Babywearing with fibromyalgia can be a real challenge. This is an absolutely wonderful story from Kay, Jennie and their little girl Rowan; and I am so privileged to be able to be able to share it with you.

On Christmas Eve 2017, my wife Jennie came downstairs waving a little stick in the air. I’ve never seen such a mix of excitement and trepidation  as she handed me the test and said … ‘am I pregnant?’….

Fast forward 9 months… and our little girl Rowan arrived earthside.

Though my wife/tummy mummy ( as she is known ) had a positive birth, her recovery was in her words; ‘much more of a challenge.’ Due to a severe tear and huge blood loss, Jennie was not only exhausted from bringing our baby into the world but now had to recuperate whilst being a new parent.

It’s no secret that I wanted to be a ‘hands on mum’. Without a visible bump and not being the “patient “ I often felt like a spare part. I wasn’t the Dad ( as I was informed by an unhelpful health visitor) and she “wasn’t my blood”.

Inside I knew differently and as our daughter’s other Mummy, I longed for her to know that she was very much wanted by both of us.

When my wife was wheeled off to theatre the medical team said I would have to bottle feed her. As Jennie had gestational diabetes,  it was important to ensure Rowan had good sugar levels. Neither of us wanted to bottle feed and so for the past few months with support of our wonderful doula I managed to induce lactation. So, while we waited for “tummy mummy” to come back from theatre, I breastfed our baby.

(Editor: how absolutely amazing and inspiring is this?!)

When we came home, our house was upside down, our roles were reversed and Jennie (who has supported me throughout my ups and downs) was vulnerable. For the the first two weeks Jennie lived upstairs. The blood loss had affected her more that we realised and her milk was not coming in.

During this time I carried Rowan.

At home I wore her skin to skin whilst trying to keep on top of the housework while Jennie mended. Out and about I was acknowledged as a Mum and finally I got to feel the joy of carrying her and having a visible ‘bump’ .

Together, in our fourth trimester period, we got to know each other and we kept the home afloat. We went on dog walks and did the shopping and helped Jennie get back on her feet.

However, as I am self employed my ‘maternity leave’ lasted all of two weeks. So naturally when I was asked to speak at a local festival Rowan came with me. She lay asleep on my chest as I spoke of mother nature and answered questions from the audience. Having my baby on my chest gave me the courage to face my fears.

Babywearing with fibromyalgia

Along with becoming mummies for the first time, we were also adjusting to my new recent diagnosis of fibromyalgia.

This is a chronic and little-understood condition that plagues me with sudden irritable bowel syndrome symptoms, as well as pain that radiates all around my body, from my fingers to my teeth. I experience exhaustion so crippling that I literally feel hit by a bus. This condition, along with my Asperger’s syndrome, caused us both a lot of anxiety on how we would cope raising our child.

I feared the pain from lifting and carrying, but I desperately wanted my daughter to be held close to me. I feared the sleeplessness nights of being a parent to a baby ahead of us, when my previous eight hours of sleep had already never felt enough to lift my tiredness.

So after reading the Mayim Bialik book ‘Beyond the Sling’,  I approached our local sling library. The women there couldn’t be more helpful and helped me pick out a long stretchy wrap that I could immediately use with our squishy newborn.

I felt completely at ease. Knowing Rowan was snuggled against me safely, I could get on with the day hands-free.

Though I did experience pain, I found that by wearing a sling the pain was distributed more evenly in my body, making it more manageable. 

As a parent who is ‘unable to read facial expression or body language’, being so close meant I could tune into Rowan’s needs. I could physically feel the difference between her being relaxed, excited, frustrated, calm or upset. I could feel when her body was tensing up and she needed changing. Being able to hold her, I could wind her with ease.

In social situations I felt much calmer, knowing Rowan was safe and not in a position to be passed around.

As well as the practicality of babywearing Jennie  benefited from the reassurance of having Rowan so near.

babywearing with fibromyalgia

As my wife recovered and Rowan grew, we tried other sling styles, with Jennie soon settling  on a buckle carrier. Within days, her walking boots were back on! Along with the family dog, we were out exploring our countryside terrain, walking on tracks unsuitable for pushchairs, climbing over muddy stiles from one field to another. We loved the freedom we had together!

I simply can’t underestimate how babywearing has had such a positive impact on all our lives.

As Rowan has grown, I’ve been back to the sling library and with their advice and support I am now trialling a ring sling for wearing around the house. I understand there will always be a level of pain and discomfort in our lives, but wearing Rowan close has made those challenges so much more bearable.

With her snuggled close to my chest I finally feel like her other Mum and am ready to face our next adventure together.

babywearing with fibromyalgia