BY SHANNON CIRCE
There’s probably a day or a week to recognize or celebrate just about everything we can imagine. This past week, many parents throughout the world, and many of my good friends and I have celebrated something very close to our hearts, International Babywearing Week 2014. I find it only fitting to share a bit about how babywearing has changed my life as a parent, and our lives for the better as family.
Babywearing, for me, started as a hobby. It was something to learn and challenge my brain as a stay-at-home mother of a 20 month-old and a newborn. It was, and always has been, a way for me to feel like I could meet the needs of both boys by myself. Having Terry close to me and happy meant I could still focus on playing and being there for Blake. It’s a pretty awesome feeling to know just when you are feeling overwhelmed, a simple wrap or carrier can save the day and make you feel like you can conquer the world. Babywearing has become more of a lifestyle for us, because of how important we realized it could be, on so many levels.
Many people don’t understand babywearing. Having a baby or toddler wrapped or tied to your chest, side, or back, can definitely invite lots of confused stares. More often than not, if strangers or friends decide to comment, it involves some sort of criticism about how much we are “spoiling” our children. I’ve heard things like, “Were you a kangaroo in a past life?” Or, “Is he ever going to learn to walk?”
Once in a great while you have the encounter with someone who really gets it. One day at the post office the clerk commented, “Wow, he’s so happy being up at your level and seeing everything that’s going on.” He then went on to talk about how unhappy children get when they are rolled up to the counter in a stroller where they are hidden from sight. Don’t get me wrong, we have a stroller or two too, but how awesome is it to have the opportunity to also allow your child to experience everything with you, from a safe, comfortable place?
Being same-sex parents, I think babywearing also serves an extra special purpose for our family. My wife Michelle has struggled over the last few years with the fact that she isn’t biologically connected with our boys, and what that could possibly mean for her ability to bond with them. (You also have to keep in mind that she is a physician, which means her brain is very science-oriented). What’s really amazing is the bond that can be created instantly when babywearing. Michelle and I have witnessed it with our family, and so many friends we have connected with through babywearing. There were many times when Terry was a newborn and it seemed the only thing that would calm him down was nursing. Until we discovered babywearing, that became very frustrating for all of us. Babywearing has some very magical powers that can sometimes sooth even faster than milk, believe it or not. Something about being close, secure, feeling your warmth, and hearing your heartbeat makes everything better in no time. It doesn’t matter if you are a biological parent, a non-gestational parent, an adoptive or foster parent, a grandparent, or a friend. Babywearing creates an instant bond that lasts much longer than the time you spend with the little one wrapped to you. It creates a very addictive closeness to your little one that leaves you feeling empty as soon as they aren’t there anymore.
I could go on and on about the 695 reasons why I babywear.
Because with two very small children, how else will you safely navigate the grocery store and actually have space to put things in your cart.
Because when you have two children and only two hands, you really, really need your hands.
Because wouldn’t you rather have a comforted sick little one than a crying sick little one? Let me tell you about all of the teething days that are made so, so much easier with the ability to “carry the cuddle.”
Because sometimes running through the airport is so much easier without a stroller.
Because it just feels right.
Because why not be able to still take your non-napper on an outing while still letting a newborn sibling nap safely and happily?
Because, because, because…
Aside from the benefits babywearing has had for our family, I can’t even begin to explain the amazing comfort I feel from the community we have built all over the world with babywearing friends. When you babywear, but not everyone around you does, there is a sense of instant community with other parents you meet through facebook and other online forums dedicated to babywearing.
We learn from each other, support one another, and get to know each other and life’s joys and struggles. Some of my closest friends live across the world, but we talk daily and may never get the chance to meet in person. We celebrate our lives, watch our children grow, and suffer losses together in a way that can’t be explained in words.
Babywearing has given me this incredible community that I never, ever imagined or expected. I’ve recently become an administrator of a group of babywearers that has over 22,000 members today, and gets more requests daily. When at first I knew nothing about babywearing, it seemed to be more of an “underground” culture. Today, it feels like it is all around me, and as I said, a lifestyle, not just a helpful tool.
I’m thankful for what friends have taught me, so that I am now passionate and share with others the joys and benefits of babywearing. I recommend it to anyone and everyone who may think it might help your life in some aspect, for whatever reason. No matter where you are, you can probably even find a local babywearing group with a lending library and educated, certified babywearing instructors to teach you anything you want to know. Go ahead and try something new, you just never know what it might bring. Oh, and happy babywearing.
Shannon lives in Rochester, New York, with her wife, Michelle, and two sons, Blake and Terry. She recently quit her job as a full-time, stay-at-home mom. Shannon and family enjoy traveling, rescuing dogs and cats, and tracking down trains, boats, garbage trucks or whatever the latest toddler fascination may be.