Look Mom! No Hands!
Or in my case, Look grandma - No hands!! Rewind to seven years ago when I first picked up a baby carrier at the recommendation of a good friend. It was not a go-to item on our registries yet, popular parenting culture had not picked up on the awesomeness that is using a baby carrier. I got my trusty ergo because it was one of the only carriers easily available at the time. Little did I know, that it would be the first step in a long journey for me. But, that is a story for another time…
We purchased the baby carrier because we knew we had active lifestyles that we wanted to include our baby in. We hiked every Sunday, went to festivals, art shows, all sorts of places where a stroller would have been challenging. Then we had our son, and reality set in. We used the carrier for all of those things, but, it was a game-changing tool when we discovered he had silent reflux. He had to be held upright for at least half an hour after each meal and did not do well laying flat any time. This posed a challenge for someone with a newborn and no family or support in the area. Being an anxious new parent, I struggled with finding a safe place to put him while I got things done. A place where I would not have to check on him every four seconds to make sure he was breathing. We had a bouncer, but naturally, he wanted nothing to do with that. We bought a swing and he loved it, for short periods of time. As I bemoaned my situation to my friend living back home in Chicago, she said, you should use your carrier. I had been using the carrier with some success, so with a renewed sense of determination, I pulled it out of the closet and tried it for this. This time, I found the baby carrier love! THIS was a place I could “put” my baby where I knew he was safe. He would nuzzle onto my chest and sleep for hours. Peacefully. Meanwhile, I could get things done, take a walk, drink my coffee - my hands were free and my baby comforted - GAME CHANGER!!
At four months old, I took my baby to visit my family in Ohio. I wanted my grandparents to meet him. The swing, bouncer, and co-sleeper could not go with me. I had a rock n play shipped to my moms house so he could be upright when he slept at night. Other than that, I brought my baby carrier. When I arrived there were lots more people to help hold my baby. All of my sisters, parents, grandparents. This experience was wonderful, as we had moved thousands of miles from both of our families to Central Texas. However, with it also came the casual comments on my parenting ideas, including my beloved carrier. My grandmother did not get it. At all. The rest of my family was cool with it, my mom often noted how useful it would have been if she had had one with the four of us. Grandma though, nope. What was the point of this thing? Why not just put the baby down?
I loved my grandma. She was amazing and taught me so many things I value and appreciate. She was the matriarch of our family. Deeply passionate. She had opinions, so many opinions - that thousands of miles didn’t buy me immunity from. Her voice in my head was exhausting. Planting a bug of doubt in my abilities to parent. Those negative comments have a way of sneaking in. Showing up in the middle of the night as you lay awake, sleep-deprived, feeding your baby. Trying to console this tiny being that you have brought into the world unprepared for life. Parenting. Ugh. what happened to my self-confidence???
If you have talked to me in real life you know I operate on coffee and sarcasm. It’s how I get through life. Those moments of self-doubt here hidden by my sarcasm (fake it ‘til you make it, right?) Which brings me to: “Look Grandma! No hands!”. When I wore my carrier to do the many things I needed to do and she would comment on how they “didn’t need those things in my day”, I would overly-enthusiastically say: Look! No hands! and do jazz hands while my baby was snuggled close on my chest. We would give each other the knowing look family members give each other when we agree to disagree.
When I drank my coffee in the morning, my hands were free. When we went to the grocery store and my carseat would have taken up the whole cart and my baby couldn’t sit up yet, the carrier snuggled him close while I shopped. When we went on a family walk through the woods. During those awful twilight hours of inconsolable crying in the evening. When we went to the craft fair. When he got overwhelmed from all of the loving hands wanting to snuggle him. When I just wanted him close because I had worked so hard for years for a baby and loved him more than I could have ever imagined a person was capable... Our baby carrier was our happy place.
In the end, it not only made it possible for me to do all of these things and comfort my baby, it helped me develop my confidence as a new parent. It helped me find my voice among the so, so, so many voices and well-meaning advice that come at us as new parents. The voice we will hone as the years pass. The one we will use to guide our children and defend them. The voice we learn, after years of practice, to mostly trust. This voice would build me up as I had my second child and became more confident in my goal of nursing, for dealing with tantrums in public with as much grace as one can sum up, for answering tough and honest questions about our kiddos for evaluations. In the end, I think grandma would be proud of me for finding MY voice. I think she appreciated when people found passion and confidence, even if she didn’t “get it”. Who knew a baby carrier and my love of coffee and sarcasm would get me through it?
Lori Post, Certified Babywearing Consultant