Arms And The Mom

June 19, 2008

I love holding my baby. Holding my baby is one of the sweetest pleasures that I have ever known. Holding my baby fills my heart with an almost unbearable joy. The sweet smell of his tiny head tucked into my neck, the perfect fit of his wee body tucked in tight against my chest, his breath rising and falling with my own – this is bliss.

It also makes my arms hurt.

My first baby – my sweet, fearless tornado of girl – is not and has never been a cuddler. She has striven for independence and freedom from the moment she shot – eyes wide open – out of my womb. We have had our moments of physical bonding, she and I, but not nearly so many as I would like. I have craved her embrace, and I have, more often than not, been denied that embrace. So it was that I wished, with this child, for a cuddler. I wished for a cuddly snuggle-monkey of a baby; I wished for a clingy mama’s boy who would press himself against me and not want to let go. I got what I wished for.

My little man is a perfect marsupial. He clutches, he clings, he cries when he is compelled, under anything but the most agreeable circumstances – another yielding set of arms, a toasty blanket, a full belly and deep sleepiness – to leave the comfort of mommy’s embrace. He curls his little arms over my shoulder and grips me with his little fists of steel; trying to remove him from his perch on my body is like trying to loose a recalcitrant parrot from a branch made entirely of crackers and peanut butter. And I love it, I do – I sometimes stand with him in front of the mirror, turning just enough to see the contented look on his little face and the grip of his fists on my t-shirt and I thrill to our bondedness, our two-ness – but as I said, it hurts my arms. And my neck, and my back and some of the muscles beneath my ribcage and also the boobs, when he pumps his little legs against my chest in order to push himself further up my shoulder.


I love it, but it’s exhausting. Physically exhausting, and more than a little mentally and emotionally tiring. Unless he’s sleeping, I can’t fix myself a sandwich or a drink or go pee or – and this is the most challenging – pick up or hug my tornado, who has all of a sudden decided that she is a cuddler, and why can’t she cuddle Mommy now? I have mastered the art of one-handed typing, but there is no such thing as a one-handed cuddle. And that’s hard.

I want to put him down. I want to settle him down beside me, just for a little while, just for some stretch of time that is not the middle of the night, so that my arms can rest and I can stretch and move freely. So that I can go get a sandwich and some tea and a cookie maybe and also – sweet merciful heavens – go pee and take a shower and let hot hot water run down my neck and ease my aching muscles. So that I can crouch down and wrap my tornado-girl in a totally unrestrained bear hug until she wriggles away and I am left, arms dangling, empty, free.

At which point the emptiness of my arms will become too much to bear, and I will pick him up again and he will glue himself to me and we will stay, locked together in our love, tired and sweaty and sore and happy.


Mostly happy, but a whole, whole lot tired.

No, I have not figured out how to use a sling. I have been trying. I have been failing. I cannot for the life of me figure out how to get him in and get him comfortable. I am desperate. I need to figure out how to keep him close and free my arms, all at once. Short of sewing up Velcro jumpsuits for the two of us, I don’t know what to do. Suggestions?

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    { 88 comments }

    Lisa June 20, 2008 at 11:20 am

    Oh this gets me all teary-eyed. You brought back some snuggly memories.

    Love those pics of you and your little man!

    Anonymous June 20, 2008 at 11:45 am

    Fuck the sling. My son was never comfortable in on. Baby Bjorn is the only way! He was comfortable in this when he was small too: http://www.hello-sunshine.com/Merchant2/merchant.mvc?Screen=PROD&Store_Code=HS&Product_Code=JJCPBO&Category_Code=BG
    Although, he outgrew it soonish (3 months old).

    Anonymous June 20, 2008 at 11:59 am

    oh catherine he is such a sweet little boy.how precious. i hope some of these ideas from other mums and dads help you out. LAVANDULA

    Chelsea June 20, 2008 at 12:09 pm

    go to http://www.thebabywearer.com

    LOTS of advice on slings, wraps, etc. – what would be best for you and instructions on how to wear and etc.

    good luck!

    FishyGirl June 20, 2008 at 12:23 pm

    I had slings, but I found the Mei Tai much much better for making the baby secure to me but allowing me to be completely hands free. Babyhawk has a version with some head support. I still use mine with my 19 month old, and will until he kicks too much. Babyhawk also has really good pictures on how to use the darn thing, so that helped when I was trying to figure out how to use it. Good luck.

    Sniff that yummy head for me a couple of times, okay? I so miss that.

    Her Bad Mother June 20, 2008 at 12:35 pm

    MommyTime – ah, the swaddle. How well do I know the swaddle. We swaddle him at night. I’ll have more to say about swaddling later – my struggles with swaddling (weaning the girl OFF the swaddle) are epic, as anyone who read this blog two years ago will tell you!

    Anonymous June 20, 2008 at 1:22 pm

    I have nine wraps (including a Moby) two Mei Tais, an Ergo, a ring sling, and a Beco Butterfly. I also have a son about the same age as yours (he’s three months). So, take my work on this.

    Skip the Ergo, they’re not great for little babies and often don’t fit women’s shoulders right. Skip the wrap. Yes, wraps are The Awesome, but if you’re new to babywearing and also have a toddler to deal with, wrapping up might take too much time and energy. Try it later, when things are more under control (ha ha!). Get thee to a Beco Buttefly and a Babyhawk. Try both, buy one or both. In a couple of months get a woven wrap – a Didymos in Indio weave is good for little babes, and can be purchased at Lemon Balm Essentials or Birdie’s Room. With those two/three carriers, you’ll be set. Bonus – you can also carry your big girl in the Beco or Didymos.

    If you need more help, check out http://www.thebabywearer.com. Seriously. Go there.

    – V

    Anonymous June 20, 2008 at 1:23 pm

    Take my *word*. But you can take my work, too, if you’re so inclined. ;-)

    – V

    Tiaras & Tantrums June 20, 2008 at 1:34 pm

    Man, that was from my brain TOTALLY!!!!! Love this post!
    Boys are so snuggly!
    JUST THINK OF YOUR BICEPS NOW!!!!!!

    Her Bad Mother June 20, 2008 at 1:51 pm

    Carmen, could you send me your e-mail? I’ve misplaced it.

    Candygirlflies June 20, 2008 at 2:13 pm

    Hi, Catherine– The sling didn’t work for me, either… although my first child loved it. I have a bad back, and so my doc recommended a carrier that would hold the baby right up front, instead of slightly to one side, or on the back. I bought a Bjorn, and my second and third babies loved it! It is a bit cumbersome to put on, but the babies were happy, I felt great, and had some “hands free” time to get stuff done!

    Each baby has different likes and dislikes, and so it’s really about the two of you trying lots of different options, and finding the one that works best. If you like, I have a nearly-new Bjorn that I could send you, and you could see how you like it.

    I’m so glad you’re feeling a little bit better… Being a “new mum” is so hard, but you’re doing a wonderful job!

    xo CGF

    Pamela June 20, 2008 at 2:24 pm

    HBM, you are channeling me and your son, my son. I got a kangaroo corner sling and it is actually simple enough for me. Previous attempts with the nojo sling=fail. Ok, must stop one handed typing/nursing now. Enjoy the cuddling. My older boy is a cuddler too and it is great!!

    Laural Dawn June 20, 2008 at 3:49 pm

    I can’t lie without my Bjorn.
    I use it all the time. Chloe is constantly in it because she wants to be close and my hands are free.
    It’s fantastic.
    I can’t figure out the sling either – and I have tried. I used it with my son also. Love it.
    But holding the baby is really great for your arm muscles. So there you go.

    Mimi June 20, 2008 at 4:04 pm

    Probably the one true thing that Rebecca Eckler has ever said that didn’t make me throw her books across the room was that whenever she was away from Rowan, her strongest urge was to pick her up again, hold her in her arms. And then, inevitably, 10 minutes later, to be desperate to just put her down.

    Dude, I’ve been there. I carried colicky and clingy Munchkin around nonstop for about four months. I loved it, but god, what I wouldn’t do for someone else to just hold her for 10 friggin minutes, so I could stand up straight and just swing my arms ….

    But oh, it’s sweet to snuzzle them, isn’t it?

    Rich June 20, 2008 at 4:06 pm

    UGH…that brings back memories. I had some major biceps when my big bear of a son was that age. (We had to completely stop carrying him around age 4–even with a sling–because he was 60lbs and nearly 4 feet tall.)

    Took us a bit of time to learn to use the sling…but it was really the only choice for my wife, because Bjorns etc. were not available for large women back then. I used a store-bought one, and she made some really interesting larger ones.

    Can you find someone nearby who uses a sling and who can help you get it to work? (Try shooting an email to your local La Leche leader.)

    Best of luck!

    Anonymous June 20, 2008 at 5:51 pm

    Email Stephanie at http://www.adventuresinbabywearing.com

    She knows more about slings than anybody else I can think of, possibly because she seems to own and have tried every style imaginable. She has plenty of information on her website and links to different websites with information as well. She also has some pictures of the different types of slings. I guess a blog based on wearing/slinging your baby would be a good place to start, right?

    That’s where I started when I had to choose, anyway. I think that everybody has to find the system that works best for them, but there are some great resources out there so just keep plowing ahead and you’ll figure something out soon! =)

    Kaza June 20, 2008 at 6:16 pm

    I can relate. My girl never wanted to be put down for a second (and never wanted anyone but me to hold her). She also craved motion, and cried if I sat down (it’s making me tired just to remember it!). I too could not get the sling to work in the early months, but I’ve heard great things about the kangaroo pouch style carriers. I couldn’t find the kind I was thinking of, but check out this site, their stuff looks great and possibly easier to use than a sling? http://www.goo-ga.com/

    I kept a bouncy seat in the bathroom so I could pee without holding her, lol! She still protested but at least I could get the job done. We tried getting her used to swings & bouncy seats in general, but she was not having it. She became happiest when she was old enough to ride in a Bjorn facing forward. It’s an intense time, amazing closeness but can become suffocating at times. ((Hugs))

    winomom June 20, 2008 at 7:27 pm

    That exquisite head is worth it all, is it not?

    Annie, The Evil Queen June 20, 2008 at 11:43 pm

    My snuggler loved a baby Bjorn and so did I. I used it for ages. And your hands are free. Also- he used to fall asleep on top of the boppy pillow and I could sometimes slide him off my lap but still on the cushion to rest on the couch. So I could escapse to go potty or grab a snack.

    b*babbler June 20, 2008 at 11:56 pm

    I’m sure you’ve had a ton of suggestions (and unfortunately I can’t re-read all of them) but I loved my Hotsling. Buy the right size, and then no adjustment necessary. I’m *still* using it with Peanut in hip carry now.

    The key is to hold him cradled in one arm, open the sling with your other hand, and then (and I know this sounds awkward) jam him in butt first. Then let his legs drop into the sling, and lastly use your other hand to help ease his head off your arm and into the sling up around your boob/shoulder area. Voila! He’s in. Try it a few times in front of a mirror, it really helps.

    I hope that helps. Peanut needed a lot of cuddling when she was little, although now she’s quite the tornado herself.

    Kim/2 Kids June 21, 2008 at 12:25 am

    I really have no suggestions but I also have snuggler. At 9 yo she still wants to crawl back in my belly. I just enjoy it while I can, it won’t last.

    ::::wifemothermaniac:::: June 21, 2008 at 1:16 am

    I don’t think you need to switch to any other kind of sling, we all end up prefering what we get used to, for me it was maya wraps but that was what I used and knew. I find the instructions here http://www.taylormadeslings.com/instructions.html to be really clear and helpful, for newborns I’ve always found that the vertical hold is best since it’s how they usually want to be held as newborns anyways. Keep his head off your boob when you’re slinging or he’ll fuss and want to nurse instead of cuddling :)

    Kimberly June 21, 2008 at 10:05 am

    I second and third the Moby wrap. Never could get my kid to like a sling, but he loved the Moby, for about the first five months. I would put it on in the morning over my bra and not worry about a shirt if I were at home. Didn’t need to take it off. Could put him in and out of it with ease.

    Looooved it.

    kittenpie June 21, 2008 at 10:51 am

    I’m wondering, if he likes to bne high and right up against you, if a wrap might work better than a sling for you? I only had a bjorn last time and Pumpkinpie was not into it, this time I bought a sling and hope it works out, but they are not as snuggled then as it seems a wrap does.

    And you may find, too, that E gets nugglier as she grows a bit. Pumpkinpie wasn’t a snuggler when she was two-ish, but more so at three, and even more so at four. This past month, she’s constantly patting, hugging, and kissing, while declaring her love and that we are her favourite people. (And yes, I am lapping it up!)

    If all else fails, just think how strong your arms will be!

    roz June 21, 2008 at 10:55 am

    You GOTTA get a wrap. Yes they’re long, yes it’s a bit of work to learn, but the 2-3 days of learning is soooo worth it. My girl was colicky and I swear that’s where my PPD started. My boy- might be colicky too if we didn’t use some sort of baby-wearing device. The Kangaroo pouch, the sling and BabyBjorn all work fine, but hands down, the wrap is IT for endurance and comfort. It’s like wearing a tight tee with your little guy snuggled inside and because it distributes the weight over your entire back you can go for so much longer than something with straps. If you have a friend with one, ask them to try it or go to a store with them and try it out. I had my doubts the first time around- looked way too complicated and kinda granola, but my bro-in-law had one a year later. I tried it and was instantly sold. I just wish I had had it the first time around.

    duff June 21, 2008 at 8:23 pm

    My now two-year-old has made an attachment parent out of me, against my will.

    I never learned the wrap, either. Avid Bjorn user here.

    You get really, really used to it. I appreciate it far more this past week as her canines are coming in than I ever did before she could say “uppy”.

    The Child Who Wouldn’t Be Put Down is one of the things no one tells you about.

    But you can definitely pee while Bjorning.

    Jozet at Halushki June 22, 2008 at 12:37 pm

    I had to use different wraps/slings/holds with different kids. You’ll figure it out. I did find it easier to have someone who knew what they were doing help me the first few times. I’m helpless when it comes to following printed directions.

    And those photos are gorgeous. What a sweet, beautiful baby.

    Elise June 22, 2008 at 1:53 pm

    get different slings– if you have a high needs baby, he’ll like a different sling every month or so– or day– mine (now at 12 mos) swears by the bare-bones cotton rebozo– it’s easy enough to use while sleep deprived, and you can use it many different ways. I couldn’t live without my sling!

    Lindsay June 22, 2008 at 5:20 pm

    I’m not much help on the sling front, my little one is riding around in a 25 yr old snugli – that he adores. But I know that EvyMama (Jane & Annette, north of Bloor west village has a Thursday morning Baby carrier walk where you can go to the store any they’ll help you try out oneo f their sample carriers with your little one and then you go on a walk with other mothers around the neighbourhood. They are also very breastfeeding friendly and have some really cool nursing clothes (Sorry, do I sound like an ad? I don’t work there or anything, just live arou8nd the corner!)

    I’m also blessed with a little marsupial, and I know the exhaustion of the arms that you speak of very well. My favourite is at 4:00 in the morning.

    Rachael June 22, 2008 at 8:23 pm

    I agree with the 1st commenter, I liked my sling – The Ultimate Baby Wrap. It’s a long piece of jersey fabric with a buckle thing, also with a convenient pouch in the front for storing pacis or burp rags. It was super comfortable and super easy to put on, and came with a video to show you, and a handy website. It held my baby super close, warm and comfy with his little face on my skin while totally freeing my hands. Good luck – your arms need help! :-)

    Helen June 22, 2008 at 10:31 pm

    The upright position in the sling is a good place to start. Just expect that the baby will look like 1)his head is going to roll off or 2)he is going to suffocate from buring his face into the sling. Babies love to be crunched up and contained, in their own special favorite fetal position. It will be great, and you will have one arm free. Once you’re good at this, you will also have the hand on the arm that is behind the baby’s shoulders.
    My sling, my very first for my fourth baby, was a pink and white striped percale bedsheet torn down the middle lengthwise. I tied a big knot in it, adjusted it until it was just right, and my restless little dude lived in there from about age 5 weeks to four months. He loved to eat on the go, as it were, and I had no time to shop for a “real” sling. We went everywhere with it. He was just like a little !Kung, and nursed about every 20 minutes, lol.We graduated to a strip of gold, double knitted cotton material, sewn together. It looked like a pillowcase, but open at both ends.
    I find commercial slings much harder to use, and always seem to put them on backwards. (But the baby grandsons didn’t care.) I DID love putting my daughter in the old, traditional Snugli on my back, but her three brothers hated the Snugli. (Except for the time we went for a walk, and I came home pushing her in the Umbroller, and carrying her two-year-old brother on my back in the Snugli.)

    Theresa June 24, 2008 at 2:54 am

    Ok, so I was just about to lend my expertise, cuz I have a 7 month marsupial. But i see that you have that covered :) It took me a long time to figure out my ring sling, but my babyhawk mei tai was a LOT easier (got that one down pat in 2 days), and more comfy.

    Just know that I sympathise… with everything. I wish i could shower more often, or pee by myself, or eat when I am hungry. But I know that I would not trade it for anything in the world :)

    Alexa June 24, 2008 at 1:56 pm

    You are the most beautiful writer. Your writing about my life as well! Only good thoughts going your way…

    Mitzi Green June 24, 2008 at 9:55 pm

    i hear you. my #2 is also a cuddler, and wants to be held ad nauseum. most of the time i am happy to oblige him, but tonight–our air conditioning has shot craps, we’ve had much rain and as a result, it’s hotter than hell in this house and i’m pretty sure i could wring out every room like a sponge. so the last thing i want to do is hold another sweaty human, even if it is my sweet fantastic wonderful love of my life baby.

    oh, and he also hurts my arms. seriously. i’m developing cubital tunnel in my left as a result of his rapid weight gain.

    Kmommy June 25, 2008 at 10:22 am

    Oh man. My little D was the same way. I got a front pack carrier, but it too was difficult to use. I just got used to doing everything one-handed. Then got used to my mom saying I spoiled him, and my husband’s family calling him a momma’s boy :) He’s still clingy at almost 3. My little girl B – same as yours… she actually shoves me away :( After my experience with D I bought a couple of slings so I was prepared with baby B, but pretty useless as she’s happiest off doing her own thing :)

    jenB June 25, 2008 at 3:09 pm

    that sweet little candy baby head. so sweet. And you look pretty good yourself, mom of two.

    love,

    jen

    Anonymous June 26, 2008 at 6:41 pm

    OMFG go to mamatoto.org it is a great babywearing learning site.
    Just go buy 6 yards of a light weight natural fabric ( linen or cotton gauze) and make sure it is 30-40 inches wide. It’s called a wrap, and so much better than a sling. You can tie baby on just the way you hold him so he is nice and snug and you have both hands free, he can nurse in the wrap hands free as well. The mamatoto site will give you good instructions on age appropriate carries. When he can hold his head up well and has a good strong neck (and nurses less) he can go on your back, nice and high to see over your shoulder.
    It’s the way people al over the world have been toting babes since forever and still you know able to hunt and gather:)
    If you’d prefer something ready made, get the Ergo baby carrier with the neborn insert, it’s much better than those weird baby bjorn things, it has much better support and coverage, kind of like a puch for baby, and straps on very securely. I’ve seen people use on on the back for a big kid like wonderbaby and one on the front for a newborn.

    Anonymous June 26, 2008 at 6:55 pm

    i forgot to mention, the jersey material wraps are hard to get tight enough (like a moby), they tend to sag and be too loose, also very bouncy when baby gains weight. Better to use a woven fabric that stretches only when pulled diagonally (from the weave).
    Once you’ve tied Jasper on snug for the first time and are able to have a “normal” day of doing whatever you want with your hands you will never go back!

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