I often get asked how I ended up doing what I do. There’s limited space on the about page on the website and the whole story would be a bit overwhelming there, so I thought I’ll share it here 🙂 It’s always good to know who you are dealing with, isn’t it.
Grab a cuppa, this may take a while …
We bought our first sling, a woven wrap, when I was 5 months pregnant with big bro. That was in 2007. I’d seen loads of babywearing growing up and a good friend in Germany had had a baby a few months earlier and had told me about all the benefits of babywearing. I thought that one wrap was all anyone ever needed … (and in theory, it could be!)
Even more than babywearing, I saw breastfeeding when I grew up. It was such a given to me that babies feed off their mum’s breasts that I didn’t actually understand the “Have you thought about breastfeeding?” question at one of my antenatal appointments.
Big bro was born, latched on and we took him home 24 hours later in a dangerously low and curly cradle carry – good job we only walked to the car! The whirlwind of first baby commenced. I found it all incredibly overwhelming. Nowhere near as straight forward as it was in my head! And it was lonely. I’d very few friends locally, none of them had children and the ladies from the online pregnancy group did things so differently to me. I never made it to the one local breastfeeding group that was only on once a month, at 8pm. Thankfully I had found a bunch of babywearers and breastfeeders online, they became my little village, helped me dig through to my instincts.
When big bro was 5 months old, I went to my first Sling Meet, 1.5 hours drive away. Being surounded by friendly, supportive, likeminded mamas was amazing. I got to chat slings, cloth nappies, boobs and see toddlers being parented repsonsively. That was in early 2008 and I went home with the Babywearing Ireland (though it wasn’t called that at the time) demo stash: a Napsack Mei Tai, a Girasol and Hoppediz woven wrap, a Bondolino and a BäraBarn ring sling. The idea was to start sling meets and spread the snuggles in the Northeast.
Turned out transfering idea into reality wasn’t all that easy. Humbling it was though, demotivating. The first two meets had one person at them: me! The third had one more. So I did demos instead at groups and invited people to my house for informal one-on-ones.
In early 2009, myself and another local mum started up a weekly morning breastfeeding group here in Dundalk. She used slings too. My second baby, Big Sis, arrived in September of that year. Seeing our smallies being slung created more of an interest amongst the mums who attended our group and at the playgroup I attended with my lot. Demos and informal tuition became more frequent. And more people came up after demos and showed an interest. Yay!
A few weeks after Big Sis was born, something happened: She was sleeping away in her stretchy wrap while I was cooking dinner and Big Bro pottered. He got increasingly frustrated, I really wanted to get dinner made and I really didn’t want to wake the sleeping baby. So I offered to sling him on my back. He hopped up, snuggled in, melted into me. 15 minutes later his little voice went “Ok, Mama. Down.” He went back to playing, chatting away to himself. A totally relaxed little man. I suddenly understood how powerful a hug can be, what babywearing does for the little people. Talk about an eye opener!
I loved empowering other mums and giving them tools to make parenting easier and more enjoyable. It’s why I studied Education in university in the first place, to open doors and minds, to empower. Doing it with parents was just extra special and meaningful. So as well as training as a Breastfeeding Counsellor, I jumped at the chance of training as a Babywearing Consultant when the opportunity arose here in Ireland for the first time ever. Both courses started in 2011. My parents and gran haven’t had to be creative with pressies in a long while now, it’ll be course fees, demo dolls, conference and workshop fees for a few years to come yet on my wishlist for birthdays and Christmas!
The training and growing interest at the two groups gave me the push to try Sling Meets again. And it worked! From 2012 Sling Meets in the Northeast became regular events. A far cry from my first attempts 4 years previously. And testament to the fact that seeing these things in action is the best advertising possible.
When Mr A was born in 2013 with Talipes, I realised just what an integral part babywearing was in my parenting. Using slings wasn’t as straightforward with his treatment (there’s an entire blog post about that here) and I remember running into several situations every day that I found more awkward without the ease of slings.
I’ve had similar when I started childminding when Big Sis was 16 months old. I had combos of three at 8 months & 23 months apart, 4 at 1 month – 3.5 years – 23 months apart and now have 4 at 13 months – 3.5 years – 23 months apart. I couldn’t imagine meeting everyone’s needs reasonably repsonsively without slings!
Over the years a concept for something bigger formed in my head, it’s filling several pages at this stage. It’s still forming and still the ultimate goal and will hopefully reach many more parents locally. And I’ve found allies who understand and support the idea. If only that lotto win would materialise! Until that day (of the lotto win or some such), my awesome granny has supported me in adding a tiny shop to my Consultancy. It’s yet another huge learning curve and it’s given me the opportunity to open even more doors. Not just for customers but also for other small, ethical businesse run by mums like Pathi, Colimacon and Wrapsody.
I love what I do. I am passionate about what I do. I’ve grown with and into what I do. I grow more with every parent I work with, every new phase my own little people enter. I’m good at what I do (except the paperwork and figures, that needs major improvement!). And I hope that it’s a tiny contribution to a more compassionate society.