International Babywearing week quietly passed me by, for the first time in 5 years I haven’t organised anything or been invited to an event to celebrate. This year I have been having mixed thoughts about my role as a sling librarian and babywearing consultant. And my thoughts have flowed onmy own journey from new mum to where I am today, qualified babywearing consultant and sling library owner.
Using a sling was a complete ‘no brainer’ for me when I found myself pregnant with my first. Why wouldn’t I want to keep my baby close and secure? At the time I found a sling shop and hunted through to find an affordable and pretty long wrap (I am not sure what made me decide on that style I think the idea of the skill of wrapping a long piece of material around to secure my baby to me really appealed to me) However, once it arrived and i stood holding this enormously long piece of material I had serious doubts! Luckily a friend who had recently had a baby showed me her Kari-Me and showed me how to use it, I bought one and we spent many a happy evening putting a toy monkey in it.
Once my little one arrived it always became a bit of a trial and error as to whether the sling was comfy or not, whether it held him securely enough. I never really understood why it worked one day and not the other. As he got bigger I became the proud owner of a beautiful lilac mei tai, which became our most favourite and much used sling. I also got a ring sling which I loved but was always so tricky to use and he often ‘fell’ out the bottom of it. But carrying him was something I loved. I never really got the hang of back carrying when he was small it seemed a terrifying idea and I loved having him so close to me on the front and he was a keen breastfeeder so always needed access to a boob!
When my little one was about a year or so I was excited to see a course to train as a babywearng consultant. I love training and learning new skills and I thought this was a great opportunity to really learn the skills involved in learning to use a wrap. By this time I had also made contact with some people in the next town, Colchester and we had made a start at setting up Ipswich and Colchester sling library (now dissolved and not anything to do with the Ipswich and Colchester sling library that is now up and running) however by the time I went on the course I found myself the sole owner of the sling library as the other two people had moved away. So at the course I turned up with a suitcase full of slings I didn’t really know how to use and I believe my first babywearing demo doll, Jack. It was on this course I met people in the industry, several who have become a very respected friend. The two and a half days of training was pretty mind blowing not just learning the skills but also learning so much about the developmental needs of babies. And I left the course really wanting to take this info to other parents and help them gain confidence and learn the skills of using slings.
For a while I was the only sling library in the area but due to some home life issues and not being able to be so active in the community I found myself one of 2 and now one of 3.
Over the years I have taken two more courses, really expanding my skills, not just in using slings, but in learning how to communicate in a gentle manner, to lose any judgments I may have had and how to breakdown and troubleshoot problems.
The sling library and consults and workshops have never really amounted to more than an extremely expensive hobby (the library has never covered the costs of my training and all slings have been bought out of my own pocket – and no I daren’t add up how much this is!) This year has been giving the sling library and my consultant services the last chance to see if they really are worth me spending so much time and effort in running them. And I am still up in the air – I may only hire out 1 or 2 slings a month, sometimes none, I always spend much of the time giving people valuable assistance in using their slings or working out which sling would work for them, and then realising I have made nothing out of it – which is very difficult as a self employed home educator – my time really is valuable and much as I love to see smiles on faces I can’t afford to work for free. I have had some lovely support from other antenatal service providers, helping me with finding a free venue – so at least I am not paying to give people information and support which has happened a lot over the past. And for recommending me and sending people my way. My beautiful stash of library slings are very dear to me – and each one has a story. I have made many ‘mummy friends’ giving consultations and was touched to hear I inspired someone in another town to set up their own library. I have had the pleasure of watching tiny babies grow into beautiful children. And I admit I watch with envy as other consultants make a living or at least have a busy and thriving business.
So this International Babywearing week has been a time of thinking, reminiscing and fact facing. I am still not read to make a Final Decision, on how I progress with the library and the consultation service – but what it has shown me is what a long way I have come, and what a valuable journey it has been – not financially but in personal growth, friendships, networking and quietly but steadily spreading the joy of carrying babies in slings.