was going to be more than a handy parenting tool. It was going to become a lifestyle.
Carrying my little ones just makes so much practical sense -- I can continue to do all the things that I enjoy doing in life, with my babies along for the ride, hands-free! In a city like New York it has proved invaluable to be able to hop on and off the subway or bus unencumbered by a bulky stroller. I love not having to worry about finding a comfortable or discreet place to nurse because I can breastfeed so easily in a wrap or sling. Most of all, I love how much babywearing soothes my children and fosters an incredibly strong bond and better communication between us. It helps me to be the kind of parent I want and need to be for my children.
Often, people stop me on the street and ask questions about the carriers I use or remark that "we didn't have those back when I had babies." I always acknowledge how wonderful it is that babywearing is becoming increasingly popular with today's generation of parents, but I point out that it is in fact an ancient art.
I am mindful now of stories my grandmother told me when I was little of her own mother, who raised ten children in rural Mississippi during The Great Depression: my great-grandmother carried her tenth child, who was born prematurely, from the time she came into the world. Even as my great grandmother returned to picking cotton under the blazing southern sun, she wore the baby skin-to-skin. The better part of a century later, modern science has begun to show the beneficial power of skin-to-skin contact with infants, and although her daughter stood little chance of survival at birth, my great-grandmother's instinct to wear her might have been what made the difference and helped to save her baby's life all those years ago.
Now that I have two little boys, I am incredibly grateful to have inherited the ancient wisdom of babywearing, and I am proud to have translated it into my very modern everyday life.