Being a parent isn’t hard work because the reward’s not enough; it’s hard because the reward is so big. For all the challenges having a little soon-to-be-big one brings, we get days and nights filled with small joys that nothing else can come close to. The laughs when you swoop down to pick them up, the beaming smiles at 3am, the look of achievement on their faces when they first learn to roll over, or crawl or even suck their toe. It’s the joy those unrecorded moments bring that makes the hard work, fair cop.
Still though, it’s perfectly reasonable to want to make life easier – especially given that no matter how much easier you make it, the sleeplessness and suddenly being in charge, sometimes sole charge of a real life that can’t take charge of itself, is the toughest job you’re ever going to do. So, we do what we can to make it easier. For the first couple for weeks, we live off food from the freezer and delivery. We ask husbands to do errands and dim the lights to hide the dust. We spend the first couple of weeks letting things go but there comes a point when you can’t anymore – life has to start again.
Babywearing is the simplest choice I’ve made to make life easier, though that wasn’t the intention – we just wanted him to benefit from being held upright and against me and within days of wearing M, it became second nature. The closeness and security of a wrap really feels like he’s my second skin. I cook, and clean, and sit/stand/move without worrying about where M’s hands or feet are sticking out. I just tilt my chin and kiss his head or just breath in his smell and I’m there to react to his needs and his wants as soon as he needs or wants it.
If he’s upset, in the seconds it takes to pull the material of a wrap or a ring sling around him, you can feel his breathing calm. If he can’t sleep, you feel his body sink into yours. If he won’t nurse, the ease of access encourages him to latch on. Whether it’s me or G carrying him, babywearing positively impacts our every day.
So why do I still feel a twinge of Mummy-guilt about wearing M so much? Why do I feel like a cop-out parent when I wear him to sleep if he wants me to? Why do I feel like the ‘proper’ thing to do would be to rock him to sleep, or leave him to take himself off, or… something. Something other than the easy option – the option best for us both.
Because we (Brits?) are programmed that the easy way out is not the good way out. Things have to be difficult. We’ve been programmed that for a baby to learn independence they have to learn to ‘get on’ with things alone, without us. They have to learn to cry it out, have to deal with things themselves.
When M was first born, we were encouraged to leave him to it. I used to get mad with G for giving into his instincts and picking baby up when he cried because I didn’t trust my instinct enough and I went with the ‘common’ belief: not letting M cry and picking him up when he cried would spoil him…get him used to it, make it harder for me.
It is impossible to spoil a baby.
I refuse – we refuse – to let our baby cry it out. He’s going to grow up soon enough, he’s going to have to face the life stuff on his own soon enough. right now, he doesn’t understand why he’s sad or why he’s still awake or what his body wants. All he knows is that he is sad, he is awake or something he wants is not there. At six months and 5 days, the sure fire way to fix whatever’s wrong is to hold him and hug him and let him know that we’re there, because sure, in a year we can say that we’re here but now he needs showing that fact every time.
Last night I was being stubborn. Refusing to use the sling, just because. That Britishness / Mummy-guilt stupidness kicking in. Don’t take the easy way out. M woke and couldn’t get back. For over an hour we walked and I rocked, I sang and I sshhhh-ed. And for an hour he’d sleep then re-wake, sleep then re-wake sleep then re-wake. After an hour and twenty minutes, and another feed too, M finally went back off. This morning, my back ached. Not because I never carry my child, not because that was the first time I’ve ever sung him to sleep or held him for an hour, but because without the sling, my posture is off, and M’s weight isn’t balanced quite right.
And I don’t mind that my back ached, and if I needed to I’d wake every morning with achy joints if that’s what it took to help M get some rest, but the irony is I didn’t need to be achy and it didn’t need to take that long. If I’d have put him in the sling, he’d have been asleep within 15 minutes max and we’d both have been more relaxed with it all. Babywearing may be cop-out parenting, but after last night, I really don’t care. Babywearing supports our natural instinct to be joined, keeps us both healthy and connected. Why on earth would I do anything else?