As one of the local babywearing educators, I’ve written about why to wear your baby. I’ve written about how I started babywearing. I’ve written about how to choose a baby carrier, about carriers I like and carriers I love, about cheap carriers and expensive carriers and lots in between. But there’s one thing I haven’t written: the real reason we wear our babies.
This week, we celebrate International Babywearing Week. We also mourn an unbelievable loss. Rachael Figueroa, a babywearing educator in training, a talented wrapper and a dear friend, lost her sweet baby Ariadne on Monday morning. Ari was 15 months old. Her death was unexpected, sudden, and heartbreaking. We stand in shock with Rachael and her husband Anatole at the unfair and unthinkable.
I met Rachael soon after Ari’s birth, when she began coming to Babywearing International meetings. She was smiling, sweet – a little shy to warm up, but funny and kind. And Ari. Oh, Ari: a round sweet face, a wide smile, a chubby hand sharing her snacks with every kid who wandered by. We saw her, always, wrapped on Rachael’s back. She loved it back there: content, happy, watching the world, smiling and laughing and full of joy.
When Ari was small, Rachael wrapped her on her front. She spent her days kissing Ari’s head, nuzzling her dark hair, sniffing that intoxicating baby scent that mamas know as the most wonderful, most perfect smell in the world. Ari rested her head on Rachael’s heart, the same heartbeat she heard for nine warm months in the womb. Mother and baby felt each other breathe. They touched. They knew each other’s love.
As Ari grew, Rachael learned to wrap her on her back. Ari loved it. She clung on with her knees and legs; she watched the world. She made the best faces at us: lovely snobbish glares, perfect pursed lips, smiles that lit the room. On Rachael’s back, Ari reached out to us. She held hands with my son, both babies on backs, both grinning and holding hands and smiling. She bounced up and down. She saw the world and the world saw her: a happy baby, a grinning baby, a baby loving and loved.
Ari left us too soon. My heart aches for Rachael, for the loss of her daughter and the dreams she carried for her. I mourn Ari. I mourn the things I thought we’d have and do, the friendship I imagined for her and my son, the love and light and laughter to come. We thought they’d grow up together. We thought we had time. We were heartbreakingly wrong.
Babywearing gave Ari a precious gift. She spent her days wrapped in her mother’s wraps and her mother’s love. She smelled, touched, saw her; she lived and breathed with her. Oh, she got down and ran. She tumbled and laughed and ate watermelon and danced. But when playtime ended, when she wanted a safe place, up she went. Up to mama. Up to her heart. Ari knew she was loved.
Babywearing was a blessing to Anatole and Rachael and Ari. But it didn’t stop at snuggles. Through babywearing, Rachael reached out to other mamas. She made friends. Babywearing gave us the gift of her: she found a community, a tribe, a group of friends to love and laugh and learn with her. And now, tragically, a group of friends to mourn with her. We love Rachael. We love the community she has been integral in building: a community who cares for each other in good times and bad, in sickness and health, in birth and in death.
Babywearing gave Rachael and Anatole the gift of closeness, of connectedness. When we wear our children, we connect to them: physically, emotionally, spiritually. But if we reach out to the wider babywearing world — to the mamas who teach and learn and pass on their skills — we become a part of a community. We connect to each other. We share ourselves.
This is why we wear. Sure, there’s science and convenience and sheer necessity. But in the end, there is this: we wear our children because we love them.
And many times, that teaches us to love each other.
Please keep this family in your thoughts today, and everyday. If you feel led to help ease their burdens financially, you can do so here.
In 2009, Elizabeth Broadbent got pregnant and quit a Ph.D. program in English, where she taught writing and served as an Assistant Director of First-Year English. Now she stays home with her three boys in a house full of art and learning and books and dogs and fossils. An amateur naturalist, paleontologist, and artist of all kinds, she unschools her four-year-old and serves as a Volunteer Babywearing Educator with the local chapter of Babywearing International. Her MFA in fiction gets put to use writing blog posts and that novel she’ll finish once her boys stop interrupting her. Elizabeth has won numerous writing awards for her short stories, novellas, and novel-in-progress, and blogs at www.manicpixiedreammama.com.