When I was pregnant with Ebony, I spent a lot of time researching prams. I spent an afternoon in Mothercare making Laurie push prams round to see which one was best. I also spent a lot of time imagining myself pushing a pram. I didn’t even consider babywearing until the very end of my pregnancy.
About a month before I was due to give birth, we took a weekend antenatal course with the NCT. If you’re considering taking these classes, I would recommend them. They’re expensive, but I found the discussions around childbirth very reassuring. The Saturday was spent preparing for labour, and the Sunday was spent preparing for looking after a baby.
The Sunday came as a bit of a shock to me. Obviously I knew there would be a baby, but I had mainly focused on how lovely it would be to hold a tiny sleeping baby. I hadn’t really given much thought to the day to day. When I went into the class on the Sunday, my head was filled with thoughts of tiny feet and cuddles. When I left the class that evening, I was in a very different state of mind.
We all sat round on the Sunday morning, and Laura (our course leader) asked who was excited about spending all day cuddling their beautiful baby. I raised my hand, and Laura screamed “IDIOT” in my face while throwing a bucket of cold water over me.
Well, that’s how it felt anyway.
We were given activities to do. For those who don’t know me personally, I hate activities. I hate joining in, getting involved and taking part. Working in a team is not on my list of strengths. I’m a lone ranger. And you can sod off with your skillshares, I hate them. I don’t want to talk like a primary school teacher, and I don’t want to fain discovery and enjoyment. It’s just awkward for all of us.
One of the activities revolved around sleep. Each couple was given a sheet explaining their baby’s sleep pattern. We had to read them out to the group (vom). Some people had a ‘good’ baby, and others had fussy babies. At the end we learnt, “it’s actually all the same baby.” Exclamations of “gee whizz” and “boy oh boy, I didn’t see that coming” could be heard radiating from the group. I probably looked like I was on the toilet, because my discomfort reached a new peak when there was a ‘deep message’ hidden within an already painful task.
This blog is the worst advert for NCT classes ever, but I actually did find them useful. And if you’re the kind of person who loves joining in, you won’t be able to get enough. Like my husband, who answered every second question all weekend. What kind of person strives to be the class geek at antenatal classes? He even excelled at the breastfeeding session. For shame.
One of the tasks made me realise that I had no idea what looking after a baby would really be like. We were split into two groups; Mums and birth partners. Each group was given a scenario to read through and discuss. Our scenario was horrific. I had to put a lot of effort into not crying while it was being read out. I can’t remember the details, I’ve probably blocked them out because the memories are too painful, but basically it was a day in the life of a new Mum.
Washing not done, lunch not eaten, tea not drunk, baby crying constantly... you get the drift. The point of the task was to make us realise how utterly crap our lives would be once the baby arrived, or that’s what I got out of it anyway. At the time I was distraught, but looking back now I can see that the task was useful.
Firstly, it means Laurie sometimes puts a wash on before he leaves for work. The birth partners had the same day in the life, but from their perspective, and it started with them tripping over a pile of washing at the top of the stairs. Laurie said that during the task, all the birth partners decided this was very annoying for them, but they didn’t want to appear to be ‘having a go’ at the new Mums so would instead write a note on the fridge reminding us to do the washing.
I think I’d probably be divorced now if, within the first few weeks of motherhood, I had discovered a note on the fridge (no doubt with a smiley on it somewhere) reminding me to do the washing. Divorced or widowed, anyway. So, I am thankful for the awful task because it made Laurie realise that staying at home with a newborn wasn’t all cuddles and kisses (although, it mostly is really. But don’t tell Laurie).
The task did much more than that though, it changed the way I function as a Mum. I was shell-shocked after the class, and all I could think about was how awful life would be without tea. I realised I could get a sling to use, just in the house, so that I could keep the baby happy and get on with my business. I’m lucky enough to have a babywearing friend who must own every kind of carrier under the sun. She sent me asleepy wrap to use.
I tried the sleepy wrap when Ebony was a few weeks old. It was scary at first, because I was worried I might not have tied it properly, but I used YouTube videos and kept practising until I felt more confident. I started to use it occasionally in the house. Ebony isn’t a particularly fussy baby, but on days when she wanted to be held constantly, I would just pop her in the sling and she would settle almost immediately.
I live less than a mile from the local shops, but the pavement on route isn’t level, and it’s littered with tree roots, so was hard work with my pram’s clumpy wheels. It always took twice as long as it should, and the pram often got stuck along the way. Before leaving the house, I’d already have battled with the pram to get it through the house and out the door. It just wasn’t enjoyable.
One day I needed to just pop into town, and instead of going through the hassle of the pram, I decided to take Ebony in the Sleepy Wrap. She felt really safe, I loved being able to look down at her, and I could walk faster than a zombie again. That day started my love affair with the Sleepy Wrap.
I haven’t used the pram for months. I can’t see any benefits with prams, I find babywearing too convenient. Despite being a hefty weight, Ebony doesn’t feel heavy in the carrier because her weight is properly distributed. She never cries in the carrier, because she is close to me. She can interact with me, and with others, easily because she is at the right height.
Ebony has now outgrown the Sleepy Wrap, and I am very sad that we won’t be using it anymore. But we now have an Ergo, and I love it just as much. It’s less snuggly, so for a newborn I don’t think it’s as good, but Ebony is almost eight months so the Ergo is perfect for us now. I plan to continue babywearing until Ebony is old enough to do all her walking herself. Until then, I will keep her close to my heart rather than pushing her at ground level, because that’s what works for us.