ellie and the girls

Babywearing, grief and postnatal depression

Today my father would have been 65. He lost his battle with cancer when I was 12 weeks pregnant with my son. I am still not able to put in words or deal with the conflict I felt between the instinct to protect my pregnancy and the need to grief for my loss. So when Ellie, someone I haven´t spoke with before, sent us this fragment from her writing I felt a connection knowing that I can talk to someone that can relate to this, and that found, as she says, a gentle salvation, in babywearing.

Thank you Ellie <3
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Babywearing, grief and postnatal depression

What follows is less of a blog but a timeline charting, if not a route to happiness, one of gentle salvation. One that came through the world of wrapping. I start in 2014. My daughter is 2.5yrs and I am 5.5m pregnant. I carried my eldest daughter daily in a soft structured carrier until I gave birth.

ellie and mathilda

16 September

We are away on holiday and I get the call I had hoped upon hope not to get. My father has died. My dearest, most wonderful father. The bright sun that shines on the coast of Portugal is too harsh for my eyes through which I see a world that is now monochrome. I recede into myself.

Autumn

I am automaton. Staff sickness and a wish to box away what I cannot cope with means I wade through work, increasingly pregnant but not feeling it, teaching the best I can. I play an abstract documentary about loss to my students and tears stream down my face in the darkness.

28 December

Peace of some kind. I give birth to our second daughter (Smallest) at home, in water. If there is such a thing as an orgasmic birth then I achieve it; grief is very briefly inverted. She is perfect and I am so very grateful. I marvel that such a child could have come from a body in great emotional pain. I carry her daily in a Marsupi mei tai. I cannot let her go.

Deep winter

The darkness I had fully expected to crash down as I ran from September has arrived. Feeding problems and a well of intense anger at the loss of my father are all consuming. My midwives do not discharge me. My husband is frightened. I’m doing my best for Smallest but it is so far from enough. I give in to the chasm that I have been shifting and dancing at the edge of for so long. My health visitor, a woman I trust, tells me she has never seen me look so sad. I stare at her blankly. Postnatal depression is diagnosed. I seek medical help.

In the midst of this the hunger for beauty has me curiously scouting wraps and I win one. A beautiful high silk and cashmere wrap. It arrives and I cry. It’s lustrous softness signifies a tenderness I have missed. Smallest and I experiment with wrapping but it’s not love. Instead, I order a custom Madame GooGoo conversion made from a vintage Didymos. The wrap regards me from the bedroom chair.

ellie and mathilda

Late spring

A late thawing. We hit our stride with feeding and I am grateful. Some of my anger dissipates but I know I am still running. Weeks are spent with my mother and my girls as we feel our way through this strange and unwanted new reality.

I buy a tussah silk blend wrap, a shorty, and my curiosity grows. I carry Smallest in a rebozo and start to feel more confident. She is truly a carried baby for as soon as I pick her up, she nestles her head into me, sucks her thumb and her eyelids grow heavy. If it’s not sleep, she watches the world around her from the safety of her wrap. She is my light.

Summer

The sun that had felt so cruel begins to warm me again. I see a therapist but know it to be useless. The grief I had locked away is firmly there and I do not want to open it. We take a late holiday north and some wraps travel with us. A new one, tussah and mulberry blend, that is redolent with the glorious stink of raw silk. I breathe it in. I experiment with new carries and master wrapping Smallest on my back. The wraps take on a greater role. Distress, tiredness, mine or hers, is dealt with in a carry and Smallest continues to thrive. She charms everyone we meet from her luxurious vantage point. I clasp my eldest’s hand tightly.

16 September 2015

I go for a long walk listening to my father’s music; Bach, Elgar and Purcell accompany my wail of grief that only the moors can hear.

Autumn

I am at first slightly embarrassed to realise I have a “stash” of wraps; cashmere, mulberry and tussah silks, merino wool, alpaca, baby yak, baby camel, linen. My love for fashion is channelled through these pieces of cloth and their marvellous blends as they envelop my child. A dear babywearing friend, found via a wrap she sells to me, lends me a heavier wrap to break in. My eldest adores it and we reconnect. How I had missed carrying her. I lift her onto my back and she drapes against me in bliss. I seek a wrap just for her.

ellie and the girls
Photograph by Pixies in the Cellar

Winter

The return to work is difficult. My memory is shot through with absences bored by grief. Leaving the girls is a wrench. The postnatal depression lies there quietly, dulled by medication for now. I live for the evenings when I walk home with the girls; Smallest wrapped tightly against me. Weekends I carry her at every opportunity. Her first birthday arrives; we celebrate in a low key way with my mother.

Now

I joke that carrying has been my salvation. Jokes are a good defence and hide the truth. The journey I am on is far from over. With it has come new friends, the communities of likeminded babywearers that provide a happy diversion. I concentrate on improving my photography; an enthusiasm inherited from my father who documented my childhood with such love. So I document carrying the girls, these beautiful wraps, the fun, the tenderness and the frustrations.
I mostly work with black and white but I am starting to experiment with colour again.
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Particularly well written practitioner and babywearing linked information on postnatal depression can be found here: http://www.sheffieldslingsurgery.co.uk/post-natal-depressi…/

I document carrying my girls as @drcrow on Instagram.
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Purcell: Dido and Aeneas – When I am Laid in Earth –http://youtu.be/lq2VIjFAvmg Bach Cello Suite No.1: Prelude – performed by Pablo Casals  – http://youtu.be/rIzKdmDxdD0

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