i carry your heart with me (i carry it in my sling)

This is the story of my first wrap.

I had vaguely heard about baby wearing (what a weird term I thought) when I was pregnant, and decided I definitely needed to get some sort of carrier.  I googled and browsed and researched.  I liked the idea of a woven wrap, but they were expensive, and had a learning curve, and what if I couldn’t get to grips with it?

I went to the local NCT Nearly New Sale a month before my due date, and Oh Joy!  I picked up a bargain – a Baby Bjorn in perfect condition and only a fiver!  It wasn’t a wrap, but it was a reputable brand, they must be popular for a reason!

On 7th October 2008 my beautiful boy was born in a peaceful water birth in hospital.  It took us a few days to get breastfeeding established, and I treasure memories of walking around the ward with him in the Baby Bjorn, so glad I packed it in the hospital bag.  But gosh, he was heavy!   He was born 8lb 9oz.  And apart from the temporary blip while we mastered nursing he headed right to the top of the percentiles and stayed there.

By 4 months old, around 18lbs, he was too physically big for the BB, and much too heavy.  It hurt between my shoulders and wouldn’t do up around his thighs.  I hated it.  But I loved it, I loved carrying him.  There had to be something more.  So I began my internet searches again.  And I walked up to a stranger in boots in bright stripes (a Didymos Katja or maybe an Earthy Rainbow or Girasol 6 says my retrospective knowledge!) and asked about her sling.  (Much later I found out it was Claire A, who a year or so later founded the Exeter Sling Library.  I like to think I was one of her first clients.  And it has very much come full circle, as I recently took over the library, now running as Isca Sling Library.)   I bit my tongue, and crossed my fingers, and bought a Didymos wrap on eBay.  A Ruby-mandarine Ellipsen size 6 for £55.  It wasn’t the colour or design I would have chosen, but I did like it, and even then I knew it was a bit of a bargain as new they were over £80 at the time.

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My first EVER wrap job was way too loose and low, but you can see we loved it!

It arrived, already broken in.  Soft as butter, thin but snuggly.  Delicious.  And nearly-twenty-pounds Charlie was suddenly weightless.  That sling became my pride and joy.  I coveted more, and over the next year or so bought a shortie (storch inka), an Ergo, a mei tai, another didy, and a ring sling.  But wrapping was my true love, though I didn’t know anyone in real life who wrapped and never mastered back carrying with a wrap, favouring the MT or SSC.

By the time Charlie was 18 months old he was a busy toddler and I had found the ring sling love.  I still used my beloved didy, but rarely.  Then my online friend Katy had some bad news.  She was due with baby #2 in July, and in June her husband was told he was under threat of redundancy and his hours would be cut to 3 days a week.  Our community of friends rallied, setting her up with some cloth so she didn’t need to worry about nappies, and I sent my didy on holiday to her, as it wasn’t being used, so didn’t need to get a double buggy.  On 15th July 2010 her son (also Charlie) was born, and the didy did its job well, and snuggled him with love.

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Katy’s first wrap cuddles with her Charlie-squish.

In late October the whole family caught colds, and Charlie was poorly, with a persistent low grade fever.  But something just wasn’t right.  After several days he took a sudden turn for the worse, refusing to nurse, and they took him to casualty.  They heard words every parent dreads– meningitis…coma…life support.  Charlie died when he was only three and a half months old.  Katy and her family started a meningitis awareness campaign in his memory, and his story has touched many – small but mighty, never forgotten.  (Please read his story here: http://charliecheekychops.blogspot.co.uk/ )  And my didy came home, washed and loved, and I cried into it for my friend’s broken heart.

Meanwhile I had a busy 2 year old, and a heart that longed for more babies, and a body that was less cooperative.  I stopped browsing slings and torturing myself with thoughts of babies and baby wearing, and focussed on my toddler as he grew to a preschooler.  My very good friend G was pregnant, and as well as a gift of a ring sling (a Comfy Joey charity fundraiser with the profits going to Meningitis Trust – a cause also close to her heart as she lost her best friend to meningitis at 14) I lent her my didy, and it wrapped again when M was born in June 2011.

And I weaned my son, in hopes of a pregnancy that would not come.  And I put away the slings as he turned 3 and walked everywhere.  And maybe I cried a little in fear that I would never nurse or baby wear again.

At last, in March 2012 I got a positive pregnancy test.  And started looking again at slings.  And was bewildered.  The sling world had changed so much.  This Oscha company – when would they get that Starry Night Blue Ice in stock again – I like that one.  What do you mean never?!  Obi, Uppy, Ocah, Oscha, Nati, Natty, India, Indio, DISO, TFT, VHTF, WTF?!  I grew my baby, and I read and coveted, and purchased and planned and stashed.

But there was never any doubt which sling would be the first.  Snuggly soft and warm for my November baby, Ella.  I wrapped her first at 18 hours old when we went back to the hospital for her newborn checks.

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For a long time I thought I would keep the didy as a legacy.  But although it was the most loved wrap in my stash, more heart (and not just mine) in it than any other, it was one of the least reached for.  My fickle tastes always reaching for the blue stars, or the other blue stars, or the, ahem, blue stars or the teal stars (still haven’t got Blue Ice, but nebula is here, and maya, and two milky ways, and star map on the way, and oops I just preordered shiny star too).  I knew I needed to find a way to spread the love this wrap held, not keep it folded or braided at the bottom of a pile, a dusty relic.

The last weeks I had it I wore nothing else.  I nearly backed out – what was I thinking!  This was such a beautiful sling, so soft and gorgeous, and it might not be blue and starry, but it was red and ellipseny and oh, what was I thinking.  My friend Sarah took some gorgeous pictures of myself and Ella.  And then I packed it up and posted it away and tried not to cry.

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Ella and I enjoying the last snuggles in our first sling.

When I saw the work Geeky Sweetheart had done for me I was so happy, I knew I had made the right decision.  I took my parcel home from the conference, wrapped and posted it again.  On Charlie’s third birthday, which his family celebrate every year, they unwrapped two parcels from me.  One, to keep, was a dolly sling – or a scarf, for Charlie’s big brother and little sister to carry their toys, or for Katy to wear next to her heart.  I have one for myself and my babies too, a piece of that sling will always be mine.  The other half of the sling has been made into a ring sling, appliquéd with the yellow feather that is the Meningitis Trust logo.  It belongs to South Cheshire Sling Library, in Charlie’s memory, and I like to think of every baby snuggled in it, enabling more parents to baby wear and also, I hope, hearing Charlie’s story and raising meningitis awareness.

I met Katy for the first time in real life in late July.  We’d known each other over 4 years online and it felt like we’d met a thousand times before.  She was wearing Emily in the library sling, and our group of friends all used it.

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Katy and Emily.

And my dolly sling?  Well, Charlie is not a big dolly-wearer (and favours my Milkyway sky-blue when he does!)  So I mostly use it as a scarf.  Its a special favourite, and makes me happy whenever I use it.

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There is so much love in that sling, and a love that I hope will continue to multiply.  It truly has love woven into it.