During Saturday’s Birth Circle at Hillsborough Yoga and Healing Arts, one of the other moms stated that before becoming a mom she often found herself annoyed at those Aggressive Moms, inching their fully loaded stroller through a crowded Farmer’s Market pavilion, a place not intended for large wheels. I felt the same way! Now, that we are moms though, we get it; moms and their babies have as much right to be there as other people do. But I do it a bit differently. I wear Elisabeth instead of strolling her.
There are many reasons for babywearing [babies are not intended to spend long periods of time in plastic shells; it’s where they feel the safest and are the least fussy; wearing your baby allows you to learn them better, learn their signals, etc. Sharon Heller explores this nicely in her book, The Vital Touch, “Does it make a difference how baby is transported? Carried, our infant experiences body warmth, frequent position change, deep pressure touch, containment and rocking, to say nothing of the opportunities to balance her head, upright her posture or use her muscles for clinging. When babies are wheeled all this is lacking.” (115-6)] All of this holds true for me. In addition to these physical and developmental reasons why carrying/wearing is better than strolling, I wear Elisabeth for three personal reasons:
1) Sight. I want to see what Elisabeth sees. I can’t do this consistently if she is at knee level or below, unless I get down that low. She can’t talk so the least I can do is pay attention. I’ve found it’s easier for me to pay attention, if she is right in front of me; I’m less distracted and more focussed on her. It’s important to me to see if Elisabeth is upset before I hear a cry. I want to see if her hat is covering her eyes, a sock has fallen off or if her sunglasses have slid down to her mouth. Does Elisabeth notice the squirrel dangling from the tree branch, three steps in front of us? If she does, I want to connect a word to the object of her gaze. Just as importantly, she cannot see me when she is in the BOB. If Elisabeth cannot see me or feel my smile of reassurance and close touch, she might be more inclined to feel alone and unprotected.
2) Safety– Like women can be sexually assaulted from behind, I worry that someone is going to swoop up from behind me, knock me over and wheel her away. In shock, I might not scream for help. Would I be able to run after them and get her back? When I am wearing Elisabeth in her Bjorn, she’s tucked right in front of me as, neat as a bib. Someone would have to make a huge amount of very obvious effort to wrestle her out of her carrier and steal her away. It wouldn’t be easy. Sadly, I am one of those people who have worn glasses since third grade. I have terrible vision and while I usually wear my contacts, if my glasses were knocked off somehow, Elisabeth in the Bjorn would still be close enough so I could see that she was okay. In the BOB, not so much.
3) Place– Elisabeth belongs in the world that I’m in. She may be a baby but she’s still a part of my (our) world. I want her to be on face level with people who I talk to, the “strangers” that we meet. [I don’t know if this will help remove the possibility of stranger anxiety that might come in a few months but who knows?] I want Elisabeth to hear us talk. I want Elisabeth to hear them talk to HER, using her name. I don’t want Elisabeth to fear people outside her mama and her papa. I want her to see how I relate to people, why I trust them and how she can learn to do the same. Elisabeth’s place is with me, as long as she allows me to carry her.
Strolling her around in our awesome BOB may give my back a break and allow me an extra shelf to haul Farmer’s Market goodies but at what cost in the long-term? Doesn’t that relegate Elisabeth to being an observer instead of a participant? I think it does and that’s a big cost in my mind. And, yes, I also want to encourage her loudness, her laughter, build her confidence and reach out for someone who I’m talking to. Elisabeth is six months old already. How long will it be before she is walking and not interested in being carried? Soon, I think. So for now, we two travel as one.