I am wearing my baby as I write this, sitting on a bench looking out over the sea in the gorgeous place I am lucky enough to call my home. Being Scotland in October, it’s breezy and a bit chilly, but we’re both wrapped inside my jacket, she is asleep, and so am soaking up the autumn sun and enjoying some much-needed fresh air. It is International Babywearing Week*, and (so long as the Little Weaver stays asleep) I want to write about how wrapping my baby has, for me, been an enormous positive factor in my mental health postpartum.
I’ve lived with depression for many years, and I was very afraid of this evolving into postnatal depression after the arrival of my daughter. So far (I’d touch wood, were the bench beneath me not made of plastic) I’ve actually felt pretty good since giving birth. Indeed, at times I have felt the happiest and most mentally stable that I have in years. Babywearing isn’t the only thing to credit with this, of course – thanks to some incredible support I had a very empowering experience of labour, and, let’s be honest, the daily dose of anti-depressants certainly helps.
But wrapping has helped, far beyond enabling the simple and lovely act of sitting in the sun and wind with my sleeping daughter snugged to my chest. Here are a few of them.
It has made me feel capable
There have certainly been times during pregnancy and after when I haven’t felt very much like a strong, independent woman (for example, when trying to fit a carseat at 36 week pregnant left me a hormonal, sobbing mess, or when an infected perineum had me struggling to walk to the end of the street). Wearing the Little Weaver – who, as a friend accurately put it, was never that little – has certainly rebuilt my muscles. As for independence, I enjoyed a somewhat aching relish in travelling down south by train with my daughter strapped to my chest, changing rucksack on my back, and rolling suitcase laden with five day worth of baby gumph to hand. Although people offered much-apprciated help most times I got on and off a train, I didn’t need it, and that mattered to me. I felt, oddly, quite as I did aged 17, travelling across China with an 80l rucksack on my back. That my boots were made for walking.
Wrapping has also made me feel more capable as a mother. When nothing else works, the wrap will. When she sees me pick up a wrap, the Little Weaver actually grins. And if it takes a while for the wrap to work its soothing magic? I just keep walking and singing, knowing that my overtired girl could not be any closer. It’s a tool I trust, and whatever form that tool takes (walking in the pram, being in the car, a favourite toy or piece of music) I think every parent needs one like that. And when your brain frequently tries to tell you that you’re doing everything wrong, it’s even more important to know there is at least one thing you can do that is right.
The wrap maketh the woman
I am very happy to admit that vanity plays a part in my love for woven wrap as a form of babywearing in particular. I told a friend years ago that you could tell I was particularly depressed if you saw me in dull, casual clothes. I don’t wear makeup and rarely blow-dry my hair, but bright colours and nice fabrics make me happy. To deny myself these is the sign not only of a day in which I don’t feel happy, but of a day in which I don’t feel I deserve to be happy.
These days, I spend most of my time in clothes which will inevitably be vomited on at some point, and which first and foremost have to meet the criteria of offering fairly easy access to my boobs. But no matter what I’m wearing underneath, the wrap on top (which, to be fair, will also end up with various bodily fluids on it) offers a funny sort of self-care in the form of colourful, tactile fabric.
There’s some good crack
I’m lucky enough to live in a small village, and so reap the benefits of having a small baby in the midst of a community of friends and neighbours who look out for us both. But being a parent in the twenty-first century also inevitably means finding the ‘village’ in which you raise your children online. Of all the Facebook groups I have joined since becoming a mother, it is on those relating to wrapping that I have felt most at home. My favourite group is the ‘Geeky Wrappers‘ group, where people keen to learn new ‘carries’ (ways of tying a woven wrap) and improve their technique gather to get advice and share stories of wrapping and parenting. The only way I can put it is that the people in this and other wrapping groups feel like my people, and their kindness, humour, and positivity helps me retain my own sense of humour and positivity even when the going gets tough.
The (hasty) bottom line
This blog post has been written over the course of quite a few days, and my wee girl is wriggling after a long feed, so I’m going to wrap up (hahaha) there. All I can say is that wrapping hasn’t just helped me care for my daughter over the first four months of her life: it has helped care for me in my first four months as a mother, too.
* Or it was when I started writing this post…