Babywearing comes down to two basic things – first is keeping a child secure in the carrier, with airway safety being the very first consideration, second is preventing falls.
But it’s not always the baby we’re trying to keep from falling. Which means that baby carrying is also about controlling the adult to keep the baby safe. Which means the adult has to mind their speed, stability, all while managing obstacles while carrying.
When cycling, the most important thing to mind is protecting the baby in case of a fall. Helmets contribute greatly to injury prevention while cycling. Below is information from a website maintained by Chris Gilham, an Australian journalist. Currently, most provinces and territories require helmets be worn.1
I also spoke to Kendra Runions, a feeding support consultant in Eastern Ontario2. She worked for 2 years selling specialty safety equipment for power sports applications and some of the families she helped had riders were as young as two years old.
When I asked Kendra about helmet wearing, this is what she said:
“I could easily write a novel on just helmet wearing. Is it a correctly fitted helmet? Is it optimal materials to withstand the most
likely crash scenario?
All of these factors should be in play when choosing a helmet from tricycles to tobaggans and dirt bikes.”
Do you feel adults can gauge whether a helmet is properly fitted and safe for their child?
“No. Honestly a lot of adults don’t know even how to fit a helmet for themselves. An incorrectly balanced and fitted helmet can cause a more severe injury than would have been originally sustained even in a relatively minor accident. I’m talking tip over and fall accident. All of these factors should be in play when choosing a helmet for everything from tricycles to toboggans to dirt bikes.”
What happens to the body dynamic forces when a baby is worn on the body?
“First off your center of gravity is shifted. I’ve consistently warned adults of having other adult passengers because there is some input required for manoeuvering and if your passenger does the wrong thing it can definitely throw you off enough to cause an accident. Now just think of how unpredictable kids are, along with having their leverage points reduced when wrapped or carried and just basically being too short for their legs to reach anything.
Velocity, distance, gravity, pretty much every force could potentially be encountered based on what type of accident could occur. The possibilities are literally endless.”
What about if the baby is worn on the back?
A back worn child is actually what I picture by default. Everything I have mentioned is at play. This is where I want to note that in the event of most accidents, especially low speed, think under 5 km/hr, your back passenger will end up off the vehicle before you. There are many scenarios in which the driver will remain with the vehicle but the passenger will not. This isn’t as bad as it sounds. In order to absorb impact and mitigate potential damage to the human body its better on us to take space to stop v.s. one fast and sudden stop. Everyone has heard “tuck and roll”. A back worn child cannot break free from the adult to do this. Any adult with a child strapped to them is no longer the correct shape for their own body to make the adjustments it
needs to maximize their own injury protection. The adult will most likely be fighting base protective instincts in order to try and shield the child.
Can you always protect your baby in case of an accident? NO.
Think about the difference if you fall while walking, versus if you fall while biking. Now add a baby in the mix on a parent’s back or even in the front. It changes the centre of gravity, which with experience you can accommodate for, but it also adds a weight. If a back pack can go flying off your body when you get into an accident while cycling, or you crush it with your body, think about replacing that very same backpack with the weight of a child.
Additional to the information from my interview with Kendra, here is an excerpt from iBike, an American organization centred around cycling information and safety about cycling while babywearing:
“The conservative approach is that taking an infant on a bike in a backpack has risks and is potentially dangerous — and it is illegal in some jurisdictions. Some of the issues are: The center of gravity is higher; if you wear helmets, your helmets may banged together; the child is quite vulnerable in a fall because the distance is higher and there is a greater chance of the infant ending up underneath the adult in a tumble; and the backpack provides less protection than a child seat or trailer. Slings would present similar issues, though in is a sling the child is lower down and their head is better supported, so it unlikely for the adult and child to bang heads — it is also unlikely that the child would be wearing a helmet.” 3
Should you cycle with your babes? Absolutely YES!
There are many great ways to cycle with your kids. You can use a trailer until they are old enough to sit unsupported, at which point you can move to a bike seat, as Lauren has with her child here. Lauren lives in Ontario.
Trailers can be be found for affordable prices on second hand boards, and now is the time to start looking. Often, you can buy a trailer or bike seat and then use the money from the resell to by your children their first bike.
Thank you to Kendra from FullCircleFeeding.com for providing us with her expertise for this article. Please read our other cycling articles Babywearing and cycling abroad and the Benefits of cycling for families. .
1. This website tracks all bicycle helmet laws from countries such as the United Kingdom, Ireland, New Zealand and Australia. You can check it out here. For more about bike helmet legislation in Canada, visit the Canadian Pediatric Society here.↩
2. Kendra is the owner of Full Circle Feeding, a business that helps families with breastfeeding, chest feeding, and just feeding their babies. They specialize in working with traditional and non-traditional families. From her website, “Non traditional family unit? Grandparent feeling out of touch? Nervous new father feeling left out?” Visit their website for more information.↩
3. To read more about what iBike has to say about early helmet wearing and babywearing while cycling, visit this page here.
BWICweek is full of fun this year, and includes the return of the Babywearing in Canada educator awards – do you have an event you’d like to register? Register it today! Events must take place between May 18-26, 2018, to qualify.
Check out last year’s official events: 2017.
By registering an event that takes place anytime between May 18 to May 26, 2018, you are entered into our prize draw.
Events can include:
Officially register an event using the contact form below, up to three events are allowed per planner, and each event will qualify you for an entry into our giveaways.
Are you still looking for that last minute gift to give? Or something to suggest to someone else?
Consider taking a look at these carriers I explored this past year that are new to the babywearing world.
Looking for something unique in Canada? The LennyLamb Up is perfect, a blend between their baby and toddler sizes, this will meet your needs through out your entire babywearing life. See the featurette I did below while attending the Babywearing Conference in Poland. Want to learn more about LennyLamb, read this article about my visit to their homebase! Lenny Lamb can be purchased in Canada at Lollipop Sky, specializing in many baby carrier brands.
There’s also the Sleepbelt or JoeyBand. Though not a baby carrier, it is a great gift to give to new parents who are expecting, and can be easily added to the birthing bag for home, hospital or birthing centre. Perfect to keep the baby on you while seated, it is also very useful to help attach the baby to the mom after a c-section.
Here’s the Flexia by Babylonia Slen. It is a structured carrier with an interchangeable body so it can grow as your baby grows. Extremely innovative and comes in some classic colours. It can be ordered from any of their stores, like from HetKnooppunt.nu in the Netherlands or directly from Babylonia itself.
Or know someone who is expecting twins? Consider the innovative twin carrier by MiniMonkey.
And finally, the newly redone toddler flip by Kokadi.
October 15 2017 is the internationally recognized Pregnancy and Infant Loss (PAIL) Awareness Day. For many women, the excitement over a positive pregnancy test doesn’t lead to that picture perfect moment of mom and baby cuddling and, in fact, an estimated one in five (other estimates say one in four) women will experience miscarriage or pregnancy loss in her lifetime.
Tonight is the International Wave of Light to mark Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day. At 7:00 pm in time zones around the world, people will gather to light candles to create a wave of light in honour of the butterfly babies, those who were lost during pregnancy or shortly after birth. We ask the candle be lit for an hour, to make this light burn brightly for a 24-hour period around the globe in memory of all the babies who were lost.
I have experienced loss. My story begins when my husband Rob and I decided to start a family in 2013. We experienced a miscarriage at 10 weeks with our first pregnancy. This loss made me realize that becoming a mother happened the moment I found out I was pregnant. While I was treated for the physical effects of the miscarriage, we were not provided with any support service referrals. Which had a large impact on us at the time, especially since we did not know that programs such as the PAIL Network existed. The PAIL Network is dedicated to improving bereavement care and providing support to families or individuals who have suffered the loss of a pregnancy or the death of their baby/babies.
December 2015, a private member’s bill was passed in Ontario proclaiming October 15 as Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day. This is second year it is commemorated. The bill sought to promise resources and support, as well as better research into perinatal loss and infant death. The Ontario-based Pregnancy and Infant Loss (PAIL) Network has done research on the needs of families experiencing pregnancy and infant loss and has found that although women are treated medically by healthcare professionals, they are not treated for the psycho-emotional aspects.
The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada estimates that approximately 7/1000 babies in Canada are still born. Yet such experiences are largely misunderstood – they are rarely discussed in public and during prenatal care. A 2015 US study found that the general population believes miscarriage occurs in just 5% of all pregnancies, and that most often the cause is due to choices and actions of the mother. This misunderstanding about the prevalence and causes of pregnancy and infant loss generate and create a strong taboo, leaving families and individuals to experience their grief largely in isolation. In the case of a fatal diagnosis during pregnancy, stillbirth and infant loss, referral by medical practitioners is more common but often in the context of a traumatic and overwhelming time-strained consultation. Parents are not always provided with the time to process their grief.
In 2016, we decided to add again to our family. We passed the 12 week mark and I breathed a sigh of relief. After a routine ultrasound at 19 weeks, we found out that our son Aaron had no kidneys and that there was no chance that he would survive after birth. We were told that termination was the best option and that it must be done quickly. We were devastated, but after hearing his strong heartbeat and seeing his profile that looked so much like Gabriel, our son from our second birth, we decided to continue the pregnancy.
We were only referred to the Perinatal hospice program at Roger Neilson House after making this decision. The Perinatal hospice program at Roger Neilson House is a nurturing and safe place for families and individuals who have received a heartbreaking fatal prenatal diagnosis that will result in the death of their baby prior to, or shortly after birth. These parents have access to specialized care and support at Roger Neilson House. Support includes counselling, and emotional support to help parents make medical decisions about the pregnancy, delivery and the baby’s care, assisting with memory making (such as photographs) and ongoing bereavement care. We spent 100 precious minutes with Aaron after birth in June 2016. It was sad and hard, but it was beautiful. You can read our full story here. Roger Neilson House also offers a Perinatal Loss Bereavement Support Group. This group is available for parents who have lost a pregnancy beyond 20 weeks gestation, or an infant aged up to 28 days.
Many families have found this journey and the support offered through the Perinatal Hospice program to be very meaningful and healing.
Aaron’s Butterfly Run Ottawa/Gatineau was held yesterday in Ottawa to raise awareness for pregnancy and infant loss, and this wasn’t just any old kind of run. Aaron’s Butterfly Run is aiming to provide support and share resources in our community with those who experience pregnancy and infant loss. At Aaron’s Butterfly Run, we are doing everything we can to share our personal experiences and communicate with others about the pregnancy and infant loss resources that already exist in our community.
Through a grant from Just Change Ottawa, we are partnering with Mom Friends to create the Butterfly Box. This box will be a resource that is available at no cost for parents who have experienced pregnancy or infant loss in Ottawa/Gatineau.
If you are grieving because you have experienced a miscarriage, stillbirth or infant loss, please know that I am thinking of you tonight as I light a candle in memory of my two butterfly babies. Please join us during the International Wave of Light today at 7:00 pm to light a candle in memory of all the butterfly babies. Leave the candle burning for at least an hour and create a ‘wave’ of light spanning the globe in honour of babies who were lost during pregnancy or shortly after birth.
I always knew that I wanted to be a mother of many, actually always wanting at least 7! However when we got babies six and seven together (twins!), my husband and I decided to have one more.
From day one, I knew I wanted to birth them all at home and I knew with out any doubt in my mind I wanted to breastfeed. I was determined growing up, I had many role models – my mom spoke of stories of my great grandmother birthing her babies at home on the reserve and stories about our great great grandmother who was a midwife on the reserve. I belong to the Ojibwe First Nation.1 My mom always answered my questions about breast feeding and spoke of the importance of breastmilk even if it’s in the first few feedings. I remember watching her nurse my youngest brother. My mother’s best friend who is like my Aunt was also a doula while I grew up and taught me so much about birth and breastfeeding before she became a midwife herself as I began my journey as a mother.
I didn’t start my family the typical way, I was young and only 15 when I got pregnant. Although because of the support I had, the traditions I learned growing up, I was already very knowledgeable on birth and breastfeeding. These family stories and these traditions were important. I knew from the moment I saw that positive pregnancy test I would birth my child at home and breastfeed. I am pretty strong-willed and I didn’t care what anyone told me about it.
So finally after 40 long weeks of waiting I got to meet my sweet first boy. I birthed him on my mother’s living room floor in front of the TV (I wasn’t actually watching the tv) after only 3 hours of labour. I was so determined to have him at home that after my ultrasound, I got checked because I thought labour had already started — and it had! I was already 6-7 cm dilated. I was given the option to get a birth room or go home. Stay? Not for me, thanks. I decided to go home and only an hour and a half after getting home I had a beautiful baby screaming and pink on my chest.
Shortly after I got to the bed and attempted his first latch, I was determined and nervous! Even with a full tongue tie he had he latched like a Champ and gained very well! We did have some ups and downs too. Eventually his latch started to affect his feeding at around 7 months, it shallowed and that meant he wasn’t gaining as well as he should. So I made the choice to pump till he was about 14 months old where I got pregnant with my second.
Breastfeeding hasn’t been smooth as every baby I’ve have had has their own quirks. Seven of my eight children have had tongue ties, two of them were bad enough that I felt they needed it to be revised. Even with the tongue ties, all my kids nursed wonderfully and latched like pros!
I was lucky enough to give birth to my twins at home. I had to fight for my right as a mother to birth my babies the way I felt was safest. I was determined to birth them at home regardless of protocol and policies laid by hospitals and insurance companies! Unless it was medically necessary to go to a hospital I was staying home. I did a ton of research and knew the risks in twin pregnancies and births for the type of twins I was having. I searched long and hard for care providers who would support me. I had back up support in case my local midwife wasn’t able to pull a team together. It was only at the last minute, only about a week before I went into labour that I was told I’d have local support a team of at least four midwifes. Though seven midwives actually came to my home.
The twins were born at 37 weeks, after an amazing painless labour, I danced with my husband and and sang through the waves of contractions, and laboured by candle light with soft music playing same as I had birth with most of my little ones. My first water broke and I decided to wait a few more contractions before getting in the pool. I got in and midwife came up check on me things were still so calm , three of the seven midwives were still out at lunch. She went back down and I decided to check my self only seconds later. A strong intuition told me to check and sure enough baby A was right there head down no feeling of pressure or anything. I call down for the midwife and I looked at my husband and told him he had four minutes to empty a bit of water and get in if he wanted to catch our first twin. I start to feel the wave and told him to get in and not even seconds later baby A shot right out with out any pushing into mine and my husband’s hands. We lifted him up and snuggle him and showered him in love. I listened for baby B and and felt his position and had midwife confirm. Soon decided it was time to birth Baby B I handed baby A off to daddy and started to get into position. When baby B’s water broke and almost immediately after he shot out across the pool bottom first. Midwife jumping in quickly to catch him only 19 minutes later. The three midwives who were out at lunch came in about then. I snuggled baby B and loved on him also before realizing I wanted to snuggle both of them on my chest. So I moved to the bed and they latched amazingly.
They gained weight rapidly. This, however was a new experience in itself! Nursing two tiny little babies juggling them seemed so intimidating at first despite having nursed five babies prior and tandem nursed many, having twins was different. However once they started nursing it was like we were in complete sync. I had an abundance of milk and nursed on demand. I’d tandem nurse them while I tandem wore them. It was the way we got through daily.
To me, breastfeeding isn’t a linear journey there are many different paths. It’s been an amazing journey to have been able to nurse all my babies! I nursed eight babies in 11 years, each weaning anywhere from 14 months to four and a half years. I also know how blessed I am to be able to tandem nurse toddlers and the unique blessing of nursing twins. I believe it created a bond and a closeness for all of my children and I and I wouldn’t change a thing. There is something very special about growing a baby withing your body that you created and feeding them with milk for the you’ve created. And to continue to help them grow with this milk. It’s so special.
All pictures supplied by Amy McNally and Blessed Touch Photography.
Amy belongs to the Pic Mobert Band of the Ojibwe Nation. Visit the Pic Mobert website herehere.
I had the honour of touring the main location of LennyLamb in Poland a few weeks ago. I am not sure if you are aware, LennyLamb is one of the largest manufacturers of wraps, ring slings and structured carriers there. This company started off in Asia’s apartment June 2008, as soon as the idea was conceived it became a family business. Asia’s husband Michal, her sister, Kasia, and Kasia’s husband Piotr joined in to make LennyLamb the company it is today. They first started by outsourcing their weaving and sewing to various places locally. But as the business expanded, it didn’t make any sense to continue this way. Soon they decided to open their own facility by moving to a small converted farm building belonging to the family. Initially, the entire production was located in one building, where the shipping and coordinating was done in a small side room which now serves as their photography studio. The company has now expanded to several buildings. Though Lenny Lamb is larger, employing a good number of people in Poland, it still keeps its small family aesthetic. Each carrier is made to order, on time, just for you.
Touring the facilities was a blast. I am a very visual person and I couldn’t get over the feast offered throughout the factory. Spools of yarn, fabric scraps, colours everywhere.
I learned so much! It was absolutely fascinating. First we started in the building where the yarn is brought in, sorted, and wound on the warp beams. The amount of work needed to get a warp done is amazing. First, the spools of yarn are loaded on the rack, they are hand strung in a grouping of 500 threads, each done up with a neat little knot. Then the technicians then use the bars to keep the tension where it needs to be. Once the warp is wound and sorted out, it is then threaded onto the warp beams, the knots at the start of the warp are used to secure it into the beam and then a second knot at the end keeps the group of 500 threads separate. Ten of these sets of 500 threads are loaded onto the warp beam and it is a fairly intense process.
From here we went to the BEST and most interesting part, where wraps are made. They had four jacquard looms in operation at the time I visited, and including one Dobby loom. Each loom had a different weave on the go. The first set was a cross weave, which you can see by looking at the crossing reeds, and each piece that is woven has two repeats on it. It is much easier to keep some looms with it’s own weave style because it saves time, otherwise to change the configuration is quite time consuming. This is one of the reason there are so many!
Each spool has several runs of fabric on it, and is separated by a bit of plain weave, allowing for easier cutting and sorting later on. There is a really neat bit of waste that is created in the weaving process, the ends almost look like feathers, like each run creates something that will reminds me of how this will fly to families all over the world. The remainder of the warp is then saved and reused whenever possible. The spools of completed fabric are stored throughout, and they are a feast for the eyes.
From there, the fabric either moves to the sewing room to be cut and trimmed to create wraps, or it heads to the cutting room to be treated and turned into your favourite structured carrier. Lenny Lamb makes a series of structured carriers, from a full buckle, onbuhimos and mei tais (meh dais). As previously mentioned, this is a family operation and runs are small. This allows Lenny Lamb to do one thing, make each carrier to order. Literally. When you press buy on their website, that fabric gets removed from the shelf and that carrier gets made just for you. When a store orders an amount puts in an order for their shop, that order is made specifically for them. It’s tailored to your needs, to your life, to your hometown.
The small, just in time nature of their business also allows Lenny Lamb to do many new innovative designs and colourways, keeping their product line fresh and new. When I arrived, they had just put out a new colour in their horse weave and the popularity of it meant the orders were being processed right before my eyes. It has just been released the day before.
As a knitter and a educator, I have a true love of fabric. The scraps everywhere were grabbing my attention left, right and centre. The useable scraps from the cutting room are then cut, sorted and trimmed to make up the bundles of scrap fabric that are also available for sale. Nothing is wasted, I even spotted a scrap that was being used to clean the machines. Waste not want not! (Look away if using wraps scraps for cleaning makes you cry…)
And that is one of the main benefits of having everything located nearby. The environmental footprint is much smaller than other operations. The yarn, the webbing and the buckles are the only things shipped in to make each carrier. The winding of the warp, the cutting, the weaving, and the sewing are all within walking distance of each other. For some companies that aren’t able to weave their own fabrics, due to smaller fabric runs or other factors, the fabrics are designed in house and woven offsite. These rolls then have to be shipped to various locations for find construction.
Another benefit of having a fully functional factory is the ability to test out different concepts before deciding if they should be integrated into their carriers or should just remain an experiment. They can test out the quality of the weave, the weight and the workability as a wrap without having to wait. Many companies have to send the design off to have a test piece woven elsewhere for them to evaluate. Not here! I was even lucky enough to see a really innovative experiment – I was shown a test project. It was a two sided fabric, where one side you see the boy looking out, the other side you can see the boy’s back and his shadow and from the rest of the figures too! Though far too thick for wrapping, who knows what might develop from here?
Once your order is prepared to your specifications, it moves to quality control, where it is checked prior to labelling and packing. Shipping and receiving is directly on the other side.
It goes from this family-run business right to your local shop or straight to your home.
Débora was invited to visit Lenny Lamb September. This article is as a result of her visit. Two live interviews were done by Lenny Lamb, one in Polish and the other in English. Pop in and take a listen! Débora would like to thank the Lenny Lamb team for making her visit memorable.
Link to the LennyLamb story: https://en.lennylamb.com/web_page/10735
Débora’s interview with LennyLamb Polska about carrying in Canada: https://www.facebook.com/147801012269544/videos/484787701904205/
Interview on LennyLamb to describe why I visited Poland: https://www.facebook.com/lennylamb/videos/10154725820902484/
An exciting new carrier has been designed in the Netherlands, when I reached out to my colleague Marloes de Graaf, she was willing to meet with Bas Froon who has turned carrier design on its head. Please find Marloes’ original article here.
As a babywearing dad in the Netherlands, Bas Froon loved to carry his daughter, whether on vacations or just in the city. But he found that he wasn’t a hundred percent happy with the carriers he tried, which include both an Ergobaby and a frame backpack carrier. The Ergobaby pulled too much on his shoulders, though he enjoyed how close his daughter could be held on his body. It is soft and molds fairly nicely. He also liked some aspects of the frame backpack carrier like how it provided a great amount of support by moving the weight securely to his hips. Once again though, it wasn’t perfect.The weight was held too high and too far from his body and he missed the close contact with his daughter that he got using the Ergo.
Bas’s mind starting spinning.
As a result of being a designer and babywearing dad, Bas knew there must be a better way.
Bas was inspired to try and design a carrier to suit his values. So he embarked on a journey to design a better baby carrier, moving forward with the values that were important to him – preserving the connection between parent and child while respecting the environment. Did he manage it?
Yes he DID!
First he had to choose the material.
As a designer, Bas is fascinated by products and their relationship with their manufacturing process. Bas: “It’s intriguing for me to understand the subconscious qualities of products and materials around us, and to apply these qualities later on myself.” Hands-on experimentation with materials and techniques are crucial in his design process, Bas: “… this is where often the most beautiful surprises originate.”1
Bas ended up choosing a material made from cellulose and which is a biocomposite. When this material is in its raw form, it is soft and cuddly. When it is pressed at high temperatures, it becomes hard and strong. But how to preserve the softness and flexibility needed for the babycarrier features he prized most? He literally had to go back to the drawing board and start by looking at the machinery. To be able to achieve the qualities he was looking for, Bas specially designed and built a machine that would allow the material to keep its softness while taking advantage of the durability achieved through pressing it.
A short video of the process is here:
The best way to achieve both softness and strength was using a honeycomb pattern.
And I was lucky enough to be able to see the carrier for myself!
The fabric and materials were indeed cuddly soft. Difficult not to touch. The material was both very thin and strong. The buckles are cut into the same material, reducing the thickness of standard carrier buckles, the whole carrier is made from the same material! Its texture was extremely soft to the touch. Each carrier is individually printed using either a 3D body scan or with the aid of a computer design. One of the questions I had was, “Would the carrier be useless when you lose or gain a lot of weight?” No! Because the carrier is soft and is quite mouldable, it is able to form to your body and can be used by more than one person. Though the carrier Bas showed me was made based the 3D image of his body, it fit me too! Awesome!!
Though I tried it on, I didn’t have a chance to test it with a doll or with my daughter because it had become fragile from all the attention it received at the Graduation Festival 2017 held at the Hague earlier this year.2
And to be honest, it was so neat, I didn’t want to break or damage it too!
Bas and I will continue connecting, to keep learning from each other as Bas starts designing the next prototype. And maybe, some day into a carrier that everyone can buy!
A journey to Canadian
Sunmi studied sports medicine in her undergrad, and was already looking to study in the United States, but then she met a Canadian….
… And then she fell in love…
Tell me about your journey.
I was working at the time, for a company that hires English language instructors to send them to Samsung, LG, Humex, Coca Cola, we’re dealing with big companies. I got a job there to learn English before I could come to study in the US. So one of the coworkers that was working there, she was Korean Canadian. She saw me working every weekend because I wanted to make as much money as possible for my studies. Working there was good because I could study at the same time, so she saw me working and she said,
“You are a fine looking women, why are you working every weekend? You have no boyfriend?”
“No, I have no boyfriend.”
“I have a really cute friend. He’s from Toronto, he’s very good looking, he’s very sweet, he’s very cute. But he’s white.”
So I was like, “Uh, no.” So she was very persistent for a few months, telling me and showing me his picture. She organized a gathering in a big izakaya, she invited 15 friends of hers. This would be a good opportunity to practice my English, it wouldn’t be one on one. I met Tom and he said he was going back to Canada in a couple of months, and I said there is no way I am dating this guy. He messaged me, and I messaged him back three days later and I was so not interested. But at the time, I was lonely, and I wanted to practice my English. Also I was telling myself, Sunmi, you don’t have to meet a guy who you can only get married to.You can just meet guys just for fun, even just for the short period of time. Who cares? Who knows about the future? Just let it be, just let yourself go, just go hang out with him.
Yeah, you can just go out for fun. It’s scary though, still.
I started hanging out with him for about two months, then he left to Canada. But he was visiting his family for a month, but the whole month I was waiting for him. I missed him. I was counting the days, counting the time, and then when he came back, I said okay. This is okay, it’s okay to fall in love this way, even if he is going to leave, let it be. The period of time that I am going to meet him, if I feel love, if I make good memories with him, that’s all that matters. I had two boyfriends before when I was in university and it didn’t go well even though I thought I was going to be married to them. I didn’t get married to them. We broke up. Even married couples they divorce.
That’s the thing, you’re right, you cannot predict life.
Exactly. That’s the moment that I said, let go, just don’t get obsessed with it, just enjoy, you love him now, so let’s see where this takes you.
And now you’re Canadian. Look at what happened!
Yes, now I am Canadian living in Ottawa. And then he was very interested in this health field actually, so he brought up this school of naturopathic medicine.
“What is that?” I had no idea about this.
He said, “There’s a clinic there where you can practice after you finish, you know, the school teaches you how to become a doctor without using pharmaceutical medicine.”
“Oh that sounds amazing.”
We applied together, we got accepted together, we came together, but he didn’t start. But I did.
He had an opportunity to start the business, so I said let’s put the eggs in a different basket. The school is not going anywhere, if the business doesn’t go well you can start the school anytime. To do that he moved away to Montreal and I was left in Toronto. I was so lonely, I was crying every day, I was calling him, “I don’t want to do this,” you know because it was so stressful.
We learned everything the medical school students learn on top of that, we learn all the natural remedies, botanical medicine, acupuncture, homeopathic is one of them and a lot of intensive nutritional courses. My English wasn’t 100%. I think I only understood 70% of what everything was said in class.
So you had to try that much harder.
So I recorded every lecture and I subscribed after and I typed the notes again. I had to work twice the amount of time that everyone else. I would miss out so much, I would think, “What did she say?” So I recorded every single lecture. And reading takes way longer time than everyone else, these guys would read 20 to 30 pages in one hour, I would take 5-6 hours. One period of time, I was sleeping with this recording file on so my subconscious brain records what is said.
Somehow, I got through it. It was four years. I don’t know how many times I cried.
And his business it didn’t go well, it didn’t go as he expected so after a couple of years, he came down to Toronto. You start something, it doesn’t work well, there is a cost to it.
You paid because of the distance between the two cities, the effort to stay in contact. The cost of energy to work so much on a small business because you put in more time than at a regular job and then the actual money.
You spend your own money to survive. It costs money to maintain, for my practice, I have to pay for things that come out regularly out of your bank account.
And then he got a job at Costco and that’s why we moved to Ottawa. I finished my school and he was promoted, so he transferred to the headquarters. Timing was good, but we had to move from Toronto to Ottawa
Tom was like, “Um Sunmi, we have to move to a different city, are you okay with it?”
I told him, “I flew half the globe following you. Moving from this dot to this dot doesn’t make any difference to me.”
Even the marriage, a lot of disappointment comes from expectations about your husband or your wife. I formed that expectation in my own head without telling anyone. My husband is not a mind reader, he does not know what kind of expectations I am forming in my own head with my own laws and experiences, he is living in a different world. He is a man, he has different experiences, different expectations, different logic. When you form the story of your life with your own logic, but I expect him to know what I want without telling him “You should know what I want. Why don’t you do this that I really wanted you to do, that I never told you to do, so you should do this.” This is a conflict. I keep telling myself, “explain to him if this is what you want, explain to him. Don’t form unfair expectations in your own head and expect him to know.” Expectations forms a lot of conflicts in different types of relationships that’s why I was telling myself.
What you need to do when you come to a new situation when there is a misunderstanding is just accept that’s who they are.
What was it like to decide to babywear, was it even a question of doing otherwise?
I just feel like he wants to be carried, that’s how he sleeps the best, I feed him to sleep and I try to put him on the bed, time for me. But then he wakes up in ½ an hour, but if I carry him, he sleeps for 2 to 3 hours no problem. There must be a reason he feels more comfortable on me, that’s what I was thinking.
That is a Western thought. That you need to grow up. In order to be strong, you need to impart strength from a very early age.
That is way too early, they just came out of the womb.They trust the world better, it shapes their brain in a different way.
And what about other things, what was hard to get used to in Canada?
Metric system is a real struggle. In medicine, I use EMR an electronic medical recording system. And then would record weight in kilograms and height in inches. Stuff like that. And I don’t have sense in miles and inches and pounds.
And buying. Okay I am a big online shopper. When I was in Korea I was buying the stuff online and there you buy online, it gets to your door the next day. If it takes long, the longest time would be three days. People would get mad because Korea is such a small country. The whole size of Korea is 1/3 of Ontario, like a Giant Toronto. We have 55 million people living in a tiny country, it has good logistic systems like high speed internet because land is so small, population is so concentrated those infrastructures are so easy to layout. Subway system is like a spider web. Here I order something and “WOW it take a two weeks to get here, sometimes a month!”
What things did you find were weird about Canada and Canadians?
Not saying things that you see. I mean things that even you see obviously, like someone walking around with something on their face, you wouldn’t say anything because you were afraid of offending that person. That would be very rare in Korea, someone would definitely come up to you and tell you had something on your face and then they would just walk away. You would say, “Oh thank you!” That would be the end of it. We wouldn’t think twice, if I say this would that person be ashamed.
So the person receiving the comment, they would not get offended about that.
Some people complain about that culture too because we can be very blunt and very frank. First thing, if I gain weight, then you saw me and it’s been awhile, “Oh I see that you gained some weight!” Some people hate that. “What happened to your face, you have some acne going on. What happened.” Here they never say it, even if you have a zit right on your forehead, they don’t say a word. That’s the biggest difference I felt.
I like learning about my country through the eyes of others. Thank you very much for bringing me into your home, Sunmi, and telling me about your journey.
Sunmi and I originally met October 15, 2016, and we spoke for about four hours. This article is a condensed and edited version of our interview. Her story, like many, was so interesting it became a three part series. The first is called Growing up Korean. The second article is called Becoming Canadian, where she shares how she moved to Canada and then stayed.
Sunmi Cha is a full trained and license naturopathic doctor in Ottawa. Visit her website here.