Babywearing with Jess


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The Why Dads Babywear Project!

There is so much to tell you about this project!

I have already introduced Zoe from The Sling Consultancy as part of the team and there are heaps of other awesome people we are drawing together behind the scenes but I will introduce them to you soon..

First I wanted to introduce you more to what we are working towards here..

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This is the ‘Heart model’ for planning that I use. At the heart of this project is the objective to get more mainstream acceptance of carriers as a parenting tool.

 

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So it started as a single poster on Facebook and grew to an album of 100 Reasons from Dads in less than four days!

We are slowly getting them to Instagram (@whydadsbabywear) and we will continue with the many many submissions we received there by adding to the original 100 once we catch up! The other project we have on the go is the print edition!

 

 

This is all very exciting and we are so thrilled it has had so much exposure and so many people have jumped on board this celebration of fatherhood.

This is a light hearted take & celebration, but it actually steamed from research into some pretty serious issues..

 

I had read a great article on postnatal depression from a dads perspective written by Alan Law and shared with The Spinoff. It made me think, given how prevalent these issues our in our society, we really don’t talk about it enough.

 

We don’t talk about the issues created through gender stereotypes enough either. There are some awesome TED Talk videos linked in the post, ‘What does it mean to “be a man”?’

 

 

We don’t talk about dads roles enough. We don’t hear enough about a dad perspective in the preparation for becoming a parent.

Carriers provide a really awesome opportunity for dads to support their families through the transition of adjusting to life with a new baby, whether it be your first or subsequent children.

Carriers can help dads have a role in this life change.

Postnatal distress and difficulties adjusting to this period of change are not only something women face. It is not just a risk for mums.

 

Lets support dads more too. Lets share a male perspective on these topics.

Lets give dads a voice.

 

 

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We are still accepting submissions for our Why Dads Babywear project print edition, if you are interested, please email whydadsbabywear@gmail.comwhydadsbabywear@gmail.com with your photo, ‘dad quote’, everyones name, childrens approx age in the picture AND a  waiver-form.

 

If you are interested in being part of the Why Dads Babywear project team, please email us at whydadsbabywear@gmail.com


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A F&*KING REAL LIFE BOOK!

So this is so absolutely crazy…

 

This time last week we were at the trampoline park celebrating Josh, our eldest sons fourth birthday…

 

This week, I am busy trying to sort all the final touches on this Why Dads Babywear project to become a FREAKING REAL LIFE BOOK!

 

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Who knew so much would come from an argument James and I had about my attempts to persuade and maybe change some perceptions of expectant fathers who I was trying to convince to come along to my workshops with their pregnant wives…

 

I am an independent Sling and Carrier Consultant, I trained through Slingababy Training School on the first ever Babywearing consultant course to be held on New Zealand soil! Lorette came out to Christchurch in New Zealand and 21 of trained together, taking the total number of consultants around New Zealand from less than 10 (who all had to go overseas to get trained) to almost 30.

 

Paid support services in the babywearing world are a really new development… If you want a good comparison, think about how much La Leache Leauge has done to support breastfeeding mothers all over the world for many, many years run by hard working, dedicated volunteers. Yet Lactation Consultants are something that has only been in New Zealand at least in the last 15 odd years.

 

This industry is very much in its infancy. The broad recognition of just how beneficial these parenting tools can be for all of our families is not yet mainstream again in our current society. Furthermore, it is incredibly common that I hear, “I’m just going to let my wife worry about that stuff” or “I am really hoping my husband will want to use the carrier too but I will have to try and convince him first…”

I had this vision of more expectant fathers coming along to my workshops.. I ranted and raved at James about how I think it might help with the struggle a lot of Dads feel when a new baby arrives. Perinatal mental distress well and truly affects both men and women and I think that maybe giving Dads more practical “roles” and suggestions might help.

I remember as a new mum for the first time myself, I really struggled. With recovering from birth, trying to get my head around breastfeeding and all the issues we had with that, with lack of sleep… He so desperately wanted to help often and he didn’t really know what his role in that could be.

 

I spent hours pumping breastmilk so James could give Josh a bottle as the feeding seemed like one of the key things I had available to share with him.. What a pain in the arse that was and why do we tend to equate that with the way new Dads have to bond with their babies?! I still hear it often talking with pregnant mums…

If we could give Dads the role of the “guardian of the knowledge” about slings and carriers for their families and empowered them to learn about more options, to try some things out, to learn how to use them with dolls and about safety and all that jazz I share and do with Mums at my workshops, maybe that would take a bit of the load of both people about to embark on this life altering shift together.

 

I remember so many times when James would get in the door from work when Josh was a newborn and I would be a crying mess in a rocking chair holding this baby in my arms, frazzled and strung out… He would just give me this look, like, “what am I meant to do?” and also a bit of “wtf is this crazy lady and what happened to that chick I knocked up less than a year ago?!”

 

If he had been empowered with information and felt confident to grab a carrier at that point, strap the baby to him and gone for a walk while I got to have a shower without anyone touching me or me freaking out that the baby was going to cry at any second, maybe that could have been a good approach to coping. It would have made him feel like he had something I could do and it would have given me a reason to hang in there until he got home from work so I could clean myself and pull my shit together.

Instead he would walk in the door, a little bit like a scared gazelle at the waterhole, not sure if it is safe or if an alligator is going to snap out of the water at any second and attack…

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I am saying he didn’t have cause to be scared, he sure fucking did. It’s just that it didn’t help…

We did all kinds of classes before Josh was born, like antenatal classes, breastfeeding classes, birth massage classes, first aid classes… all kinds of things that we hoped would prepare us the first time round.. Often things I dragged him to reluctantly but all had at least something in them that helped..

Do you know what I wish I had prepared myself for most though?

Slings and carriers.

 

Carriers have literally saved our arse and our sanity sooo many times. Both of us. Not just me.

 

And so I had been reading and researching about perinatal depression and distress from a dads perspective, I did heaps of work and thinking and generally just lots of effort in and I had drawn up a mindmap of an outline for a infographic and a bit of a plan I hoped might help me cross that barrier a bit better.

 

And I took it to James and I was so chuffed with myself and I showed him, “what do you think?”

 

“This is good right? These are some great reasons why dads would babywear right?”

 

He scanned it for a second, put down the piece of paper and continued what he was doing, “hmmm” he grunted.

“Hmmm, what?” I asked.

“I dunno.. just hmmm I guess” he replied.

“Hmmm, WHAT?!” I snapped back, I was getting really pissed off already to be honest, “what the f#ck does that mean?”

“Its just, well, it reads like a mum who is trying to write from a dads perspective…” he replied, “you know?!”

“Well that’s cause I am a mum writing from a dads perspective, I can’t become a dad can I?!? Come on man, I just spent like 8 hours trying to get my head around this, give me more, tell me what am I meant to do then?! What’s your f#cking great idea hey? Are you gonna write something?”

“Just use less words!” he snapped back, “look as a dad I don’t want to see all your graphs and shit, just give it to me short, snappy, quick, you know..?”

“I get your point James but I don’t know what words to use! I am not a Dad. You are! Why do YOU babywear?” I screamed at him.

“So they don’t run off and cause shit when I have stuff to do” he replied.

“WHAT THE F#CK DO YOU WANT ME TO DO WITH THAT JAMES? PUT IT ON A F#CKING POSTER?”

“Oh yeah you could do that, it might make a good poster..”

 

I stormed out. I lost my shit haha

I went into the yard and had a cry and a sulk and then suddenly I remembered the photos I had just taken of him the day before with Jai on his back while he shovelled mulch into the wheel barrow…

It was like a light bulb, maybe it would be a good poster..? I wonder if I could get other “dad quotes” and do like a few of them…? I could ask around maybe, see if some other consultants or their families would be keen too?

 

And so I did.

 

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And holy moly what a ride!

 

Not only was he right and it did make a good poster (yep eat my words, apologize lots etc) but other people were keen to send me some pictures so I posted it to Facebook as an album. I hoped best case maybe we could get to like 30…

 

When we got home from the trampoline park there were already heaps of them being shared with me. I made more and more as they came and all of a sudden we were nearly at 50!

The next morning when I woke up and checked my phone while I hid from everyone with my coffee, it wouldn’t load Facebook at all.

When I turned on the laptop to check what was going on, all of these notifications where flooding in but they weren’t in English… When I tried to click on one to load it, the page refreshed, the notification counter went back to 99+ again and I couldn’t even find the notification I was just looking at any more…

 

“Ummm, James…” I called from down the hall, “maybe it did make a good poster… look at this…”

 

Another 12 hours later I was still getting flooded with them, I had already made so many! What in the world was going on….

 

“Babe, this rate I’m going to be making posters forever!” I said to him as I made yet another at the kitchen bench trying to also scoff my dinner and breastfeed the baby in a sling at the same time…

 

“Seriously?” he looked less than amused, “I did not turn down research gigs to watch the kids so you could make posters forever babe! And the point was less words! NOBODY is going to flick through 100 photos and read them all! And if you are not doing consults and workshops, how the f#ck are we going to buy extra lunch food for Playcentre next week?! I said make one poster, not forever make posters, come on babe, wrap it up. Move on.”

 

I agreed with him that a finite number, while also a great relief that there was an end to frantic poster making in sight as there was an end number, would have more impact anyway.

 

“Just call it 100 reasons if you think you have enough” he suggested.

Honestly I hadn’t slept more than a few hours each night in those few days. It was like a crazy high to watch the numbers and stats and shit jump and flicker around and see and receive ALL these amazing insights into these families who are just like me and the boys, lucky to have a really awesome dad in our family.

One that is hands on, that loves his kids, that views his role and modelling in their lives as just as important and equivalent (yet so, so different) to the role of the mother of their children.

Just being cool dads.

 

Thank you so much for giving me this honour of getting to curate posters of your photos and words and families and lives. I did nothing more than make a pretty template, stick my husbands words on it and posted it to Facebook.

 

You guys made this a celebration of fatherhood.

Thank you for letting me be part of it.

-Jess

 

Oh and if you haven’t already, please send us an email to whydadsbabywear@gmail.com preorders will only be shared with links on that address. It is impossible to find you all again but I am doing my damdest to try but if shot an email through I will know we haven’t missed you when we hand over that email address to someone else next week…

Just let me go make some more money first, before James steals my card again to “go buy groceries” – a line he likes to remind me often I used on him for almost five years before he got to say it back to me for the first time! (and the cheeky shit bought the most expensive f#cking vacuum cleaner in the shop, “just you know, cause I thought we needed a new one and I had your card when I was driving past the shop, you know how it is… I have to sort lunches for tomorrow…” my HUSBAND says to me with a smirk… talk about role reversal…)

 


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Perinatal Awareness Week 2016

So I am a bit slow on this one.. :O

Jai caught some nasty virus and James and I got it off him too, everyone was wiped out all last week! Anyhow, we are finally all not puking and so I am finally getting to post this for you guys!

Last week was Perinatal Awareness Week (29 October-6 November 2016).

Perinatal Anxiety & Depression Aotearoa works to eliminate the stigma around perinatal mental health in New Zealand.

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And it is great that they do! There is such a horrible stigma around these issues that affect so many of us. So many people report feeling alone, shame, embarrassment, fear.

 

None of these are healthy emotions for any of us.

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Especially when it is so, so many of us, both men and women, first time or consecutive times, around having children. It is more than 25% of us. And it is widely accepted that a large number of cases go undiagnosed.

It effects a lot of us. If it hasn’t affected you personally, think of three Mum’s you know, just off the top of your head, its probably affected one of them. And probably some of the Dad’s you know too!

 

Being a parent is hard. We still expect to do everything else we have always done, but with this whole added beloved burden of bringing up little people. Its difficult.

 

Self care is key.

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Remember its ok for it to be hard. I think its kind of meant to be… Someone told me “if becoming a parent doesn’t change your life, then you missed the point”.

Its true. But you don’t need to be hard on yourself. The world, society, media, there are many places you can find criticism and judgement. When you are talking to yourself, try an imagine it is like you are talking to your best friend..

And when she is being a bitch and overly self critical, you can remind her, “hey that’s not very kind”…

And if you won’t do it for yourself, do it for your kids.

They learn so much from modeling our behaviour, from “playing grown ups” as my kids call it when they sit in the front seats of the parked car and debate navigation hahaha

 

Show them self kindness. Model being kind, not just to others, but to yourself too.

 

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You probably are doing heaps better than you think you are you know… The fact you are even struggling or worry about this, that in itself shows you are an awesome parent.

 

Remember that. X

 

 

 


Related Posts:

 

Becoming a parent is really fucking hard…

https://babywearingwithjess.wordpress.com/2016/10/17/becoming-a-parent-is-really-fucking-hard/

Preparing you for parenthood.. Being realistic about the struggles..

Alison McCollock’s research around PND & RNZ Interview

https://babywearingwithjess.wordpress.com/2016/10/23/preparing-you-for-parenthood/

 

 


 

Support Services and other Groups

 

Perinatal Anxiety & Depression Aotearoahttp://www.pada.nz/

http://www.pada.nz/families/familywhanau-support/

 

 

Mothers Matterhttp://www.mothersmatter.co.nz/

 

Further articles and reading…

http://thespinoff.co.nz/parenting/02-11-2016/post-natal-depression-in-dads-if-youre-not-happy-and-you-know-it/

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/january-harshe/it-is-ok-to-say-i-wanted-_b_12362420.html?


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Preparing you for parenthood.. Being realistic about the struggles..

Alison McColluck has done some great research about Postnatal Distress (PND) and after hearing her interview on RNZ, I delved more into the work she has been doing.
I listened to the interviews included in her research series, it’s a great new media format which you should check out here – http://werewolf.co.nz/category/pnd-series/

The ladies in the interviews section are all people who have suffered with PND themselves and about their journey. Their ideas and thoughts on the topic generally. What helped them and what they think would help others.

 
In every case, they all said that early intervention was key. They all thought more focus on the actual parenting part in preparation for having a baby, not so much the birth, could have served them better. That practical tips and skills would have helped them more. That a better understanding of the risk factors would help.
In fact, the women that had suffered mental health issues in the past felt much better equipped to recognise the symptoms and need for intervention. For those who hadn’t, the lack of awareness and clear direct support channels was debilitating.

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Feeling overwhelmed, trapped, isolated, tired, anxious..  All things that aren’t uncommon for new parents and make it even harder to identify what is a ‘normal part of this life transformational life process’ and what level of struggling is something more..  But the ongoing and intrusive nature of these issues can be totally crippling or, on the other end of the spectrum, go undiagnosed.

The stigma that surrounds these issues really exacerbate the shame, fear, guilt and other self critical thoughts and feelings. The lack of awareness of these issues contributes to making them more detrimental and perpetuates the stigma.

There are huge ripple effects when people (fathers suffer too) are struggling with these issues. In every interview there was also a common theme, these women where often self less in their concern, it was their children, partners, family & friends they talked about harming and being of detriment to.
I agree with them that greater public awareness of these issues is a big deal.

Support is so key to ongoing mental health and more information available for support people would also help. You are much more susceptible to suffer from mental health issues in this time in your life. It is a massive adjustment for everyone.

I also think it’s really important that we start honest conversations about that struggle. In the digital age, it’s the ‘shiney highlights’ of our stories and journey’s that are shared. Even when people share the bad, it’s often not the worst. Talking more honestly about how it is ok to struggle, how this process and caring for a child is fucking hard work will help people with their expectations around that.

I also strongly agree with them about how we could benefit from a refocus in the antenatal content that is delivered. This is just hypothesis but maybe making these classes so focused on the actual birth process (which is like a tiny blip on the radar of new parenthood!) we are actually unempowering parents? Making them feel more out of control of that process and like someone else has to call the shots?

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I’m all for empowered birthing and parenting and encouraging parents to feel confident to listen to and trust their instincts so I will leave that rant for other post. I heard over and over again in those interviews that those mothers wish they had been given more practical tips in their maternity education. That more ways to cope, more information post birth was important too. I couldn’t agree more.

The ones who mentioned learnings from their process that helped most; like practical survival techniques, like remembering to prioritise self care, like being realistic of the expectations you put on yourself, about being kind to yourself, like knowing when to ask for help-all of those could be more throughly covered antenatally.

High among those practical suggestions would surely have to be exploring the topic of slings and carriers. Feelings of being trapped don’t help when you are confined to a chair with a baby who won’t sleep anywhere but on your chest. A carrier can help provide some freedom to move and do things while also helping you meet your baby’s need to be kept close.

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Feelings of isolation are compounded when you become so fixated on the holy grail of sleep which you are so desperately in need of and your baby won’t seem to do. Being able to have your baby close to you so they can nap comfortably and safely can give you the security of knowing you can do that without having to be at home. Strapping a tired child to me and going for a walk has always done wonders for both of us in my experience.

Our societies obsession with making our children independent from us as soon as possible is not only unrealistic but detrimental as it further encourages that constant second guess, concerns of failure and fear. “if I cuddle my baby when they cry are they going to be dependent on me forever?” No.

Human babies are born with a biological need to be kept close to their caregivers. As a species, our young are born dependent on us. Carrying them close to us allows them to continue developing critically in that first transition from the womb to the world. Carrying them and using slings and carriers has actually made us develop to be smarter as a species, a long time before now.

Being realistic about the messages we give parents, preparing them with practical tools like mindfulness and prioritising self care, even when it’s hard, in fact especially when it’s hard. Explaining it’s ok to not enjoy every moment, it is ok to struggle.

It’s also ok to be kind to yourself. It’s ok to ask for help. It’s ok to need help.

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It’s that adage saying, ‘it takes a village to raise a child’ and it’s actually very true, but equally could be said, ‘you need support to be the best parent you can be’.

Sometimes life and situations can rob us of these things and we are really lucky here in Auckland to have a number of amazing support services who are able to step in and help you find support if you need it.

And they create and provide these services for you to use. If you are thinking, “I’m struggling but I’m not that bad…” don’t wait. Don’t wait till you are “that bad” whatever that means to you. That point is too late to rectify damages done in the process. All the evidence and research says the earlier you seek help, better.

You matter too, just like they say on the plane, “secure your own safety mask before helping babies and children” because in short, your not good to them if your passed out cause you don’t have oxygen yourself!

Be kind to yourself.

 


 

To find some support in New Zealand, check out – https://www.mentalhealth.org.nz/get-help/in-crisis/support-groups/