When I was in my early 20’s, with my first child, my favorite carrier was a stretchy pouch I’d made out of interlock. It was fast, easy, I could wear it all the time and just pop my daughter in and out. When Shiny came along years later, I was disappointed to discover that the combination of her low muscle tone and my increased pain level, I couldn’t really deal with any one-shouldered carriers. Mei tais were my life saver with her. Late in my babywearing career with her, I was given a Calyx buckle pack, and it was the last carrier I was able to use before she got flat out too heavy to carry.
I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia as an afterthought of sorts in 2008. Shiny was 3, I’d had a pulmonary embolism that year, my thyroid was wonky and I was being weaned off the steroids I”d been on to deal with an adrenal crash the year before. I didn’t have the energy to carry her far, and bought the first stroller I owned with her.
When Miles was born, my fibro was in full swing. I gave birth in the middle of a fibro flare, and had them almost back-to-back for months after his birth. But because he was small and light, I could use a stretchy wrap with him. Heck, when a baby is under 15 pounds, you can get away with almost anything, carrier-wise.
16 pounds and up, however, and things got harder. Front carrying was out. I can do it for short periods, while sitting. It’s easier than not wearing when he’s asleep on my chest, if I’ve got him high enough. But for routine everyday stuff? Back carries it is. So I got out my Calyx and fixed a strap that had come unstitched, reinforced it in a couple of places and put him on.
To say the heavens opened up and choirs sang is only a little hyperbolic. Finding a carrier that works for your body type and needs, that makes a 20 pound baby “weightless” on your back, is a godsend. I can get nearly that level of comfort, but not quite, from some of my larger, grippier mei tais, if I get everything just right. But the Calyx, with shaped shoulder straps and perfect padding and ideal angles on everything, is a little bit of magic for me.
Yesterday I found out just how much it’s been allowing me to do. My morning routine is challenging. I think it would be challenging for most people, with my weight, chronic pain, a 45 pound special needs 7 year old and a baby, it is very, very difficult. I try to get up without waking the baby. I don’t always succeed, which means that he screams at me while I put on clothes (one activity that is impossible for me while babywearing… putting on a bra), screams at me while I get his sister up, follows me, screaming, while I take her potty and get her dressed, because babywearing or no there is no way I can lift her 45 pounds while wearing his 20 pounds, not for long, not without injuring myself. I get her pointed downstairs, change his diaper (he’s still yelling) and then he goes on my back in the Calyx, and blissful silence descends instantly. I get her lunch, get her shoes on, he’s quiet and content. I push her in her wheelchair (the only time we use it is to and from the bus because she’s too slow and falls down a lot if we try to walk her to the bus) and throw a fleece jacket over Miles and me, and we go to the bus, get her loaded, then come back to the house. It’s a routine.
Yesterday… Yesterday I forgot to take the Calyx upstairs. I grabbed a mei tai, put him on my back. At first it was okay. But it was a baby-sized mei tai, not one I normally wear for long, and by the time I got her lunch, my back was screaming. We were running late, so he stayed on my back in the mei tai to get to the bus. I was nearly in tears on the way home. My hips were screaming, my back spasming, my whole body hurt. Later in the day I had physical therapy and worked really hard.
I woke up this morning in so much pain… but putting him on in the Calyx… babywearing didn’t make it worse. I was in less pain walking back from the bus than I’d been when I got out of bed.
That’s the difference the right carrier can make.
But even with the best carrier I’ve ever owned… there are times when I simply cannot wear him. It breaks my heart, but there are times when I have to choose between holding him and making dinner, and we have to eat. But he is held much more than he would be otherwise, because I have the right carrier.
The Calyx is not being made anymore, which is sad. I find that of the carriers I’m using now, the Ergo Sport, the Kozy Carrier and the Tettitett are the most tolerable. I have a Kozy with extra long straps, and I wear it “Tibetan” style, and it is supportive and works for fairly long periods of time. The Tettitett is a toddler sized carrier, and works very well if I tie it perfectly. The Ergo Sport is a bit annoying to get on, but distributes the weight well.
The carrier I had so much pain with is not a bad carrier. It is actually very comfortable on the front and fine for shorter wearing on the back. It’s well made. Most moms would love it. But it’s not something I can get right the first time, every time, when I’m sleepy, rushed and in pain.
I wish I had the patience to really learn wrapping, but back wrapping has just never been very comfortable for me. I can do it but it’s not fast, and I have to put too much thought into it.
In the meantime, I have carriers that work for me. And my baby will figure out that me standing up without him is not the end of the world.