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From Zine #7From Zine #7, Cont.

So here’s some actual photos, in case you have no idea what the hell I’m talking about!

cutting the pants off

The sleeves will be the baby pant legs, cut right up against the armpit, and try to slant ever so slightly up (toward the neck) as you cut.

Lining 'em up

Now line one sleeve up with a pair of baby’s pants that are a tad big (no point making baby clothes too small!), and cut the sweater arm from armpit to wrist, right against the seam, down to level with the crotch of the pants.

Line cut sleeve up with the other sleeve, and cut it to match.

removing the seam

Now remove the seams altogether.

get it now?

See? It’s starting to look like pants, huh?

Sew ’em together, then sew in a piece of elastic at the top, and– voila!

on to the sweater

Now, line up that slightly too big onesie or shirt with what’s left of the sweater, and cut around it, leaving a half inch for the seam.

punk baby sweater!

Now just sew up both sides, set the edges with that zig-zag stitch, and yer done!sweater-clothes

Ready for Take-off

Secure in a Mayan wrap, Babes takes her first trip in a bush plane, to Cape Yakataga to help papa with a restoration project

Yes, baby wearing has become quite stylish. For good reason. Newborns thrive on almost constant contact. But just as important, I think, is involvement in the activities of daily life (at any age). Don’t leave your baby sitting in the crib all day, bring her with you when you walk to the post office, weed the garden, and make dinner so she can feel a part of everything! This is the beginning of learning that walking is good, gardens are important, and how to chop an onion. I’ve been shocked at how early my own bundle of joy picks up on what’s going on and how to do things, just from having watched us do them. You don’t have to teach this stuff, kids are little sponges, begging to absorb. Being left alone to play kid games is important too, especially as they get older. But being a part of the grown up world from the get go is essential.

With a good carrier, you can keep living an active, creative life and show your babe how to live an active, creative life. Certainly your productivity is going to go straight down the drain (unless you count producing a healthy, well adjusted child, which you should!) but don’t let that stop you. Berry picking might go from a half day marathon resulting in 3 solid gallons, to a 45 minute outing netting barely 2 cups. But hey, 2 cups is 2 cups. Go more often. Take it slow. Stop to enjoy the air. Try to let go of the need to live up to any previous standard. Show the little one the difference between one bush and another. Feed her berries. Watch birds. Remember your most important work is getting done beautifully.

(Nice how I can make it sound like I’ve got it all figured out. In reality, that slowing down has been the hardest part of motherhood for me. But I do console myself with how blossomy it makes the little one)

So, on to the carrier that’s going to allow you to bring that little sidekick all over creation with you.

This is one of the only essential items that you’ll have trouble finding at a Sally. It should be at the top of your list when grandparents ask about baby gifts. You are going to be wearing the thing, with 10-20 lbs in it, all the damn time, for what feels like forever.  We were given a used sling, a new sling, and a used “mayan wrap” right off the bat. When Babes got a little older we got an Ergo carrier. They all have advantages and dis. I used all of them, sometimes all in the same day. I think this might be a super personal thing, each mom and baby being so different.

People really talk up the slings, they are quick and easy to put on, but I didn’t find them all that comfortable, and they’re definitely not for doing anything complicated in (like washing dishes or berry picking). It was probably the best for when she was really tiny though.

The wrap really grew on me. It was awkward at first, when she was tiny and floppy, but all carriers seem to make more sense once babes can at least sort of hold their head up. With the wrap, she’s really on there, I mean I can contort in any crazy position to get under that branch to that fat patch of berries, and she won’t fall out. You can carry baby in every conceivable position, though at first you’ll only use the one — on your front, baby facing you. Once Babes could hold her own head up good, I started wearing her on my front, with her facing out. That way she could watch what I was doing, and this captivated her (ie: kept her from fussing) for longer than almost anything else. When they’re even bigger yet, you can put babe on yer back with the wrap. By the time my own was old enough though, we’d gotten the ergo carrier, and basically stopped using the wrap.

You can nurse really easily in it, and it’s the best for nursing in public, ‘cuz you just pull the fabric up and over and you’ve got complete coverage. My favorite thing about the wrap is the ingenious simplicity of it. Just one (very) long piece of fabric. Easy as hell to make your own. Mostly just a matter of buying the fabric, which could cost as little as $10. Here’s some good instructions, mostly just what kind of fabric to get for the right stretch.

An important part of using a wrap is knowing how! I had someone show me a few positions, I never would have figured it out myself. Online searches are infuriatingly met with a company who co-opted the name “Maya Wrap” for a damn sling! I could barely find any info on actual real wraps. I think they’re too DIY for our capitalist economy. Anyway, the only site I could find showing you how to use a wrap (same site that had the making instructions) was MamaToto.org

The big disadvantage with the wrap is that, though the concept and construction are simple, the putting on takes some getting used to. If you put it on right, it’s awesome- totally comfortable and infinitely adjustable. If you put it on wrong (with the fabric twisted) it’s uncomfortable and impossible. My husband hated the wrap, he said it was like a craft. I watched him put it on, and just when he was trying to straighten out the fabric, he was twisting it. Poor guy.

It took me a week or so, but once I got used to it, it was great, I loved it (I also love crafts). It’s so versatile, and I found it really comfortable. But even when you’re practiced, there’s no getting around that it just takes a few minutes to put on. It’s not quick.

Willow in her Ergo, with my homemade from an old sleeping bag cozy cover

Babes in her Ergo, with my homemade cozy cover made from an old sleeping bag

When Babes was about 4 months, a very good friend bought us an Ergo carrier. They’re expensive, about $100, I think. But considering how much use we’ve gotten out of it, it was totally worth it. You’d never know it was brand new a year ago, it’s so faded and dirty. We’ve done all kinds of things with our Ergo. Berry picking is one of the more normal among them. How about standing up on a platform and leaning into a giant drum full of composting fish parts, pitchforking salmon carcasses? Ok, my little love, hold your breath, here we go!

At first I didn’t like the Ergo though. I remember thinking, ‘Oh no. What a waste of money! The wrap is way better.’ I had specifically asked for an Ergo carrier too, and I felt bad. But as Babes grew, it made more and more sense. I still don’t think the Ergo is better than a wrap, but it’s sure as hell easier to put on. And that’s worth a lot when you put the thing on and off 8 times a day. The Ergo is also definitely more man-friendly.

Then, at somewhere around 8-10 months, you get to graduate to the backpack! You can certainly keep using an Ergo or a wrap, they both work on the back quite comfortably, and that’s what I would have done if we hadn’t been given three frame backpacks. Two were cheap crap, flimsy straps that cut your shoulders. But the third was a good REI one. A frame backpack is nice when baby starts getting real heavy, because it puts the weight higher up your back. Plus it has a large pocket for groceries and mail or lunch and diapers. Before the frame pack, I had been putting Babes on my front in the Ergo, and a regular backpack on back full of stuff (at one point, walking home up our hill I realized I was carrying 18 lbs of baby, 8 lbs of milk, plus a few lbs of other groceries, and it was still less than I had gained when pregnant. No wonder I could barely walk!)

But the best part of the frame pack is that baby can see forward. Our little constantly curious one loves to see where we’re going, and who can blame her?

Now, she walks. We still use the backpack or the Ergo sometimes, but mostly just for hikes and such. It’s awesome, for all involved. I wonder how long it will take my back to recover?Overlooking Prince William Sound

Willow

Two years ago, we decided we were ready (as ready as we were gonna get!) to have a baby. Three weeks later I was pregnant. In July of 2007 we became, officially, breeders.

Having a baby changes everything. It’s just as you’d feared, and more than you could have hoped. The hardest part for me has been loss of control over my own life. For the first year I had to ask my husband before I did anything, including the simplest of life events like showering.

It gets easier. For one thing, Babes has shifted her focus off of me dramatically. Papa has come into his own in her eyes, and she cries vehemently when I try to take her away from him while she’s having a Papa moment.

Now that I have a little mental and emotional space of my very own I can take the time to reflect and maybe offer up some of the DIY tips I’ve found to any new mama’s out there.

Because mainstream America is not gonna help you on this one. Yer on yer own. If there’s one aspect of natural life which consumer culture has really gone wild with, it’s babies. They want to sell you every god damn thing under the moon (and maybe the moon too) and aspiring parents can really get the feeling like they don’t have enough money to put on this whole parade.

Let me tell you, it’s a bunch of bullshit. Babies need mama. And a lot of towels for wiping up.

I remember when I was pregnant trying to find a decent, down to earth list of what we would really need for a newborn. Almost impossible. Here’s what I finally came up with, in case there’s any parents gearing up out there.

Top on the list is the support and humor of other like minded parents. In Cordova, there’s only a few of what (for lack of a better term) I call ‘hippie moms.’ Moms who don’t mind if their little tykes go around in a dirty shirt with blueberry stains on their mouth. Moms who take their kids for walks, even if it’s raining. And who try to maintain some scrap of their former self, for the health of all.

I have experienced a whole new kind of loneliness since having Willow. My previous best buddies are childless, and, no matter how supportive a childless person is, it’s not the same as another mama who knows. And there are just certain logistics to having a baby along on a hike, berry pick, etc that are annoying to non-moms (hell, they’re just as annoying to moms, but we’re invested). Then there’s the desire to talk about your kid, and kids in general.

Discovering The Haus-Frau (a mama zine) certainly helped. I looked at other mama zines, and none compared. Haus-Frau takes a bare, honest and hilarious look at kids and parenting. One of the first articles I looked at was entitled, something like “What to do When You’re Having a Baby and the World is so Fucked Up” and I let out a sigh of relief. Partly just to see the word fuck in some piece of parenting literature.

So, in summary. Order your subscription to The Haus-Frau. Look hard for a dirty, rain-soaked mama to hang with. Don’t let all of everyone (including the damn Attachment Parenting Police) tell you what to do with sheer force of their judgement. Cruise the local Salvation Army for good kid gear (don’t forget to check their dumpster too, don’t think they don’t throw away tonnes of perfectly good stuff!) Have a serious sit down with the grandparents re: quantity of baby gifts. Keep you chin up.

“It’s a sad and stupid thing to have to proclaim yourself a revolutionary just to be a decent man.”

-David Harris

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