Babywearing With A Disability
I’m Anne, I’m a 39 year old mum of three. I was always keen to babywear with my first child as I loved the idea of closeness and was carried by my mum as a baby.
My biggest challenge as a new parent was that I have Crohns disease. Crohns is an incurable bowel disease that causes you a lot of urgency to get to a toilet. Crohns, combined with anxiety- based post natal depression, meant I was unable to leave the house alone for over two months in case I couldn’t get to a loo. With a lot of support from family and friends, I started looking into other ways to get out and about without having to worry. Baby carriers looked to be my best option as I’d be able to fit into a normal toilet cubicle with them.
I started with a high street carrier, it was brilliant for a small baby. I had my hands free and my baby boy was content! But he was growing very quickly as babies do. At that point my illness decided to add another complication into the mix, severe arthritis. I could no longer use the small clips that held the carrier together, it was starting to dig into my shoulders and I was in constant pain. A pram wasn’t an option as I didn’t have the grip to hold the handles without attaching a wrist strap, and curbs were a no go. I was stuck. So I started researching other baby carriers.
I came across a Scootababy soft structured carrier. It clipped around my waist with a giant arthritis friendly buckle and adjusts with a very simple pull on the shoulder, baby sits on your hip all cuddled up! Freedom again! And the best thing about this baby carrier was that Daddy loved using it too, brilliant. Time went on, Toby learned to walk very quickly and I used my baby carrier for emergency carries. I was in treatment so could push the buggy again. We were happy and made the big step to add to our family again.
I was 6 months pregnant with baby no.2 when I went for lunch with a friend. We met up with an old colleague of hers who had just had a baby. Her beautiful tiny baby girl was snuggled up on her chest in a long piece of fabric (I found out later it was a stretchy wrap). Mum was happily eating her lunch while also caring for her 2 year old son. I was really impressed and wanted to know more. I purchased a stretchy wrap ready for when baby arrived. When my stretchy came in the post, I started practicing with an Elmo teddy and YouTube tutorials.
Birth day came and I packed my stretchy into my hospital bag. I first wrapped Max at 1 day old, in the hospital! As I collected my lunch from the other end of the ward, it was an amazing feeling having this (not so tiny) baby, content, fast asleep and happy curled up where he was safest. A tired, but very relaxed, happy mummy just enjoying those first moments without having to worry about putting him down to go to the loo or get food.
This time I was ready for the disease flare ups that start at 6 weeks. And I had a powerful tool in the battle with depression. I had freedom.
When Max was 4 months old, I heard about a group that had slings and carriers and other babywearing mums. I tentatively went along to West Pennine Slings, wondering whether I would be welcome as the post partum depression had taken hold again. An amazing group of mums welcomed me without judgement, just support and understanding. There was an overwhelming array of different slings and carriers, it was brilliant. And there was cake! These ladies became a big part of my life. As Max grew, I decided that the buggy I used with Toby was no good, my arthritis had got worse but he was getting too heavy for the stretchy and too big for my carrier. I got professional advice and was even able to hire something different. It wasn’t long before I bought my first woven wrap.
I became more and more involved with the library, the social side was fantastic and I learned so much about different types of carriers. I started helping as a volunteer at the sling library. Later I completed my Trageschule Peer supporter babywearing advocacy course with other library volunteers.
I am now officially joint manager of West Pennine Slings library and have completed my Slingababy consultancy course. We are going from strength to strength as a sling library. My health is generally stable, apart from some minor surgery and flares.
My third boy has been such a wonderful addition to our family. Everyone has carried him, including his Daddy, Grandma and even his big brother!
What started as a useful tool has become so much more. It’s my calling to help others in similar situations, it’s my support network, and my family. I’m so proud of our achievements. Our amazing network of people who support others is growing by the day. Not only locally, but around the country sling libraries are supporting each other to benefit the wider community.