One question that I am often asked is, “Where does babywearing take you and in what way does it help you get to where you are going?” In my everyday life the answer is simple and easily given. Babywearing takes us through the grocery store without a cart, on long walks around our neighborhood, to the zoo without a stroller, on a quick trip to the mall, etc. It allows me to be hands free and gets me in & out of places easily. I can rush through a parking lot or business without having to struggle with the hassles presented by a bulky stroller. I can carry an armful of boxes through the post office and not struggle with a squirming toddler on my hip or with a cumbersome detachable car seat in the crook of my arm. The list really goes on when I tell caregivers about all of the conveniences that I have discovered that come with babywearing. I would even call it a necessity if I were to mention all of the sleepy, sick, or teething baby ups that have saved the day. But no one has ever asked me if babywearing has ever helped me through an emergency situation and I have never had reason to give it much of a thought before.
This past week we experienced such a need that put babywearing through its paces for us. Thursday dawned bright and beautiful for us in Utah. Clear skies over the mountains provided a gorgeous backdrop for our 3 day babywearing photo shoot fundraiser that was to begin that day for our local group. My little Alice and I spent the afternoon assisting other caregivers in wrapping their little ones for some great shots. By the time we returned home late that afternoon we were very optimistic for the next 2 days! Our local forecast called for a beautiful weekend and for us this meant some great photo opportunities!
Then, not long after returning home that day, I received a call from my mother, telling me that my dad had suffered a major heart attack that was going to require surgery and all of the kids needed to get there fast. So after throwing as many cloth diapers in a suitcase, followed by whatever clothes I came into contact with first for Alice & I (and they were random, believe me!), I flew through the door and grabbed the first ring sling and SSC that I could lay my hands on! I tore off for the airport, unsure if I could make it through the ticket counter, baggage-check, and the security line in time to make my flight. Thankfully, babywearing allowed me to physically run through the airport with a suitcase and a stroller, allowed me to corral my mobile toddler through the long, slow, and crowded security line, walk through a metal detector with her still attached, and to get all the way across the airport to my gate with time to spare! I should mention that I had booked a flight for 1220 that afternoon at 0930 that morning and it takes an hour to get to the airport from my house!
This was not our first time babywearing through the airport; Alice is somewhat of a pro at traveling at 20 months old. People are always very impressed when we taxi to our gate and then I toss the little miss into the SSC on my back without any assistance and all within the confines of me seat. I’ve had people take pictures of me doing this and even a video once! And I can tell you that as I debark the plane I feel enormous relief course through me as I pass the mass of gate-checked strollers awaiting the caregivers behind me. Wearing makes running to connecting flights so much easier!
Once through our go-go-go travel portion we ran face first into the sit & wait portion of our trip, in a room full of chairs and people, in one of the most germ infested places, full of the sickest people: a hospital. I remember the trepidation that slammed into me when we first arrived in the waiting room and all I could think about were the people who have come and gone from this room, what they could have touched and what they may have brought with them, and when the last time the room had been cleaned. While you may think at this point that I am a germaphobe, I can assure you that this is far from the truth. I highly encourage children to get dirty and for parents to not over bathe them because of all the beneficial bacteria that they can receive from outside play. I have, however, worked in a hospital and I know firsthand what travels though and breeds in them. There is a reason that you can find hand sanitizer stations down every hallway; a hospital is a place for the sick and injured to come to heal and their germs don’t always leave when they do. Instead these germs prefer to find a new host or to mutate into something tougher, nastier, and harder to kill.
While many parents would see little reason in my great alarm, I would like to mention that I have a FRIENDLY child, one who wants to hug and touch every person that she comes into contact with. By wearing her, it’s easier to keep her from touching sick people, who simply seek comfort themselves in the tiny handshake or little hugs offered to them. A wave and a smile can go just as far in raising their spirits and will keep my little one safe. It also keeps her from running full tilt around a corner and into a patient on crutches or orderlies pushing a gurney. In the bustling cafeteria it kept her out from under the hurried feet of people carrying trays of hot food. And in the waiting room, it has helped to relieve much of the boredom brought on by waiting when she puts her stuffed animals in the ring sling and tottles around with them.
Where there’s a babywearer, there’s also the opportunity to share your experience. I’ve had plenty of conversations with the families and staff about its usefulness in many different areas. I even had the opportunity to introduce my sister, sister in law, and older niece to wearing by helping them learn to carry my baby nephew in a ring sling for the first time. This, of course, opened the conversation to baby carrier companies/makers, budget swaps, finding a local group, and talking about non-profit organizations such as The Carrying On Project (I have some family in the military so this was very interesting to them!). They enjoyed how simple it was to learn and were a little surprised by how much they liked doing it. It always surprises others how big and in-depth the babywearing world is and it reminds ME every time why I love to be a part of educating and promoting awareness.
Babywearing also allowed me to bring Alice into the cardiovascular intensive care unit (CVICU) to see my dad when we first arrived. Babies and small children are not permitted into ICU wards because they not only fall into the category of the immunocompromised themselves but they tend to carry a host of germs that have the potential for causing great harm to the patients within the ward. An exception was made for us BECAUSE I was able to wear her in, to keep her completely contained so that she did not touch anything and so that she did not get an opportunity to pull on/out anything that could be bad news to someone there. She was quiet and content, and she was able to lean over and give her grandpa kisses and hugs from the safety of my back/hip. My dad was going into his surgery with very bad odds and the doctors and nurses wanted all of us to share in this special time with him, just in case the worst were to happen, and they didn’t want my little Alice to miss out on that and I am truly thankful that babywearing was able to make that happen for us.
Thankfully my dad came out of his surgery beating the odds and is now in a regular room with the prospect of going home soon. Alice breaks up the monotony of sitting in the room by roaming the halls, impressing the nurses with her bear wrapped on her back. She brings a smile to every face that she passes and is helping to create happy memories for all of the patients on our floor.
** The ringsling that I had with me this trip was a Pretty Paisley handwoven called Black Watch Tartan & as you can tell it is one of Alice’s favorites. So much so, in fact, that she cried when she had to share it!
** The SSC that we grabbed on our way out of the door was a Tula Spotted Love (standard size). Alice has outgrown the standard but we were in a hurry and she was still able to be carried safely in it 🙂