Wrapping: A Spectator Sport
I was now the master of the Front Wrap Cross Carry (FWCC) & ready to go out into the wild! Yes, I'd put in the hours of feeling like a wally wrapping teddy bears, hovering nervously over my bed, and giving myself a bad back fiddling with my rails while a lump of impatient wiggle pulled my hair. I had 'graduated' and was ready to actually wrap in public!
I'd planned it all meticulously, scoping out my target destination - a large grassy car park with quiet corners - and planned to use the car windows as a stand-in mirror to make sure everything looked right. Nervously, I parked in the farthest nook, searched furtively for wrapping experts on patrol, hid behind a tree... and nearly dropped my son as an elderly lady appeared out of nowhere and stood watching my clumsy efforts. Smiling at me, she seemed blissfully unaware of my nerves and just enjoyed the 'show'.
Having lots of babywearing friends, I simply hadn't considered that to many people, babywearing, and wrapping in particular, is still something quite unusual. That virgin outing was my first taster of the spectator sport of wrapping; a 'sport' that apparently appeals to people of all ages and walks of life, but that's particularly favoured by ladies of a certain grandmotherly generation.
Sadly, as with any sport, there are critics as well as fans. Not long after that first outing, I'd worked up the courage for an urban expedition to the post office. As I meandered through the town glancing at my wrapped baby in shop windows, I passed a group of teenage girls. One of these lovelies looked at me coldly and said "poor baby" before continuing on her way. Of course, being a well-adjusted, confident adult about 20 years her senior, this had no effect on me whatsoever, and I wrote it off immediately as just another example of the self-orientated teenage silliness that I was no doubt guilty of myself when I too looked good in drainpipe jeans... Did I hell! In fact, my fragile new mummy confidence evaporated instantaneously causing me to gape in speechless humiliation, questioning whether my baby was indeed suffering as he snuggled sleepily on my chest. It took me a full queuing time in the post office to collect myself and wish that I'd come up with a number of helpful educational responses to Miss Eyeliner.
Thankfully I've had many more positive reactions than I have negative ones, and some have been really quite special. I've even received a standing ovation in our local National Trust café from a coach load of O.A.P. American tourists! To this day I don't know whether they thought that me wrapping my little boy was part of the in-house period entertainment (I'm not sure that babywearing was big in medieval England!), or just found it so impressive that they couldn't contain their enthusiasm!
While that little episode made me smile, there's been the odd moment that's been quite thought provoking. When foraging for a cheeky pain au chocolate treat in our local Waitrose, with my son on my back, a tiny white-haired, perfectly groomed, lady put her hand on my arm and said with considerable emotion, "my black nannies carried my babies on their backs in South Africa". "Of course, they're in their 60's now". With a look of melancholy, she went on "We didn't do anything like that then". I tried to put my sadness at the reminder of an apartheid world to one side as I realised what she was actually trying to tell me. She wished, on some level, that she had been the one carrying her babies. I imagined that she regretted raising her children in a time, place and culture that had prevented her from having the closeness to them that her nannies perhaps had. Maybe I saw more than there was to see but it made me think about how lucky we are to live in an age where research, information and social change have helped parents to trust in their instincts and know that holding, comforting & carrying their little ones can only be a good thing.
If, like me, you're not particularly comfortable with unsolicited attention from strangers, the spectator sport of wrapping may take a little bit of getting used to. However, for every "poor baby" or incredulous stare, we have enjoyed very many smiles, "love your wrap", "he looks comfy up there" or "I wish I could do that" comments. Some of these have evolved into me referring people to babywearing sources, telling them about a particular wrap or brand, or encouraging them to give it a try. We've even made some new friends. One thing's for sure, in a world where interaction with strangers is usually limited to exchanges with checkout assistants about the weather, wrapping has added some surprising social colour to our outings, and some moments that we'll no doubt look back on and smile about for many years to come.