A baby for my back

Yesterday Australian African Network (AAN) had their end of year party. It was a great afternoon and apart from the fact that the tinnies all contained soft drink, not beer, it was typically Australian in so many ways. We had a barbie, complete with snags, wilted salads, watermelon, and a man in a hat and a funny apron wielding tongs behind the BBQ. (That was Mohamed, one of the AAN committee members). It was at a sports club in Lakemba, and right beside us all afternoon  a series of cricket teams were playing, all in their whites, but culturally quite diverse. Of course half way through the day a small child stopped the game when she wandered off through the middle of it in single minded pursuit of her ‘boon’ (balloon). It was Treasure, AM’s little (half) sister. The boys all ended up in a big impromptu soccer match, there was a fantastic West African band playing, a raffle, and a few lucky people got to go home with meat trays. We’d seriously over-catered so we packed up the delicous halal beef marinated Liberian style (with peanuts, as it happens) as extra raffle prizes. It was also typically both  Australian and African in being incredibly hot.

I dressed up in my newest Ghanaian dress and jewellry, had a great time dancing and chatting, and when Treasure got worn out from her adventures exploring the farthest reaches of the sports ground, I got to tie her on my back with a length of African cloth I’d brought to cover the tables. I haven’t got to have a baby on my back since carrying her around in Ghana earlier this year, and only recently was reflecting on how much I missed doing it, so it was lovely to get the opportunity. AM had actually vetoed it when we were in Kumasi, because it’s very bad for my knees – she’s three, and really a bit big for it – but he has a serious anti-Africa allergy at the moment (I’m hoping it’s a teenage thing he’ll grow out of) and wasn’t there to stop me. Heheh. It’s such a lovely thing to have a small child securely wrapped onto your back, cosy and relaxed and falling asleep. I didn’t want to take her off when it was time for her to go home.  I am romanticising it of course. It probably doesn’t feel that great when you have to wear the baby all day and weed your farm or carry a head load all day as well.  Or all three.

I used to carry AM on my back when he was small, but it was a bit scary then because I wasn’t used to it. I compromised by putting him in a baby pouch on my back and wrapping the cloth around that. I found it much easier to have him on my back. Western baby pouches and slings are designed for the front of the body, but I found they made simple tasks like buttering toast, or getting small change out of my wallet, quite awkward. Having him on my back gave me a lot more freedom and he liked it too.

Since then I have gained much more experience and am a competent and confident baby-carrier. I have carried all AM’s half-brothers and Treasure when I’ve looked after them as babies, plus friends’ children when I’ve babysat. I find it the easiest way to get little ones to sleep, especially if they’re getting grumpy and want to be carried but you still have to deal with older children.  You just have to become skilled at removing them without waking them up, if you want a rest yourself.

I was speaking to a Somalian couple at the AAN party who told me that it’s very good for my back and that after women give birth, carrying the baby this way is good for getting their stomach muscles back into shape. Well it’s a long time since I gave birth but perhaps this could be the solution for the little tummy tyre I’d like to get rid of. And much more enjoyable than cutting fats out of my diet. Anyone need a baby carried?

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