*** This article speaks directly to my experience homeschooling one child while caring for a newborn, but it applies to any family adding a newborn to the mix. ***
I was discussing the phases of the moon with the tweens in my homeschool co-op class, "Mythology/Astronomy." I am sure they will never forget what waxing gibbous means because we joked about how my pregnant belly was also waxing gibbous, growing larger each week we met.
I knew soon, like the inevitable coming of the full moon, I would see the face of my second baby. Then I would be in the "fourth trimester" where the newborn would be oh so new, and some of the fun "extras" we did as a homeschooling family might have to go on pause. Perhaps I wouldn't have the stamina to nature hike. Maybe I would be riddled by postpartum anxiety or depression and avoid the social events that peppered our regular schooling rhythm with friends and new perspectives.
I knew I needed tools if I were to keep up with the pace of not just parenting my oldest but also supplying his insatiable brain with challenges.
Breastfeeding was something I hoped to count on—familiar to me from my first baby as a way to achieve a nap no matter where we were. But I could NOT be sitting with a baby on my lap all afternoon this time around. Enter babywearing.
I researched DIY baby carriers. And I made them, both Osnaberg woven wraps that are simple long parallelograms of fabric, and ring slings that are shorter and fasten like an old '80s belt using metal SlingRings around you like a sash. And I loved it. One for long walks. One for quick trips. One for me to try my hand at dyeing.
What an incredible feeling to fabricate something for the baby in my belly that was also in a way a present for big brother. And to myself! A present that would help us all be connected and more present with each other.
Babywearing was everything I thought it would be. I wrapped that baby and administered a standardized test at our dining room table. I slung that baby on my chest, and we kept going to meetups and attending events around town. I wore him strawberry picking in the spring, at the homeschool fun day in the summer, and in the corn maze in the fall where no stroller dare venture.
I even wore him when I taught a class when he was three months old during the next iteration of homeschool co-op.
I may have been dipping my big toe in postpartum depression. It's hard to know without a diagnosis, but I could feel that the fog wasn't lifting. Wearing the baby, knowing I was caring for him as he napped on me or as he peeked out watching his brother working on a project, freed up just enough energy to keep the homeschooling boat afloat for my big kid.
I also know that the closeness of having him snuggled on my chest was helping my hormones regulate, giving me boosts of "the love hormone" oxytocin. Babies that are worn cry less, say the scientists. And say the parents! That had to contribute to my ability to function during those first few months.
I couldn't keep this knowledge to myself. I was as passionate about babywearing as I had been about breastfeeding education with kiddo number one. So I said to my husband, "I either need to DO something with this or. . . ."
I never finished the sentence. He replied, "Do it," without even knowing what it was.
We were set to move in six months to another Army post, but I started a babywearing business anyway. I knew working for myself I could still be full time with the boys, working after their bedtimes and in the margins of our days.
I began Bijou Wear, a USA-made woven wrap and ring sling company. The two things I love about my work the most are:
1) Connecting caregivers to tools that empower them to be present with their families and do activities WITH their babies and toddlers, and
2) Connecting people in online babywearing communities with each other. Postpartum can be an isolating time of life when you feel invisible to the rest of the world, and being seen, even online, is an incredible boost.
My business is bigger now, three years later, and we no longer homeschool, though I'm still full-time with my boys. When I work, I want them to see work modeled as something that helps people, that lifts them up.
For each pregnant person waxing gibbous out there, anxious about the transition as your family grows in both love and number, plan well and yet be optimistic. Take whatever baby moon you can, snuggle that baby close (in a carrier if you can), and reach out for help and connections. We see you.
Bonding with that baby in a baby carrier will help you keep on keepin' on as you wear the rest of your 1,002 hats. You got this!
Jaime Gassmann, Ph.D., is the mother of two boys, ages 8 and 3, the wife of an Army soldier, and a small business owner. Born and raised in Kansas, the Army has brought her family back home after many moves all over the U.S.
Image outdoors of a white brunette woman smiling at the camera while keeping tabs on her baby in a red sweatshirt and her young bespectacled son in a white striped polo.
Image credit: Letters from Home Photography.