The Weight I Carry When I Carry My Baby
Babywearing as a parenting tool was a concept I immediately gravitated toward and looked forward to practicing after the birth of my child. I discovered an active online community of caregivers and parents who shared their love of their carriers. I also noticed it was made up mostly of white people. I was resigned to face the typical marginalization, microaggressions, and cultural appropriation I have grown to expect everywhere else in life.
That was exactly what I found.
One of the first carriers I put my baby in was an Infantino Wrap and Tie. I saw another friend put her baby in hers so I knew it worked, and the price point was right so I got one too. This carrier held my baby from 1 mo to 1 year. In between that time we had Ergos, Pavos, Natibabies, Oschas, and what have you come through. Somehow I always came back to the Wrap and Tie. It’s come with me to wrap playdates and babywearing meetings. It’s what I take to carry my baby when we travel. I’ve even taught other caregivers how to use it. It’s now folded up and put away, ready to be brought out again for any future children.
I didn’t find out until much much later that the style of carrier known as mei tai is what my people call Bei Dai. They’re the same thing but have completely different names, one of them is gibberish. This design was taken, had its name changed, the concept rebranded, and the product sold back to us.
When my baby was 4 months old, I put her up in a woven wrap made by a German company called Didymos. The name of the wrap design was Orient, now called Fairytale. I bought it because white people told me I needed to. “Feel this one, it’s called Orient. Isn’t it amazing?” People who had been wearing babies longer than I have and people I looked up to as experienced parents and babywearers said This is The Wrap. I looked at their stacks of wraps and I watched them execute back carries that looked like gymnastics. Who was I to question them on what is or isn’t a good wrap? The name of this item never seemed to be an issue. I thought, maybe I can reclaim this, maybe it won’t bother me. For those of you who don’t know, Oriental is considered by many, myself included, to be a slur. It harkens back to the days of imperialism, oppression, and slavery. Did the people who enthused about this wrap to me know that?
So I got this wrap, and yes it was very fine. I felt excited to finally have The Wrap. People did recognize the unique pattern and a few conversations were sparked because of it. But I never got away from the feeling that by wearing this item I was silently approving and legitimizing the use of the word that I found ugly and wrong. I didn’t want it on me or on my baby. Orient/Fairytale is living with another family now. I wonder what they think of the word.
As of December 2016, Didymos has changed the name of the wrap from Orient to Fairytale. This happened almost at the same time as they changed the name of the wrap formerly known as “Indio” to “Prima”. This was their response to the Latinx Babywearing community asking them to cease production of a wrap based on appropriated designs as well as a name that is a slur to their people. Currently, the description of the Fairytale design on the Didymos.en website says “ The colours are magical and the pattern is opulent — the new wrap seduces with its oriental touch.” I think they missed the point.
Babywearing spaces talk a good game about unity and compassion, but when it’s time to let go of something you took without asking, suddenly Cultural Appropriation is something POC (People of Color) made up to shame white people. When POC talk about the ugliness they encounter while babywearing, some people will actually exercise their privilege to look away and ignore the problems they perpetuate.
As I delved deeper into the babywearing community, I started to find parents and caregivers working to make sure people who look like me have a place to feel welcome and included, not as a token or novelty but as an equal. I have grown as a person and a parent thanks to the work done by these people who are committed to fighting the blatant and not so blatant racism that exists everywhere. I want my baby to grow up around fewer racists than I did and the work that we do to ensure that happens cannot be ignored.
Stories like mine are collected and shared at The Awkward Playdate