At Baby Tula, we have seen, first hand, how babywearing can benefit families in countless ways; from basic tasks getting completed to helping a baby and caretaker create a lifelong bond. You share your stories and we learn of so many poignant journeys that embody our motto: Keep Doing What You Love. It’s these moments, simple and grand, that we celebrate and want to share with our community. Here, we share the special story of Avery through an interview with her mother, and blogger, Meg Apperson.
Can you tell us a little bit about Avery and your family?
We’re a military family. I met my husband through my brother-in-law while they were on a deployment together. We have 3 children- Macson, 7; Laura, 2; and Avery, 1. The girls are 15 months apart, which was NOT intentional so Avery has been a surprise in every way!
We knew very little about her condition prenatally, so the first few weeks following her birth were especially difficult. We could see immediately that she had various craniofacial defects, but the full scope of her medical diagnosis unfolded over the next few months. Currently, she receives breastmilk through her G-tube; breathes through the tracheostomy; receives respiratory support from a ventilator during the night and has undergone 9+ surgeries (several of them performed emergently) in the last year. We have hope that we will be able to transition away from the ventilator, trach and eventually G-tube in the next several years. During one of Avery’s hospitalizations last year, we discovered that my son Macson needed heart surgery right away for a previously undiagnosed congenital heart defect. Having a second medically involved child has made life THAT much more interesting!
When did you first discover “babywearing” and/or baby carriers?
Before it was cool, so 30+ years ago, my crunchy, hipster mom wore all of her 8 babies! (Not all at once, of course.) It was a natural progression for me when my oldest was born. He was so delicious that I wanted to hold him every second of the day! We were co-sleeping and on-demand nursing, so babywearing helped us graduate from the “new mom/new baby cuddling in our cocoon” phase to the “new mom/new baby still cuddling but also able to accomplish things” phase! That was huge confidence boost for a first-time mom trying to find her footing!
How has babywearing helped your family keep doing what you love?
For me, besides the obvious bonding aspect, babywearing gives me the ability to multi-task. Some days it’s as simple as being able to prepare dinner and pacify the littlest simultaneously. Other times, babywearing allows us to be more adventurous. We recently took Avery to the park for the first time EVER and wearing her in my Tula carrier allowed her to be in a familiar, safe place, but also slowly learn a new environment.
How do you utilize babywearing to help your family and Avery’s special needs?
Some of the Avery specific ways that babywearing is beneficial is during the recovery period after her surgeries. Avery has had 4 major brain surgeries and skull reconstructions and there’s a lot of swelling that occurs after each one. Babywearing is comforting to her and sitting upright helps to drain some of the excess fluid to reduce the swelling. Like any baby, being close to her mama when she’s especially stressed out also helps stabilize her heart rate.
Babywearing also makes traveling to appointments easier. Avery sees so many specialists that we commute to see her doctors several times a week. She has so much medical equipment that we have to bring along, wearing her is a must.
Have you had to make accommodations to how you babywear or use you Tula baby carrier?
None at all, though I’ve realized getting the positioning right is especially important to avoid upsetting Avery’s trach. Having her head “close enough to kiss” keeps her airway safe and her hips supported. The kisses are pretty awesome too.
What is something that you have learned being a parent to a child with special needs?
I have learned the importance of being intentional! Life with Avery means we face the possibility of death every day, so I’ve learned to be meticulous; to have realistic expectations of myself AND her; to strategize; etc. She’s spent so much of her life in a hospital bed and/or on heavy-duty seizure medication that she hasn’t had the opportunity to build muscles or develop sensory processing. Now that she’s home, I have to make every second count towards her rehabilitation. She’s improving so quickly and in ways that her doctors warned us she might not. I credit that to our family being so intentional and vigilant with her care.
What would you say to a new parent? Or a parent of another child with special needs?
I would advise all parents the same. Make this time count! Not only are we not promised tomorrow, so we should make the most of every day with our children, but each developmental phase that they’re working through is so important! These memories, problem solving skills, habits and manners are things they carry with them for the rest of their life. And often, all the little things we model for our children and expose them to will be repeated for the next generation. Don’t just “survive” these years. Make the most of them.
What else has helped your family during your most trying times?
We definitely rely on our faith in Jesus Christ and the hope and peace that comes from trusting Him with our lives. We also benefit from being a part of a wonderfully supportive family unit and community. It’s so important to find your support circle. People loving and caring for other people is what it’s all about.
You can follow along Meg and her family’s journey on her blog: http://www.fourfinelives.com/