My first pregnancy was fraught with worry. It had been a surprise, and I was going it alone. I had no idea what the future held, I wasn't even sure how ready I was to be a mom. As my pregnancy progressed, it was clear I would inevitably be thrust into new motherhood, and I wanted to be informed, prepared, to the best of my abilities.
So I researched breastfeeding. I researched Attachment Parenting and cosleeping and birth. I read everything I could get my hands on; I read real, actual books because I didn't have the Internet back in those days. I didn't learn much about babywearing, but I was given a sling and an uncomfortable forward-facing carrier that I didn't know how to use.
I had my first baby in a local hospital and drove myself home when we were discharged. I was living in a crappy apartment, and arriving back home with my new baby was overwhelming. I rested, nursed him, and marveled at him. Then it came time to resume my household duties, do laundry, cook my own meals, wash dishes, and clean.
At first, I tried laying my baby on a blanket on the floor. He slept content for a while, that practically comatose newborn stage worked its magic to allow me to get my stuff done. But soon enough, he was crying. Fussing, getting more and more upset. The intensity of his cries increased as I tried to quickly finish up my chores.
But I couldn't finish; I had to tend to my baby. Knowing that I didn't want him to experience prolonged crying without my comfort, I stopped what I was doing and picked my baby up off the floor. This happened again and again. I didn't have bouncy seats or swings or any other baby gear to help entertain and soothe my baby while I worked around the house. I had a blanket on the floor.
This frustrating cycle continued until I worked up the nerve to try babywearing. I had my sling and carrier that had been given to me, but I was nervous about using them. I didn't have instructions for either, and I was not part of any babywearing group or mom community that could help me. My baby was so tiny and floppy and fragile; I didn't want to hurt him, but I knew something needed to change. I was in charge of running a household by myself, caring for myself and my baby alone, and yet I was unable to get anything done.
So I finally strapped on the carrier, positioned my baby, and did the dishes. And my baby slept. I could have wept. It was the miracle I had been waiting for. I eventually figured out the sling, and I liked it even better than the carrier.
My first baby was the sleepless kind, and getting him to nap was no easy feat at first. Babywearing allowed me to sway him to sleep while I took care of household duties. Single parenthood was isolating and lonely, but babywearing allowed me to meet up with friends while my baby slept peacefully on my chest.
My baby's witching hour was terrible; he cried and cried at 7pm sharp for reasons I still don't understand. If I didn't manage to calm him quickly, he'd cry in my arms until midnight. Babywearing changed this. At 7pm every night, I'd sling my baby and go for a walk. The quiet outdoors would calm him, and he'd easily fall asleep. A screaming baby night after night is hard enough for any parent, never mind parenting alone. Our nightly walk with him strapped to my body was one of the only reasons I was able to keep it together in those early days.
My love for babywearing spilled into toddlerhood too. Being a single parent meant I rarely got a break, and as any parent who has gone through toddlerhood can attest, children at that age are a special kind of challenge. They're willful babies, miniature scientists in bigger-kid bodies who still have the impulse control of an infant. Because of babywearing, I was able to calm and contain my child during some really tough parenting moments, and we made it through, peacefully.
Because of babywearing, my child slept, nursed, and stayed close to me while I learned what it meant to be a mother, and to have the strength to do it by myself.