The Early Days
As Colleen and I (Heather) retire and step down from BWI of Chicagoland, we’ve both been reflecting on what a phenomenal journey we’ve been on, from learning to use our first carriers, to learning to wear toddlers and preschoolers, to learning to spread the love, and meet so many new and veteran caregivers along the way.
I am forever grateful and appreciative of Colleen and Hyacynth (our other leader from Lake County, when I learned of the group). I found them when I had a 2 year old and newborn. Colleen and I both started using carriers around the same time (8 years ago, if you can believe that!!), but all I had experience with was my Baby Bjorn and an awesome ring sling.
Colleen learned about different carriers through our local La Leche League, before her first was even born! She then found the local Lake County group through an online forum at thebabywearer.com . Helping teach others was a calling for her. When I met Colleen and Hyacynth, they were warm, welcoming leaders for the Lake County Babywearers, and had group gatherings I wanted to keep coming back to. That was almost 6 years ago! Colleen was my inspiration, and she pushed me beyond my comfort level. “You want me to try this long piece of fabric?” “Are you sure he’ll be ok on my back” (remember I had only used a ring sling and Baby Bjorn before this…). THANK YOU COLLEEN.
Back then, we were a small group, with around 30 attendees online (and maybe 10-15 adults total in person each month?). It was a social group, and very much about wearing all the babies! There weren’t nearly as many carriers or brands of carriers out on the market. I will always think fondly of my early days learning from so many women I consider great friends to this day.
There has been SO MUCH growth and it is really exciting to see how many parents and caregivers are embracing different types of carriers and holding their babies close. There has also been an explosion of education along the way, and an explosion of options. If you’d like to learn more about our history along the way, this post has a lot of great information:
We’ve both grown as educators, parents, and friends. The organizations have had tremendous growth as well over the last number of years. But now, our kids are growing up, our lives and passions as parents have changed focus. It’s time for us to find some new adventures!
Almost 2 years ago I won an educator award from BWI. When I look back at the bio, I’m reminded of the passion to help others, and the empathy needed to help caregivers effectively. I was asked to put together a BIO for the award page. I think about these two quotes often:
“I love sharing what I’ve learned, and want and help others see how this great tool can help make parenting so much easier. I wish I’d have found our group earlier in our lives as parents. I don’t think it’s important for an educator to know everything; I think it’s more important for an educator to know what resources to look for to help with a difficult situation. I also think it’s important to listen to parents, and figure out what they’re REALLY asking, so we can meet their needs. I love the look on a caregivers face when they find something they like, or their baby quiets down and falls asleep, or is content to look around.”
“It’s easy to forget that it’s NOT about the special fancy carrier, it’s about using some fabric to help them and their babies. The parents are the real carriers, the fabric just helps them do that effectively. That’s really the heart of our organization. Thanks for letting me be a part of it.”
Sometimes caregivers will thank us, but we really need to be thanking all of you! It was all of YOU that kept us coming back meeting after meeting, month after month, and wanting to spread out more, and stretch ourselves as a group. To meet more of you, and share what we’ve learned about wearing our babies close. The years have flown by.
This volunteering journey and the people we’ve met have changed our lives, so thank you for that as well!
You ALL drive this group. You help each other socially, through questions, and support on the off topic facebook chat group. You help each other learn about carriers, carries, and support each other in the local BWI group, at meetings, and playdates. The group will continue to thrive because of ALL OF YOU. If you see a post that you can contribute to? Share what you’ve learned with others. That’s how all of our past and present leaders learned along the way.
We love how the current and future leadership team has such passion, excitement, and “fresh eyes” to share babywearing. Their ambition and passion will serve the Chicagoland chapter well, and I’m sure they will make great, positive changes in the future. I’m looking forward to hearing about the things they accomplish that took a back seat during our tremendous growth. They have drive and ambition, and they will make great improvements and changes for the group!
Hold those babies close. They grow up WAY TOO FAST! One day (believe it or not) they’ll get too big to want to be worn. This weekend, we hope you all get a chance to use whatever carries at your disposal to enjoy time with family and friends! Happy Independence Day!
(Here are some photos of us along the way.)