At first, I thought that my new baby was kind of cramping my style. I’m literally talking style, because I gained 50 pounds this pregnancy. How does one dress herself when she’s no longer with child and is instead with all the Saltines and root beer she ate over the previous 39 weeks? Not very fashionably, I’ll tell you that. Fortunately, the only way my new baby will stop crying is coiled like a potato bug inside a sling I wear all day long. And seriously, wearing your baby is, like, all the rage these days. I’m super-trendy.
Sadly, my baby likes to be worn in an elasticized black Infantino sling. I don’t mind it so much, but I can tell this sling does not impress the baby-wearing set in our hippie-dippy town. It practically shouts, “I shop at Target and won’t fork out more than $29.95 for my child’s faux womb!” I guess that’s better than the statment I’d make were I sporting an itchy Guatemalan-inspired ring sling in a fabric that doesn’t match anything but Birkenstocks and leg hair. You know, the sort that shouts to the world, “I use all-natural deodorant made from soy and Ralph Nader spittle, and intend to feed my child on demand until he’s 33!”
Did I say that out loud? Sorry. Clearly I’m getting a little tired of the hard-core baby-wearing set. I do actually enjoy being able to get our little potato bug to sleep in the sling. And it’s not terribly inconvenient having him close to me while I take care of people and things that would otherwise be left to mold, cry, or pile up. But frankly, I’m not trying to be part of an anti-establishment parenting faction. I’m not trying to make some sort statement with my sling. It would be more truthful to say my son is making one. He does not want any other sling, damnit. He wants the Infantino.
So, he happens to heavily favor a cheap sling that isn’t popular with the aforementioned cult. Many of whom continue to treat me as if I’m some sort of greenhorn that needs to be guided toward a finer baby-wearing device. (And let me just clarify here that by “finer,” I actually mean a carrier that’s more primitive: The more it emulates something worn in the rice paddies, the better.)
I do own a very nice ring-sling by the way. And I tried on a zillion other baby-wearing devices before buying it. With my first baby, I owned a pouch. And a Maya Wrap. And an expensive-as-all-getout backpack. And various other devices that made her scream at me as though it were foot-binding, not baby-wearing. With my son, however, the ring-sling turned me into a 24-hour convenience mart: Strapping a baby’s face against milk ducts is like setting meat on a lion’s nose and expecting him to take a sleep, ever, instead of eat, constantly.
I’ve found that when I wear my baby in the ring-sling, I tend to attract other baby-wearers. It’s like a secret club. The first rule in Ultimate Baby Wearing Club is definitely NOT like the first rule in Fight Club. It’s the opposite. DO talk about it–constantly, if possible. But wearing my baby in a ring-sling doesn’t mean I want to talk about it. It also doesn’t mean I’m automatically like-minded with the next woman wearing her kid. It doesn’t mean I use hemp diapers or had a placenta-eating ritual after giving birth in a wooden washtub. It doesn’t really mean anything other than my baby likes this thing, and I don’t want him to cry all day, so he wins.
Yesterday at my daughter’s preschool, I decided to introduce myself to a pair of new moms on the playground. Maybe I should have heeded the warning. I mean, one of them was wearing a serious ring-sling, a quilted and perhaps even homemade specimen. (The second rule of Ultimate Baby Wearing Club: the more primitive, the better). She took stock of my Supertarget Supershit Sling, and reminisced about the time she’d tried one on and how awful it was.
“Have you ever tried a Mei Tai or a ring-sling?” she asked. “My son really loves his.”
She was referring to her 14-month-old, who instead of being loosed on the playground with the other children was bound tightly around her hip. (Mama loves her accessories!) I explained that I actually use a ring-sling sometimes but don’t prefer it, because it makes my baby frantically root on me. Her disapproval was almost palpable.
“And there’s something WRONG with that?” she asked, judgement steaming out of her flared noseholes.
Truth is, I’m actually quite fond of nursing, but not while shaving my legs, emptying the garbage, or doing various other things that are part of my decidely non-tribal, modern, industrial existence. So, yeah, lady, the day I decide it’s cool to nurse while eliminating in the loo is the day I expect my family to stage a breastfeeding intervention.
Okay, after I swallowed back the hot puke that came up my throat, I explained that I simply prefer not to nurse him every 15 minutes and that I actually wear him in the Infantino because it’s the one place he’ll sleep. Knowing that so many of the Ring-Sling Rambos and women in the Mei Tai Mafia think a baby’s naps are more of a luxury for mom than a necessity for baby, particularly when compared with the benefits of breastfeeding every 2-3 seconds, I should have expected what came next. What came next was her explaining to me that 50 years from now parents will probably all be doing as she’s doing. She said they’ll disdainfully look back at our generation of parents and shake their heads in disbelief.
Maybe I should start going topless and strapping my baby to my front-side using braided corn husks. Oh, the skin-to-skin contact! The everlasting breastfeeding-on-demand! The primitive gorgeousness of it! Then, as is my obvious wish, maybe future generations will look back at me as if I were some sort of mother-goddess. Yeah, I’ll show them all.