Thursday, December 12, 2013

Babywearing: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

I'm really excited to have our first guest writer for Beginner Babywearing!! I hope these personal experiences will reach out to you guys and show how babywearing has different roles in everyones lives.

Guest Writer: Amie Cheatham Austin 

I was introduced to babywearing when my daughter was born in 2010. She was a happy baby and babywearing was not something I came to out of necessity, but something I loved because of the convenience and the opportunities for snuggles. At the time I was working two jobs and the chance to come home after a long day and wear her to sleep was something I treasured. But babywearing also gave me some unexpected things- aside from the cuddles, I found comfort and community.

The Good
Halloween has always been my favorite holiday. I used to joke that half of the reason I got married and had kids was so that I could dress everyone up in coordinating costumes. This year, babywearing played a fun role in our costumes. We all dressed as characters from Sesame Street and I wore my son (dressed as Oscar the Grouch) in a carrier I decorated as a trashcan. It was so much fun and we got so many compliments! We even started a Babywearing Halloween Costume Contest in a group I help admin. It was wonderful to be able to keep my son close to me and happy while Trick or Treating with his big sister. It allowed me to be present with her while she went through the neighborhood instead of having my attention pulled away by carrying my son in arms or pushing a stroller.

The Bad
When my daughter was only a few weeks old, she got very sick and had to be hospitalized. We later learned that she had a birth defect affecting her kidneys. We tried to treat it, but had very little success and she spent a lot of time in the hospital during the first six months of her life. When she was just 8 months old she had a big, bilateral surgery to repair the problems with her kidneys. Watching her go back for surgery with the doctor was one of the scariest moments of my life, and the time I spent in the waiting room hoping for an update was torture. The surgery was successful but the week following it was hard on all of us. She had a drainage tube in her stomach and at only 8 months old, had no understanding of why she wasn’t allowed to pull on it. Wearing her during that time saved all of us. I would put her in an SSC with her tubes through the arm hole. My husband made a little portable pocket to put the bag in and clipped that to the side so I could be hands free and my daughter couldn’t reach the tubes to tug on them. It was wonderful and made what was such a tough time that much easier.

The Ugly
In June of this year I received a very scary call. My father was sick and in the hospital with an infection in his lungs. The week that followed was the worst of my life. He was hospitalized on a Friday and died on Wednesday. It was horrifying, but I was lucky to have that last week to spend with him and say goodbye and tell him I loved him. Following his unexpected death, I found myself “in charge” of everything. Despite being the youngest of four children, I somehow was responsible for coordinating with the hospital, the attorney who had written his will, and the funeral home- all while I had my two small children at home. It was very difficult. My dad was a lifelong sailor and always saw himself as a Jimmy Buffet-esque character. When planning his funeral service, we decided to have a very strict “shorts and flip flops” dress code, just like he would have wanted. I was to give the eulogy. When the day came, my clingy baby boy refused to be held by anyone but me. So with the start of the service approaching, I wrapped him on my back in Ahoi- a wrap that had always made me think of my sailor father, with its anchors and ships wheels. I swayed in the back while people got up and spoke about how my father had touched their lives, how he had helped them- some spoke of how he had saved their lives through his outreach work in the community. It was a beautiful thing. When it was my turn to go up, my son, the child who bore my father’s name, had fallen asleep on my back. I took a deep breath, and closed my eyes. I could feel my son’s breath on my neck and feel my dad’s presence in that moment. It centered me. I gave the eulogy with my son happily sleeping close to my heart. I don’t know that I would have made it through without it. I realized in that moment that babywearing is not just good for the babies. It’s for us too. Wearing him gave me a sense of peace and comfort in a room that was otherwise spinning. 
When it was time to leave, I was loading all of the flowers that had been sent into my car to head back to my home where we would receive friends and family. I found a beautiful arrangement in my favorite colors with a note. “Even though we cannot physically be here for you, please know our love and thoughts are with you today.” It was from my babywearing friends. People I had never met face to face, had only come to know through the community surrounding this thing we call babywearing. I am unable to express how touching the gesture of love and support was for me. I had spent that week being strong for everyone else, thinking of everyone else- and here the people in this community were taking the time to reach out to ME and let me know that I was cared for too.

Sure, babywearing is a wonderful tool for bonding with your child or dealing with a high needs baby. But anyone approaching this community should be warned- you will get so much more than you bargained for.