I am a total advocate of babywearing. I had a stretchy wrap when my son was born, then a Baby Bjorn; I stumbled across my local sling library and progressed through an Ergo to a mei tai to woven wraps and other carriers. What interests me now is the journey that some of these slings and carriers have made; from the harvesting of plant fibres, dyeing, weaving, sewing, manufacture, wear and wear again. These items hold a special significance for many of us. I wonder if in some way they signify our own journey into motherhood and for some are a way of adorning the beauty of our new selves as parents? Whether also, in the fraught world of infancy, where boundaries blur, if they allows us to assert a small part our own identity and enable us to display this on the outer of our beings?
I have had and moved on quite a few carriers now. Probably less than some and many more than others. Sometimes I peruse the Aladdin’s caves of online selling boards and Ebay and the many parenting cyber spaces, inquisitive as a magpie, hoping for the shiny thing that will make my heart sing. My tastes are my own though, I do not follow fashion as such and if I like an item, I am not remotely bothered by the name it carries on a label. I have not ventured into the world of handwovens or custom carriers. I have a limited budget and my carriers need to work hard, if sickness or spillages occur, they must morph into cleaning cloths, if we need a seat on damp grass, they become our travelling picnic blanket friends.
Recently after a spot of late night Ebay surfing whilst feeding my sleep-fighting feisty daughter, I stumbled across a listing for a beautiful mei tai at a very reasonable price. I don’t really need another mei tai, I have a beautiful Ocah half buckle, yet something about the scarlet hues of the carrier and the funky fabric told me that this would be perfect for the forthcoming autumn ; in which my son would start preschool and I would carry my daughter on my back to take him there. Hmm , a mei tai over a coat … at a reasonable price. I watched and waited. The listing drew near to ending; something about this carrier cheered me each time I looked at it. With a click of a button, I entered the race against the clock, and I won.
When the carrier arrived, I was curious about who had made it and who had travelled within it, held close to a parent by its loving threads. How was I to know? Here my story unfolds. When I first joined Natural Mamas, I was clueless but eager to learn. Many answered my many questions and I began to experiment and try and participate. Over time I began to feel connected to other mothers on the boards, especially when I felt we had similar tastes.
Everyone I’ve interacted with on the forum has played a part in enabling me to flower into motherhood. Some in real life as my friends at a local natural parenting group, others sharing messy play and fireside songs at camp, others online, yet all feeling close through shared experiences, support, wise words and understanding. We travel into the unknown ground of motherhood together. We dare to be vulnerable, we hold the space for each other, just as the slings we use for our little ones hold our loves close to our hearts.
When I initially got interested in babywearing, I didn’t understand the benefits of purchasing slings preloved. Gradually though, I came to know some of the ways of cloth, of fibres flexing and moulding, softening and holding.
I had a wonderful surprise waiting for me when I posted on the forum about my mei tai find. People were interested, I added pictures and links, and sure enough my query was answered. My bargain was another mother’s custom design, made for her when her now school-age children were small. Fabrics were lovingly chosen and sewn, the carrier was created and it worked for her family.
Carrying days change rapidly, and carriers move on like colourful birds, circling, landing, migrating to places which will sustain them. This carrier has flown too, many Natural Mamas members have owned it over time. The custom design of this mother, a woman with whom I feel a deep connection, has wrapped it’s metaphorical arms around many, so physical arms can be free to fulfil other demands. And so, what goes around comes around and this carrier journeyed my way.
My bargain and its story has focused me on what I love about the parenting community I feel so privileged to be a part of. One woman’s choice has enabled so many, one carrier worth more than its financial outlay in love, travelling, geographically and in time; connections forming through threads of experience, heart moments, children held as the mothers too hold each other. And so this carrier now lives with my family, bringing us its blessings and cheering our days with its vibrant hues, a harvest of sorts, to travel onwards with us through the ripe autumn air as the year turns and our children reach ever upwards towards the sun, flourishing through the connections we share.