Rachel is a mama of two little boys, and a co-founder of Lift Me Up: Babywearing to Thrive. Although we all collaborate together and have a unified mission, each of us three co-founders have different roles in the project. We tend to call Rachel our “Social Media & Blogger Extraordinaire.” She’s the one connecting with you on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest and updating you via our blog and website. She makes sure you know about our fundraisers and giveaways, and she follows up with our recipients by collecting their stories so we can share with you how babywearing is benefiting these wonderful children who have special needs. As our Lift Me Up social media manager, website manager, and blogger, Rachel makes it a priority to keep you updated on what’s going on with our organization.
Here is Rachel’s personal story of how she developed a passion for babywearing:
I became interested in babywearing when my oldest child was an infant. I was given a babywearing carrier as a gift, and loved wearing my new sweet baby close to my chest. As my son got older, and much heavier, I didn’t find it comfortable and my son began to fuss when he was put in the carrier. It wasn’t ergonomic, and it didn’t have much back support to distribute the weight of my chunky little boy. Unfortunately, I had no idea there were other options out there. I didn’t know there were different types of carriers and how an ergonomic carrier that distributed the weight evenly would make such a difference in both my comfort and the comfort of my son.
When I was pregnant with my second child, we heard some earth-shattering news at the 20 week anatomy ultrasound. There on the screen was a giant white mass. Something the local ultrasound techs had never seen before. I was referred to specialists who did a high level ultrasound to make the diagnosis: sweet baby boy had what was called a Congenital Cystic Adenomatoid Malformation, or a CCAM. The doctor explained that it was a large mass in baby’s right lung. It was so large, actually, that it was filling up his entire chest area. The dangerous part of this situation was that this tumor was compressing his heart, and the outcome was expected to be heart failure. And it was expected to be soon. “Do you want to terminate the pregnancy?” asked the doctor, standing in front of me and my husband in the small dark ominous ultrasound room. “No,” I said without even taking a breath.
Ultrasound pic showing baby’s head would be past the screen on the right, and he’s laying spine down. The CCAM is the giant white mass on the right-hand side, taking up most of the baby’s torso, compressing his heart.
I took the initiative to seek out doctors that were willing to help treat this diagnosis, and not just allow my baby to die. I researched online and found that Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) specializes in several unique birth defects, including CCAM’s. I made the phone call myself and sent my file up to CHOP’s Center for Fetal Diagnosis and Treatment , where they immediately told us to come in at 7am the following morning for a full diagnostic workup that would take about 12 hours. After many tests, the diagnosis was confirmed and a plan was put into action. Yes, the tumor in my baby’s lung was extremely large. But the doctors there at CHOP had extensive experience with following cases like this and they firmly told us, “We have hope for your baby.”
Although the following weeks were filled with uncertainty, we clung to that hope. Friends, family, church family, and even strangers were praying for this sweet unborn baby. He was being lifted up to God, and hope was beginning to overtake the fear. My family and I drove to CHOP, a 6 hour round trip, twice a week for ultrasounds, for the remainder of the pregnancy. Each time, the doctors measured the tumor closely and checked on baby’s heart. At every visit our bags were packed, not knowing if fetal surgery would be needed to remove the tumor. If the mass grew any larger, his heart would not be able to withstand the pressure.
“ God, if you just let this baby live, I will never put him down,” I promised. I knew that although I enjoyed occasionally babywearing my first son, this time would be different. I needed to find a comfortable way to hold this child against my heart every minute of every day.
As time went on, the doctor’s saw that while sweet baby boy was growing, the mass was staying the same size. No intervention was needed, and the previous plans of fetal surgery or EXIT surgery (a complicated process of delivering baby via c-section and surgically removing the lung mass at the same time, while baby would still be attached to me using me as life support) had been laid to rest. Baby was doing well, and I was able to have a natural delivery at full-term. My sweet baby came out screaming with strong lungs and an apgar score of 9! God had answered our prayers.
I got back in touch with Sarah, an old high school classmate and avid babywearer. Sarah gave advice on how to babywear comfortably, and explained about the importance of ergonomic carriers. She was so passionate about wrapping, that I couldn’t resist. With Sarah’s advice, I bought my first woven wrap, a Storchenweige. We two mamas started getting together on a regular basis, with our little boys, as Sarah helped me learn different carries. It was definitely a struggle for me at first, but I practiced by watching tutorial videos online and attending local babywearing meetings.
It wasn’t long before my newborn was always wrapped snug on my chest. Once I learned how to do a basic front wrap cross carry with my woven wrap, I had been bitten by the babywearing bug. It was comfortable, I could feel him breathing calmly against my skin, and I had my hands free to care for my active toddler. What could be better! I continued to babywear, and my sweet baby boy continued to thrive. He is still a patient at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia for regular check-ups, where the pulmonolgists and surgeons continue to review his scans and assess his case. He has gotten through colds and mild illnesses better than expected. Instead of laying down to nap and allowing fluid or infection to set into his affected lung, he was kept upright against mama”s chest while he endured colds and croup coughs. Each time he has come out victorious, with very minimal use of medicines needed to treat any infections.
I have carried on with my love of woven wraps. I spent a few years buying and selling and trading, and fell in love with a few Vatanai wraps especially. I was drawn to blue wraps, because my son’s eyes are blue like the ocean. Besides the Storchenweige and Vatanais, I also have a few Girasol and Didymos wraps that are used on a regular basis. I even learned how to wrap my older son (5years old), and I still carry him on occasion in a Hoppediz woven wrap (hey big kids like piggy-back rides, too!). Along with woven wraps, my husband and I both use soft-structured-carriers to wear both of our sons. We find these buckle carriers to be cool on hot summer days, and very easy on-and-off for wiggly toddlers.
While I still have a few years left of babywearing, my toddler and preschooler are quickly growing up. Soon they won’t want to be carried on mom or dad, and they’ll be running way ahead of us! I am finding so much joy in being part of the mission of Lift Me Up: Babywearing to Thrive. My favorite part of the project is following up with families who have received their carriers, and hearing how it’s changed their lives. I love seeing the pictures our recipients share with us, and hearing the stories of triumph. Babywearing is a unique tool that can help these children with special needs thrive, and I wake up every day with the goal of offering more families such an amazing opportunity.