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Diane Pepin is from Windsor and has been working as a doula since 1998. Diane became a CAPPA trained lactation educator in 1999 and since then, has offered extensive post-partum support to parents, particularly focusing on maternal and parental confidence. This moved her to co-found the Windsor and Essex County Breastfeeding Coalition. Diane started providing babywearing instruction and support in 1999 and still offers the following today:
Diane lives and works in Windsor and can be reached through her website, Mother’s Helper.
Diane was nominated for the Best Canadian Babywearing Educator Award in 2017. She also presented at the 2016 Babywearing in Canada Conference.
Session: Babywearing and Breastfeeding
By Diane Pepin and DÃ©bora Rodrigues
Using your baby carrier to keep baby close helps the breastfeeding relationship enormously. Reading your babyâs cues is much easier when the baby is held closer to the mother, and father. In this session, Diane and DÃ©bora will discuss proper positioning when nursing in a variety of baby carriers and they will discuss what the baby is capable of at different ages. This includes when to use a cradle carry, when to nurse tummy to tummy, and finally, tips and tricks to be an active babywearer and to keep it safe.
Pregnancy and Infant Loss – today, tomorrow, forever
As Motherâs Day approaches, it is important to remember the mothers who are not able to hold and care for their children.Â Although the majority of pregnancies end with the birth of a healthy baby, it is estimated that one in four pregnancies1 ends in miscarriage (loss up to 20 weeks of pregnancy), and approximately 7 in every 1,000 pregnancies end in stillbirth (loss after 20 weeks of pregnancy).2
With this level of frequency, it is very likely that either you or someone close to you have experienced this traumatic event in their lives.Â Other families and individuals experience the devastating loss of a newborn.Â Mothers come in all forms â the ones who are able to hold their children on earth and the ones who can only hold them in their hearts.
My husband Rob andÂ IÂ decided to start a family in 2013.Â We experienced a miscarriage at 10 weeks with our first pregnancy.Â This loss made me realize that becoming a mother happened the moment I found out I was pregnant. The plans, dreams and hopes for the future were dashed at our dating ultrasound when we were told that our baby had no heartbeat. We were fortunate to become pregnant again and I gave birth to a healthy, happy son named Gabriel in 2014.Â In 2016, we decided to add again to our family. We passed the 12 week mark and I breathed a sigh of relief.Â 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 devastated, but after hearing his strong heartbeat and seeing his profile that looked so much like Gabriel, we decided to continue the pregnancy.
Lorraine Rigby-Larocque spoke at the first Babywearing in Canada conference that took place May 2015. During her session âLosing a child: Coping today, tomorrow and forever,â Lorraine shared her personal experience with loss. Lorraine’s son Kevin was stillborn at 29 weeks gestation over 20 years ago, and she also experienced eight miscarriages and survived cervical cancer.Â Â Lorraine experienced contractions early into her pregnancy with Kevin, who was her third child, and was in and out of the hospital.Â At 29 weeks, Lorraine went to the hospital because she could not feel her baby moving.Â Sitting in the ultrasound room alone, Lorraine heard the dreaded words, “I’m sorry, there is no heartbeat.”Â From the session, Lorraine said, “I needed to give this baby the same effort that I gave to my other babies.”Â So she decided to give birth to Kevin without medication as with her other babies.
Lorraine’s story of loss, though 20 years ago, is achingly familiar to anyone who has experienced pregnancy or infant loss.Â The universality of loss really struck me as I listened to Lorraine’s story of loss from over 20 years ago.
When we decided to continue our pregnancy, we were referred to the Perinatal Hospice at Roger NeilsonÂ House.3Â Like Lorraine, I wanted to give Aaron a similar experience that Gabriel had while I was pregnant and during his birth.Â Lorraine’s words in the session are the words of a mother who knows the intertwining joy and sorrow that occurs during the birth and loss of a much-loved child.Â It’s the loss of dreams for the future, when you find out that your baby has slipped away during pregnancy.Â It’s a moment of such joy when you meet your baby, but also a moment of such sorrow when you know that the moment is fleeting.Â It’s meeting your beautiful baby, counting their fingers and toes and trying to memorize every little detail.Â The moment you meet your child is something that you never forget.
Our son, Aaron Isaiah Robert Peters Samulack was born four weeks early on Fatherâs Day, June 19th 2016. We spent 100 precious minutes with Aaron. It was sad and it was hard, but it was beautiful.Â He was a beautiful little boy with strawberry blonde hair and lovely lips.Â One of the things that Lorraine said in her presentation aboutÂ after the birth of KevinÂ that really stuck out to me wasÂ “My body felt empty, and my arms felt empty, I just felt empty.”Â Lorraine arranged a funeral service for Kevin, as we did for Aaron.Â She described having to go to a music store to pick out just the perfect music for the service only a few days after birth.Â Her breasts were leaking milk; her body was empty and longing for her baby.
I remember walking around the cemetery with my dad, only two days after I gave birth to Aaron, looking for a plot in the baby section.Â It was a beautiful day, the sun was shining and the birds were singing in a tree that overlooks Aaron’s final resting place.Â My breasts were swollen with milk and I still looked very pregnant.Â On the inside, I felt so empty.Â I look back at photos from the funeral and internment and I still don’t know how I am making it through the dark days that have followed Aaron’s birth and death.
Lorraine said that one of the things that helped her most after the loss of Kevin were cards and messages from friends that acknowledged the loss of Kevin and her subsequent pregnancy losses.Â Sending a card on a special date like Motherâs Day to acknowledge that our babies existed is sometimes the best thing that you can do to help heal our hearts. Â Â There are no magic words that you can say that will make the pain go away.Â However, acknowledging our losses is not going to make us sadder.Â We have not forgotten about our losses and we hope that our friends haven’t either.Â One of our biggest fears as bereaved mothers is that our babies will be forgotten.Â Though their voices do not echo in our homes, our babies will live in our hearts forever.
Just like with our family, Lorraine has keepsakes that she treasures to this day:Â ultrasound photos, a clipping of hair, handprints and footprints tenderly captured by a compassionate nurse.Â These are the things that transcend time, things that bring us closer to our babies. These items we can hold and cherish remind us over and over again that our babies were here if only for a moment.Â In the Ottawa/Gatineau area, volunteer photographers from Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep (NILMDTS) do an amazing job of capturing these moments for individuals/families facing the loss of their baby at birth.Â Veronique Lalonde, the NILMDTS coordinator for Ottawa/Gatineau was contacted by the palliative care team at Roger Neilson House take photos when Aaron was born. She was so kind and compassionate and captured photos that mean the world to me.Â I look at these photos often and they help me remember what Aaron looked like â his beautiful lips and his tiny feet that danced so often while I was pregnant.
It was important for Rob and to take our experience and use it to raise awareness of pregnancy and infant loss in our community when we learned out about The Butterfly Run. The Butterfly Runâs purpose is to remember our children, and for parents who experienced pregnancy and infant loss. It was created by three bereaved mothers in Quinte, Ontario, in 2016 to raise awareness and help other individuals/families who have experienced pregnancy and infant loss. The Butterfly Run is growing; it has already taken place in Belleville andÂ Peterborough this year, and will take place in Ottawa in October.
OnÂ Saturday, October 14th 2017, we will be walking or running to raise awareness for all types of pregnancy and infant loss at Aaronâs Butterfly Run Ottawa/Gatineau. There will be a 1 mile family walk/run and a 5 km walk/run. All proceeds from Aaronâs Butterfly Run will go to theÂ Perinatal Loss programs atÂ Roger Neilson House through the Ottawa Senators Foundation.Â This run is for anyone who has experienced pregnancy or infant loss and for those who support them. Thank you to the women who have come before me like Lorraine who are bringing awareness to pregnancy and infant loss.Â Our babies will not be forgotten.
Rachel Samulack, Aaronâs Butterfly Run Ottawa/Gatineau Organizer. All proceeds from Aaron’s Butterfly Run will go to Roger Neilson’s House.
Rachel would like to thank DÃ©boraÂ Rodrigues and Babywearing in Canada for her support and her sponsorship of Aaron’s Butterfly Run.
1. Bill-141 was passed in the Ontario legislature to provide $1 million dollars to train health care workers in bereavement loss, and conduct research. One in four pregnancies ends in miscarriage. For more information on Bill 141, read this article.Â â©
2. This article by Maclean’s illustrates how important grieving is to the parents as attachment begins in utero. Seven out of 1,000 babies born in Canada are stillborn. Read more here.Â â©
3. Roger Neilson House is an eight-bed pediatric residential hospice which offers compassionate care and bereavement services in collaboration with the Children of Eastern Ontarioâs (CHEO) palliative care team. This amazing facility is located on the grounds at CHEO and provides a home-like environment to children who have a significant risk of dying before reaching adulthood. Perinatal hospice is also offered to families or individuals whose babies are likely to die before, during, or shortly after birth. Individuals and families who receive the heartbreaking news that their baby may not survive very long after birth may choose to continue their pregnancy and celebrate their babyâs short life. Â Specialized care and support at Roger Neilson House is offered that includes counselling and emotional support; assistance with making medical decisions about their pregnancy, delivery and their babyâs care; assisting with memory making (such as photographs) and ongoing bereavement care. Roger Neilson House also offers a Perinatal Loss Support group, which is for families and individuals who have lost a pregnancy over 20 weeks or a baby shortly after birth. Visit their website to learn more. â©
In 2017, we held Canadaâs very first Babywearing Educator Awards.
Best Babywearing Group â sponsored by manduca
Renfrew County Babywearing Group
Nominations also included:
Babywearing of Algoma
Windsor Babywearing group. This submission was received after the nominations closed, but the replies were so heartfelt for the work this group does in their community, I decided they deserved a shout-out here.
2017 we held Canada’s very first Babywearing Educator Awards.
Best Babywearing Educator – sponsored by manduca
We had over 20 nominations for best babywearing educator for the 2017 awards and choosing the best of them was a challenge! I was hoping to have three strong contenders and instead ended up with four – there are so many helpful people in Canada!
Cindy LarrivÃ©e, Portage Double
Meet the other 2017 nominees:
Diane Pepin, Mother’s Helper
Dr. Jill Bailey, member of Orangeville Babywearers
Jennifer Wadleigh, Calgary Babywearers
Corwyn Warwaruk, West of the 4th
We live in a multicultural country and one of the things that is guaranteed, for as long as there has been Canada Post, there have been relatives sending gifts internationally. Gifts that represent their love and their support for family members that they cannot see often due to the cost and the distance.
I myself was the recipient of these sorts of gifts when I was a kid, sweaters that would get here off season and wouldn’t fit by the time winter came, things you wouldn’t be caught dead in but that you had to put on and have a picture taken as “proof” that you loved it, and that the family appreciated the thought and effort behind it (and thank goodness there was no facebook, and that after that one pic, you could toss it into the donate pile without a second thought!). And later, cheap dollar store crap you could get at the shop down the street from where I lived, but was sent to you with love (and that was usually half-broken by the time it arrived).
That is why it is important to learn about baby carriers that are not sold in North America and to suspend your judgment when helping people out. My most recent introduction to a foreign carrier was when interviewing Sunmi Cha this past fall. Sumni is from Korea and her family had thoughtfully sent her a gift for her to use to show their love and for her to connect with her baby, an Ergo hip seat.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â
My first few thoughts on seeing it?
And that last one is what stuck with me, because it is exactly what I did.
What’s the first thing you do when you see a carrier like this? Pull from your experience. I’ve been around a long time, so the base was exactly like a Hippychick I still have cached in my basement.1 Then it’s like Ergo put on some romantic music, sent it on a blind date with a Playtex Hip Hammock and these two carriers made a baby! Or maybe they just took a style that was already popular in Asian and spun their own version of it out there (not as much fun, but likely the truth as Lillebaby has one too, Three in One and Pognae for example).2
What if you haven’t been around for as long as babywearing dinosaurs have roamed the earth? Read the label. Yeah, I know, your Korean is likely as good as mine, but thankfully this one was fully bilingual English / Korean. What if the label is unreadable and not in script you can handily copy into your computer browser? Reach out to your international babywearing peeps and start asking questions (I got some good resources with that one – thanks Heather and Theresa!)3
The important thing to focus on here from the label is the BABY FALLING OUT warning: Infants can fall out through a wide opening or out of the hip seat. Essentially, is the baby TOO small for the carrier and the carrier base?
This fall warning is very important, especially since if you know your babywearing history, you’ll know that Baby Bjorn had to issue a recall of their front pack carriers for this exact reason.4 It lead to them making a small, but critical change to their carriers. They added a small loop and button to narrow the leg opening to prevent smaller babies from falling out of them. Yep, some babies will fall out through the leg openings if they are too wide.
Unfortunately, Ergo has not made any changes or adjustments to this carrier to provide a similar feature. And let’s not point fingers exclusively at one company, none of the others seem to have something in place either. So, Ergo, baby – let’s talk!! I’d really like to see all the companies who sell this thing make a modification to prevent what is a known fall hazard, moreover, one that from my perspective is a modification to the design that is relatively easy to do. So uh, hop hop, let’s get moving, am I right?
The other important warning is the SUFFOCATION hazard. If the baby is too low in the carrier and their face is pressed against the parent’s body or clothing, they might die.
The other parts of this warning label are just ridiculous. Essentially, if you follow them to the letter, you are basically asking that only trees, street lamps on poles and other inflexible objects wear the baby. And given they ask all the zippers be closed, essentially they are inadvertently saying that the base never be used separately from the rest of the carrier. It’s all rather incoherent and this is where you need to step in to intepret and explain this to your client. Once again, the important thing is to use your judgment as a babywearing consultant and have the parent put the child in the carrier. Assess:
Is this a carrier I would choose for myself? No, probably not. But that’s not the point of being a babywearing consultant – it’s not about what I would chose. Your first goal should always be about supporting parents to babywear as safely as possible with what they have. The only real dangers are:
After an assessment, if the carrier is truly dangerous – at this point, you need to be compassionate, listen to their story, and tell them the truth.
“It’s really nice to have gotten a great gift from your parents so that you know your baby is cared both by them and by you. But you can’t use this (right now /ever) because your baby is (choose one of the above).”
DÃ©bora Rodrigues has been teaching babywearing since August 2008. The Hippychick is part of her rental collection which is available to those living her hometown of Ottawa, Ontario.
Sunmi and I originally met October 15, 2016, and we spoke for about four hours. The first article is called Growing up Korean which was followed by Babywearing Redux. The next article about Sunmi’s journey is called Becoming Canadian, where she shares how she moved to Canada and then stayed.
1. Hippychicks are still available for sale in the U.K. and can be seen on their website. I scored mine at a community garage sale here in town. â©
2. Here is a Korean blog discussing the major hipseat brands available there. I always find it interesting to see how these things are sold in other countries, using marketing that just wouldn’t work for a Canadian or Western market. If you scroll down, you too can also have a giggle at their claims of how a hard seat with narrow leg openings supports the M-position. The MATH is just wrong people. â©
3. Check out the KOREAN Lillebaby website, Pognae’s website and the Ergo Baby website. You will need to use a translation tool to understand it.â©
4. Baby Bjorn carriers were recalled in 1999. Recall is archived here on Health Canada’s website.â©
Sunmi Cha is a Canadian originally from Korea. I was privileged enough to be invited into her home and hear her story. She wore her siblings growing up, to read about it click here.
What is it like to start babywearing again?
I was actually surprised that there’s a school of people that invest themselves in all these wraps. I did not know much about it.
I have watched a Korean documentary called Secret of traditional parenting.1 It was talking about how good it is to wear their baby. So the baby can observe the environment, learn social interaction from you, from being on your back all the time and it gives you lots of mobility. And you know babywearing, we all know how many benefits it offers. So it talks all about it. And the documentary was talking about how popular the podaegi is in Europe right now. How a lot of moms are looking into podaegi. After watching the documentary, I thought it is the best carrier in the world that’s why other people are looking into it.
In Korea sometimes there is propaganda happening. They try. By telling you that this part of our culture is the best, we are smart people, what we have is blah-blah-blah.
I think the podaegi is genius. It’s very practical. You took a blanket and put a strap on it. It is practical because it offers torso support instead of relying on the strength of the shoulders.
This comes in different length. There is a shorter one, this is a medium length one. Because every woman is of different height. Because some women are pretty petite.
Itâs the height of it, I didnât know, oh what I am learning!
It hides your figure, mothers feel more comfortable they donât have to worry about what they are wearing underneath. And traditionally, Asian women they donât wear revealing clothes, they are very conservative. For that it really helps, you donât have to worry about whatâs showing, about whatâs not showing.
So you found it insulated against the hot weather?
Yeah, so he loved it. He was falling asleep in it. I couldnât use the other, the Boba wrap. It [the podaegi] was so easy, put it on and wrap tight, thatâs it.
Now there are many different versions, you can attach the strap on an angle and wrap it around your shoulders.
The thing is that these are really cheap. I paid $35.
Thatâs really affordable. So you came to Ottawa, set up your practice and started your family. So he’s four months old?
Yes, he’s four and a half, he’s 20 weeks.
When I got pregnant, my sister wanted to give me a gift, what could it be? So I told her to send me a baby carrier. I saw my sister carrying the baby all the time, she used the Ergo hip seat. My sister was using it and she found it very useful for a toddler especially because the hip seat part is so convenient. So I searched Amazon and they didn’t sel lthis specific one here and I read that they only released this in Korea.
I didn’t know Ergo made them, it must be only for Asia. They have products that are not available here.
Only for Korea. I thought, âIs it because it is less safe?â Is this why they don’t release in Canada?2
It’s perception. It’s a different market.
But the podaegi isnât expensive, so why so few use it?
Itâs the fashionable perspective. I was wondering why donât they use better looking fabric?
When I was looking to buy podaegi. I searched hard to find something neutral, no bears or dots, or super colourful. Like bright blue, or bright pink I didnât like it. I still couldnât get rid of the monkey, but this is acceptable. I didnât like the ones that are made of so infantile looking fabric, I chose this one because of that.
I sometimes write on Korean online community. I asked there why people donât use podaegi much. People said that it is partly because of the look and some said they found that structured carriers are easier to use. There were lots of new carriers were on the market that I wasnât aware.
So people use more of their structured carrier. Ergo is very popular.
Ergo is everywhere. What about wraps?
That was another thing versus a wrap. Wraps are so beautiful, they use different colours. A lot of moms collect the wraps because of its beauty.
I got the woven wrap, the purple one. I was surprised at the price! It was over $200 for a long strand of fabric. I sew, so I tried to make it on my own and went to a fabric store. I tried to search for fabric that was similar to what I saw. I read online that I am supposed to look for jacquard woven and diamond woven. I asked the people at the store but they had no idea. Every fabric is woven was what they said!
Every fabric is woven. Except for knit. Exactly.
It wasn’t very helpful, but they had lots of items in the sales stash, rayon, 100% cotton. It was summertime and I had a Boba wrap, it was too hot. I was looking for something that was lighter fabric for the wrap and also that it breathes. I was looking at rayon, though I realized that rayon is synthetic, even though it is made from natural pulp. Okay so no rayon.
I wanted to buy something with a one way stretch like Wrapsody hybrid. So I bought 5 meters of fabric with a one way stretch. I made half of it into a ring sling and then I tried to wrap him with the other half. This fabric was too slippery and wasn’t easy to pull, it was awkward to put it on. It wasn’t as soft as a woven wrap, it was bulky, so I made the rest of the fabric into a pillow cover.
Oh that looks beautiful!
I also got this carrier cover from my sister.
Oh whoa – look at that! It’s got ears on the hood! It’s so cute, I love it. It’s got little pockets for your hands.
This attracts good attention when I put this on him and go out. It’s a whole set with ergo hip seat. I use the cover all the time.
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 next article is called A journey to 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.
1. The first installment of the documentary of The Secret of Traditional Parenting can be found here. Here is the link to the second and third installment.â©
2. The Ergo hip seat is available for sale on Gmarket in Korea.â©
It’s time for the holidays. But what does that mean to you? Does it mean laughing at those of us still shopping two days before Christmas? Does it mean running around as you try to imagine who is going where, for which amount of time to whose house? Are you lighting the menorah?
Or do you have one of those families where you do a little bit of this, a little bit of that? And where will your baby or toddler be?
Sweaters can be purchased at tipsyelves.com and the sweaterstore.com
One of the quirkiest things about being Canadian is that we are very knowledgeable about each of our family stories and our cultural heritage we can usually name ALL of them.
It was one of the things that confused the heck out of me as a child. I am of Portuguese extraction (hence the “s” at the end of my name) and was always 100% of something. Yet, there I was from kindergarten onwards, not even knowing what a fraction was, or even how to calculate it, and whenever the teacher would ask “Where’s your family from?” I would hear some version of the above recipe.
Which I found sooo confusing as a kid!!! Because how on earth do all of those parts fit into one body… and didn’t some of those cultures that you named not even get along? How on earth did they get along well enough to end up making you??
But that is what it is to be a Canadian. In Canada, we have a cultural mosaic. Most of us learn fractions before we are taught them in school simply by learning about our heritage.Â Some of us can even manage to recite our ancestry down to the most minute percentages (yes, I can do this with my kids down to fractions of 1/16th!!).
It makes us quirky, it makes us understanding, it makes us curious about where people come from and their cultural influences.
And like Mayor Naheed Nenshi said:
“Almost every Canadian has such an origin story and every one is worth telling. And with each telling, we share in the story of who we are.”1
Every time we welcome immigrants to our country, they are integrated with a fair amount of success.Â In Canada, we value difference, we are accepting of change, we are the community builders whose children may often be a little bit of this, a little bit of that, and 1/2 of the latest import. Just like mine.
And that is why babywearing has been such an amazing gift. To me, it is an extension of everything that it means to be Canadian – I started off with a ring sling, it only went so far. Then I moved to a backpack carrier, which didn’t provide the right support for my body. Then due to the exchange and learning of the babywearing community, I had access to my very first mei tai (an Ellaroo) and I fell in love. My back didn’t hurt! I could carry my baby and not be in pain. It was W-O-N-D-E-R-F-U-L. (And then I fell down the babywearing rabbit hole and have been there happily since.) The experience of being Canadian in this cultural mosaic enabled me to explore and find the solutions to help me take care of my children.
To quote Naheed Nenshi again (because he is that awesome):
“So far, I have only told you origin stories. I have told you two Indian stories, and they show us what we love about Canada and what we hope Canada was and will continue to be.Â They tell us about when Canada works. And when Canada works, it works better than anywhere. […]
What we know is that weâve figured out a simple truthâone which evades too many in this broken world. And that simple truth is just this: nous sommes ici ensemble. Weâre in this together. Our neighbourâs strength is our strength; the success of any one of us is the success of every one of us. And, more important, the failure of any one of us is the failure of every one of us.
This means that our success is in that tolerance, that respect for pluralism, that generous sharing of opportunity with everyone, that innate sense that every single one of us, regardless of where we come from, regardless of what we look like, regardless of how we worship, regardless of whom we love, that every single one us deserves the chance right here, right now, to live a great Canadian life.â2
Canadians can be amazing. The culture we choose to keep, the things we choose to teach our children, are priceless, and the things they learn when they are attached to our bodies are fantastic. And when we choose to acknowledge and work towards this, to share, to connect, to learn, to build… it makes us all stronger.Â When you babywear, you are not just making life easier for yourself, you are bringing your child closer to your own personal family history and traditions by living life in the same space. Which is impossible to do if your child is constantly in a chair, a stroller, a car seat, or in a crib. You are providing a sense of identity to the next generation through the influences that are part of being a multicultural country when you wear your babe. And in Canada, all our traditions have value. They make us the cultural mosaic that we are.
What is your family history and what is your child learning while you wear them?
1. Naheed Nenshi is the Mayor of Calgary, this is from his speech called the Canada we hope for. Published here October 17, 2015. â©
2. Mayor Nenshi continues: But this is incredibly fragile. It must be protected always from the voices of intolerance, the voices of divisiveness, the voices of small mindedness, and the voices of hatred. Itâs the right thing to do. â©
We had a really rough week in babywearing, around the name of a wrap, around the design of a particular brand that theyâve carried and that I own. Iâm calling it â itâs a hot mess. I found the pace of this conversation concussive, the need to know what your thoughts are right now, to decide right now, act today, go go go go. I canât do this without reflection, and so I have reflected.
I need to make space for all the hearts I heard this week.
What is the concept of making space? This is the best description Iâve heard, offered by American Melissa Nightingale on her first maternity leave here in Canada:
âCanadians have an expression that I didnât know until I got here. They talk about âmaking spaceâ. And it took me awhile to get the hang of it but itâs basically leaving conversational room for the other person to express their ideas, to dissent, to disagree.â1
I’m making space for the things I wish had happened in this debate.
“This situation is deplorable. I have a quick tip for you. If you’re defending the oppressed POC by oppressing another POC, you’re doing it wrong.” — F.L.
The level of assholery heard on the internet during this entire discussion was unbelievable. I witnessed people:
There was very little grace in this discussion. My foremost recommendation in any sensitive discussion of this nature is for civility.
We must listen to all the voices.
“If I had to pick a single word from my childhood that meant ugly, uncivilized, unkempt, savage, or wrong, it was the word, âIndio.â Suddenly I had flashbacks to third-grade Cynthia who was trying on dance shoes and her dance teacher said loudly and to the class, âSi tienes pata de Indio, estos zapatos no te van a quedar y podemos ordenar otros.â (If you have Indio paws for feet, these [fine] shoes wonât fit you, but we have others we can order.)Â […]
AngÃ©lica de la Cruz:
“I am Mexican and I have never felt offended by the word Indio (Even when it is not the right term- as from origin- since the correct would be Indigenous) whatsoever when someone says I am an India referring to my indigenous background, from that point of view… I am an “India.”Â And guess what… I am proud to be!!! I am Mexican, indigenous background is my root!! When someone feels inspired by my culture I feel proud and honoured not stolen from. When someone brings so much passion and love to dedicate her life and company to a babywearing industry full of love and raising awareness for parents to have their babies in their arms I see just that: LOVE!!! How can something with so much meaning can be turned into a hate campaign??? Didymos spread the babywearing word to the world, many families are now carrying their babies close to their heart because of that and that is the important part of the equation. Why is anyone attacking someone when she is no longer here to express her idea? How can they speak about Mexicans when this was not started by one and is just now arriving to Mexico because of this campaign? We do not need strangers telling us how to feel…. Diamonds patterns have existed all over the world, the thread, the patterns, everything has been used all over… It is not a copy. I feel offended but by the recent description of the word Indio!!!! I wonder if they researched it in the dictionary?? It means nothing of what they describe. Those words are racist and offensive not reflective of Didymosâ pattern or name, not their design, not theway Didymos used and honoured the word for their inspiration!!! I do not see the mistake… I just do not feel offended nor stolen from.”
From Samantha Venn:
“Never a term of endearment. Misused. From The New Latino Studies Reader: A Twenty-First-Century Perspective By Ramon A. Gutierrez “There are, however, other racial categories and skin color referents invoked among ethnic Mexicans to mark other phenotypical distinctions made among them. Racial categories such as negro (black), Chino) (Chinese, or Asian more generally), and Indio (Indian) are widely used by ethnic Mexicans to designate individuals with African, Asian, or Indian phenotypical features. It was very common in the Southern California world in which I was raised to find individuals with strong African, Asian, or Indian features who were referred to in these terms. they were generally ranked below a mestizos (because they were less white) and place near the bottom of the racial hierarchy. But it is very clear that the most derisive term and devalued racial category invoked was the term Indio. It signified the very bottom tier of the Mexican gradational racial hierarchy.”
From Nancy Arlette Rodriguez GarÃ¬a:
“Sorry for my poor English but…I’m Mexican and I have felt honoured since I knew this beautiful design was INSPIRED by my Culture. Please, don’t let negative people destroy all the love that Didymos has created through your work. Please keep the name! I feel proud to be a reference in the babywearing world. I’m pretty sure that the Mexican moms that have an Indio like me, have never felt offended for the name. I’m sorry you are facing this disgusting campaign.”
From Allanna Robinson:
“I don’t doubt Erica Hoffman did think it was a term of endearment- there’s been a few people who’ve said their family uses it as an endearment, it’s very possible she met ONE person who she heard use it as an endearment, went back to Germany, and made her wrap without consulting anyone else.”
To me LISTENING is about hearing about all the familiar and unfamiliar things. The comfortable and the extremely uncomfortable. To not decide right away, to occasionally be at the consensus point, to give relationships, connections and experiences the time to evolve. Many have very negative experiences with the word Indio, it brings flashes of pain, experiences they should not revisit ever.
But not everyoneâs experience with Indio is negative. Does that mean the name should have remained? Some Mexicans felt empowered by it and through this mess only one voice is being heard. I want a place where people can share their experiences. This was no debate in my mind’s eye, but one thing repeated over and over again. I have friends on both sides of this and I have been listening to all of them and itâs been hard as hell.
If someone tells me it means something particular to them, that is their truth. Can we not hold space to at least listen?Â We NEED to listen, and respect the voices who live in Mexico and honour them in their place in this living active culture.
To my dear friends who felt empowered by this carrier, who felt valued. I understand, but too many were hurt by it and I am sorry that no one got a chance to hear you. There was a language barrier, there were many whose experiences were negative, this happened so quickly from your perspective that you also must still be reeling.
The word Indio has been sullied throughout this conversation. In the English language, its primary meaning is now only that of a racial slur, when it has much greater depth than that. It was also being used as a word of empowerment among some latino Americans to take back and undo the negative, this work has been put back years.3
However, this word has caused pain and since that pain needs to also be recognized, it must be changed.
This did happen. Didy apologized and the wrap now has a new name.
From the Didymos â Das Babytragetuch facebook page, published November 2, 2016:
“Dear online community,
We are writing to inform you all about a change that is happening here at DIDYMOS. We have thought long and hard, have researched extensively and as a result, are issuing the following statement.
It is a sad day when a term of endearment changes with the times to be used as a racial or derogatory slur. We at DIDYMOS have always known the word âIndioâ as a term of endearment but since there is now a negative association with the word for some people, this offensive meaning is not in keeping with our company philosophy and the love we wish to spread. As a result, effective immediately, we have decided to move forward and substitute the name âIndioâ for a new name. This new name will be announced soon.
The pattern itself was a labour of love from our company founder, mother and role model, Erika Hoffmann, whose life goal was for parents to keep their babies close. It is a montage of historical weaves inspired by the first shawl Mrs. Hoffmann was given by friends and by classic weaving patterns or European tradition. The final pattern was achieved through the collaborative efforts of Erika Hoffmann herself and the master weavers at the mill in Germany, almost 45 years ago, using the weaving techniques and technologies readily available at the time.
This change will take some time to put into effect but we are working hard on it all. We apologise to anyone who was hurt by our use of the word âIndioâ. We very much would like to thank those who have been in close contact with us from all around the world, especially from within America, discussing this matter quite intently these past days and weeks.”
This one is questionably the very hardest thing to do. To acknowledge and believe it when someone says this word was ugly to them. To believe when someone says, âI am proud to be Indioâ and are complemented by the carrier.
Cristi Adams, an Aboriginal Canadian:
“Are you even a poc? As an aboriginal what I’m tired of is white social justice warriors speaking louder than the folks in question. Part of being an ally is not speaking louder than the people impacted. So sick of dealing with that as a POC who has run many, many anti racism and social justice boards.Â To take over a fight that isn’t yours and run with it and be louder than those impacted and to tell the people impacted that they are wrong, that is not recognizing your own privilege either.Â I’m aboriginal, and I’ve seen this time and time again. It is one thing to be supportive it is quite another to turn it into a situation that revolves around you. Good on Didy for recognizing the slur and changing the name. Good on Didy for being inspired, not stealing, and creating a beautiful wrap with input from the community.
—-Signed – an aboriginal with a didy wrap conversion, who loves that the babywearing community is about LOVE and beauty and not all this anger. Also part of a strong kick ass POC community who are more than capable of speaking for themselves.”
In Canada, we have a system of taking a very deep look at troubling issues that need to be explored, our beloved Royal Commissions, our Task Forces, our Inquiries. These investigations are a long, gory process that requires us to pull everything out into the open and we hear from every person affected on the issue. These investigations make us deeply uncomfortable, and they are supposed to. More than two decades ago, it started with the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples. Then we had the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Currently, we have the Inquiry into Murdered Missing Indigenous Women. Trust me when I say, the light these investigations shine into our world here in Canada is sometimes incredibly ugly. But it is important. For all the voices need to be heard.4
Through this process, we have learned how Canadian Indigenous people have had their culture suppressed, stolen, families broken, and belong to a system that ignores their voices. Most importantly of all, they have not been validated.
During the Babywearing in Canada Conference, we had the privilege of hearing from Stephanie George, an Aboriginal midwife and IBCLC. When asked by an audience member listening abroad in the United States, âWhat can we do?â her answer was this: âAsk them.â
Her answer was not to go in with a solution, not to talk for them, not to make the decisions on their behalf. Indigenous Peoples have had enough of others talking for them.
What have my Indigenous friends living in Mexico told me?
Directly from AngÃ©lica: “We do not need strangers telling us how to feel….”
They understand the origins of the wrap. They can talk about its weave, its similarities, its differences.
My role in this as an ally? It is to stand by them. Iâm keeping my Didymos wraps, what are you doing with yours?
1. Melissa continues as follows: “As far as I know, Americans donât have an equivalent cultural concept. As a group, we are quick to dissent, vocal when we disagree, and not shy about expressing ourselves.” Read the rest of her piece here.â©
2. Cynthia Soliz shared her experience here. â©
3. More definitions for Indio here. â©
4. More about Royal Commissions, and other Canadiana (including our quirks) located here.â©
5. All other quotes were pulled from the public Didymos announcement on their Facebook business page. See the post hereâ©
Babywearing is something that grows with each of us. Take Jenna Rolfe, when she was pregnant she first asked for a standard front pack baby carrier as part of her registry. Sheâd seen wraps, but decided they were too complicated and werenât for her. At the urging of her mother-in-law, Jenna was offered a BECO Gemini. Her mother-in-law had done quite a bit of research on babywearing and said, âYou should consider it, itâs a fantastic choice.â Itâs what led Jenna to love babywearing.Â Now, she uses all types of carriers including wraps to carry her two children â Logan is 2.5 years old, and Mason 5 months.
How did you wear your first child?
I wore Logan facing in on the front, or in a hip carry and when my oldest was 6 months old, I started backwearing in an SSC. I wasn’t a big fan of ring slings with my first. I could never get the seat right, his feet would always turn purple. It was a mess.Â I felt so stupid. I just felt dumb for not being able to use something that everyone hyped up. I kept being told how easy it was and amazing it is. And I just couldnât get it. Sometimes, we all do suck. Suck so badly at times.
What is the difference in your baby carrying journey between your first child and your second?Â
Nailed the ring sling!! But seriously, I’d have to say my confidence level. Like with my second, I’ve been confidently back wrapping him as of 3 months old. I had tried twice before being able to securely get him high enough. I know more, therefore know what carrier or carrying position is best for what daily activity. I have a two year old and I’m a stay at home mom. As much as I love front wearing for easy hands free breastfeeding I also need to be able to see my feet and get things done without a baby in front of me. I also found it much easier when doing groceries, baby on back, cart being pushed in the front. Babies want to be close, they want to be held and I found it hard to accomplish with a very busy toddler so back carrying really helps me be there for both my kids.
What carriers do you use now, compared to before? Do you have a favourite style? What are the advantages of your favourite carrier style?
I love my linen Soulsling. My ultimate favourite is my wrap conversion full buckle I had made for my toddler that I actually just put in a work order for my youngest now to have his own wrap conversion made for him. Wrapping a basic ruck with a woven is always my go to but the quick, easy and comfortable full buckle has me hooked.
What happened when you moved to a new city?
Moving was hard because I had just found my village back in Ottawa. Now I feel like I have nothing because itâs so different, the stay-at-homes are in their 30s to 40s and I feel like they donât have respect for me because I planned on being a young mother. So babywearing is what helps me. It allows me to go out with both my kids, I get to be hands free for my toddler which helps a lot when you’re a mom who needs to go out. It has sparked conversations when out and about, pregnant women especially. A lot of people ask me about wrapping or when they see my intermediate size wrap conversion they are wowed at the fact my toddler loves it, even more so when they know how busy he normally is.
Babywearing has allowed me to find this community and village that I wouldn’t have known existed. I have made the bestest of mom friends, which we all know is so incredibly hard to do, based off the fact that we share a love for babywearing. I think that in itself has defined my parenting.
Jenna Rolfe currently lives in Montreal with her two sons and her spouse, Patrick Matthieu.