Written by Nikki Patrick
Babywearing is a tool that caregivers use for a multitude of reasons. Some are drawn to the convenience of being mostly hands free and able to carry baby throughout daily activities. Some like the bonding that occurs through wearing. Some wear because they like the way their carrier of choice looks. Most are a combination of all of these things.
I was drawn to babywearing for these reasons plus one more very important reason: healing. I am a survivor of many years of childhood sexual abuse, abandonment, and neglect. The man I called my father was abusive in every imaginable way and my mother struggled with mental illness and substance abuse. She tried but her own issues got in the way of our relationship and my ability to bond with her as my mother.
When my daughter was born I experienced a flood of emotion and a deep instinct to protect her from the hurt I had experienced. As a small infant, nothing seemed better to me than wrapping her warm body close to mine and carrying her throughout my day. I started off babywearing to protect her but it ended up having a profound healing effect on me. We were able to bond in a very intimate way that is difficult for many abuse survivors to deal with. She would stare at me with her big blue eyes as she drifted off to sleep and I knew in my heart that I would always protect her as much as I was able. I nursed her in carriers, soothed her from illness, rocked her gently to sleep, and carried her as she learned to interact with the world.
As she grew more alert and aware, I found myself doing the same. Like a child, I was experiencing the world through her eyes, something I hadn’t had the opportunity to do during my own childhood. Front carries became an opportunity to explain colors, music, and other exciting things that we’d see as we went about our adventures. Back carries allowed her independence to see something other than my chest and a small view of the world and opened up a whole new bigger view. She was still close to me, safe. As my daughter grew, I found myself less panicked at the idea of protecting her from the ills of the world and more in tune with sharing the beauty of the world with her.
We rarely wear these days at almost 4 years old but I firmly believe the year she spent riding in a carrier helped me to heal in some very special ways and forged a bond that will never be broken. I am still her safe place. She still nestles into my body to fall asleep and I fell her sweet breath on my cheek as she begins dreaming of sweet things, not the nightmares of my childhood. She now carries her babies in various carriers and I believe that one step in breaking the cycle of abuse and mental illness that plagues my family has been done. My daughter, thanks to babywearing, knows the importance of deep bonds and physical closeness.
Babywearing is such a diverse tool. Whether it’s running an errand easily, corralling one child in a carrier while holding the hand of another, or providing a place to escape a chaotic event; babywearing is useful in some way for almost everyone. For me, it filled a hole in my heart that I didn’t know existed. I’ve learned how to protect but still let go. I’ve learned that I will always be a safe space thanks to the bonds we’ve formed no matter what happens in the big world. Babywearing helped heal me, one carry at a time.