Sunday, October 7, 2012

IBW 2012: Carrying on Traditions

International Babywearing Week is upon us!  Well, almost.  It's 10:35 PM EST as I write this.  So in about an hour and a half, IBW 2012 will be here!

This year's theme for IBW is "carrying on traditions," which for me has some extra significance.  At Atlanta Babywearers, a lot of first-time parents and first-time wearers learn how to carry at the meetings.  Their first exposure to babywearing comes through us, the VBEs and leaders of the group.  The vast majority of parents have never worn their children before, and are the first ones in their families to wear their children.

That's not true in my case.  For me, babywearing has always been a given, something that I knew about since I was a child and my mother told me about how she'd put her baby sister, 10 years her younger, in a strap carry and go leaping and bounding about in the Taiwanese countryside.  Her mother had carried her, and she carried her sister, and that practice was passed down to me.

Back then, wearing children in wraps was a necessity.  My grandmother came from a decent family but married poor, and strollers were not as much of an "essential" as they are now.  My grandmother would wear my mother, who was by all accounts quite a fussy baby, while doing the dishes, cooking, or cleaning the house.  Later, when my mother grew older, and baby #4 came around, it fell to her to help care for it, and you know the rest.

When my son was two months old, my mother pulled me aside and taught me how to tie a strap carry.  But that wasn't the only contact I've had with the old country.  I have a friend, also Taiwanese-American, who had a baby just this year.  I went over to help out while her mother was visiting.  It was surreal and wonderful to talk about wrapping, for me to demonstrate what I remembered of a Taiwanese carry and for her to correct me on my technique.

I think one of my proudest babywearing moments was when my mother sent photos of me carrying my son to my grandmother.  I was wearing him in a simple hip carry, using a piece of dyed linen.  According to my mom, my grandmother took one look at that photo, and declared, "She's doing the right thing."

Carrying, and wrapping especially, has been such an invaluable tool in my parenting toolbox.  It's something I can't imagine my life without; if I had to babysit an infant, I would need to bring a carrier of some kind.  My husband (a second-generation babywearer!) believes that the constant carrying of our son is what allowed them to bond so strongly.  My son has declared that he'll wrap babies when he has them (how long this will stick with him I don't know, but he's told me he's going to have two babies and he's going to wrap them).

Here he is wrapping his "babies": his monkey, his whale, and his bear lovey.
I'm so grateful to be in a city with a group like Atlanta Babywearers, where I could find other people who carry, where I can pass what I know down to other parents and caregivers.  I hope that they too will find babywearing to be a go-to tool, that their children will have warm memories of being carried, and that the practice will stay with them whenever they themselves have kids.

My son's first ride in a woven!  I started with a pouch and ring sling.
Here's my mom, my son, and me.  I'm so happy to have my mother's support in carrying my child.

"Babywearing" still works at 3 years old!