Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Costumes, Carriers, and Cons, oh my!

Three years ago my brother and his girlfriend went to a sci-fi/fantasy/gaming/anime/all things nerd convention called Dragon*Con and came home with all sorts of stories about the fun that they had meeting authors and tv stars and artists and musicians and hanging out with thousand s of people who like the same things that they like.  My husband and I thought this sounded like a great idea and decided that we HAD to go next year.  Of course, we found out we were pregnant just a few weeks later but after a lot of waffling we decided that, seeing that he’d be 3 months old, he’d never be more portable.  It turned out to be a good choice.  We had a blast even if we did take it a bit easier than we would have if we weren’t parents.
At only a few months old, 1 Up baby enjoys his first Dragon*Con

Dragon*Con is a huge event with some 50,000+ geeks and nerds in attendance with events taking place in 5 different hotels in a 2 block radius in downtown Atlanta.  With that many people in so few hotels it is very crowded and pushing a stroller in those crowds would have been challenging and I guarantee I would have hit people and people would have tripped over the stroller.  The crowds could also have been frightening for a little baby in a low stroller where he can’t see anything but strangers.  But with baby F snuggled up on mom or dad’s chest he was in his happy place and nothing bothered him.  
Supernan needed a little nap

Dr. Who in the Tardis
F leans to see the Rainbow Brite gang
A stroller would also have made things hard because of the way all of the hotels are set up, with escalators to take you to the various ballroom levels where the events are held.  There ARE elevators but since those same elevators are the ones struggling to take so many people up to their rooms and the lines to get on an elevator are sometimes 40 or 50 minutes long.  We avoided the elevators entirely by asking for a room on a low floor so when we needed to go back to our room it was a simple matter of climbing a few flights of stairs.

It’s a 4 day event and baby F barely cried.  He nursed, napped, and snuggled through panels, lectures, book readings, shows, and concerts.  Because he was being worn it was easy to read his cues and meet his needs while participating in Con events.  I think it actually helped us hit a groove with baby F.

We have now been to Dragon*Con 3 times with F, who is now 2.  Wearing has made it, if not possible, then certainly more practical.  The second time, when he was 15 months he needed his happy place on Mommy or Daddy’s back even more than the first year to cope with the crowds and new situations because since he was older he noticed the different situations a lot more than he did at 3 months.  He’s pretty outgoing but anyone can get overwhelmed.  This year we were sadly unable to get a room in one of the main hotels (they sold out in the first 10 minutes) and had to stay in one that was several blocks away which would have made going back to the room for nap time hard and meant we had to miss things.  We would have done it if F had needed us to but since we had a carrier he just snuggled, sometimes nursed, to sleep in the carrier each day at about lunch time.  It was really cool to have him up on my back this year as we walked around and he could see all of the people in costumes.  It
Our mei tai saved the day at a mall with no highchairs
was really cool to be able to hear him pointing out pirates and girls dressed as My Little Pony characters and turtles (ninja turtles, but he just saw turtles) and the guy dressed as a lego minifigure, etc.  I wouldn’t have been able to hear him over the crowd if he had been in a stroller and he wouldn’t have been able to see anything of the people around him but knees, thighs, and behinds.  We don’t wear nearly as much as we used to but with the crowding at Dragon*Con we simply couldn’t let him walk by himself but with the right carrier we were able to wear him comfortably even though he is a seriously huge 40+ pound 2 year old.  We are planning to go again next year and while I’m sure we’ll let him walk occasionally, when we are in places with less crowding, we’ll still wear him in the really jammed crowds because I don’t think it’s very safe.  It’s much safer for him to be securely on my back where he can’t be trampled or wander off.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Babywearing at Home

While babywearing when traveling can yield spectacular photos -- "Baby's first trip to the Grand Canyon" -- and fervent devotion to carriers -- "I never would have gone there if I used a stroller" -- I find that the best place to wear my baby is at home.

Yes, at home.
Consider an average weekday in my family, with two kids to get out the door to school and one crawling, would-be-cruiser. If I carry the littlest one, she will not get stepped on by everyone hurriedly dashing about. I do not have to worry about her getting into the dishwasher. We avoid the choking hazards as the big sisters decide to dump the Legos or play a board game on the floor in the few minutes I take to scramble them up some eggs. Also, because the baby is attached to me, and at this stage she is on my back, she has a great view of all the action, freeing up my hands for buttons, zippers, shoelaces, and hairbrushing. Wearing-carrying her also allows me to grab all sorts of things as we head out the door -- "Oh wait, my phone/grocery list/library books/bills to mail/etc."

When it comes to chores, I find it much easier to sweep without a crawling baby chasing the broom and sitting in the pile of dirt and crumbs. The noise of vacuuming is somewhat tolerable when she is wrapped up snugly, cheek on my shoulder. I can carry laundry baskets around -- who wants to? but it is apparently a major part of my job description -- while wearing the baby. I also think more about what cleaning products I use, and would potentially be inhaling, when she is attached to me in a carrier, and that is better for everyone in the family!

Then, if she refuses to nap in the crib, no need to worry. Carried, rocked by my motion, she sleeps just as well. This option for napping was very important recently when nearby residential construction was constantly startling her awake. In the crib she would just cry, heavy head knocking her little fists, as she wanted sleep but could find no peace. Wrapped or Mei Tai'd to me, her little body would jump at the sawing or nail gunning, but snugged up in the carry, she had nowhere to flail off to, and so she quickly sagged back into slumber.

On any sunny day I can look out the window and see another mommy walking her dog and struggling to steer a stroller. Now jogging strollers definitely have their place for serious exercise, but for simply walking the dog, I would wear the baby, freeing up hands for the leash(es) and bagging of leavings.

One of the best parts of carrying my baby much of the day is that I know when she is hungry, and so I tend to take a break, sit down, and nurse her right away. There is no ignoring a holler in the ear, no "just a minute... after I finish this..." As inconvenient as this might seem, I know that forcing mom to sit down and take a nursing break is good for both of us -- keeping my nursing supply strong and making me rest. And play with her! Once she is full of milk and out of the wrap, she wants to explore and test her mobility, and when she is done, she starts pulling a carrier off the sofa, eager to be in it again. Many times she giggles when I swing her up on my back, a really wonderful sound.

Then when it comes to meal prep, babywearing really works for me. She is not climbing up my leg trying to see what I am doing. I am not trying to one-handedly balance her in my hip as I mix, chop, or open the oven. Carried on my back, she can watch, snooze, or play hair dresser. (This is the only drawback of carrying her; she gets her little fingers in my hair, yanks, creatively twists up tangles, and adds baby spit to my, ah, unwashed mommy tresses.) At the fussy end of a day as I oversee dinner and homework, carried she will often catch a catnap or just calm down. It makes the end of a day just a little bit saner.

And at the end of the day, as I fold up or pile up my carriers for tomorrow, I am thankful for the people who have lent me carriers and taught me how to wrap my baby. Wearing my baby lets me keep my household running, and carrying her reminds me why I do it. I'm not a maid, I'm a mom. There's love in that baby carrier.

Posted by Maria