You've Got Your Hands Full by Annie Littlewood

You've Got Your Hands Full by Annie Littlewood

"As I go about my business, I hear it all the time..

"You've got your hands full!"

Usually, it is said with a smile. There is kindness in their phrase. They see me, toddler on my back and baby on my front, and they want to reach out a hand of support, a sign of respect, some recognition that motherhood can be tough. To them, my hair awry and my cheeks red, I am the visual representation of maternal struggle; they know it and are with me. Gladly I take their care. But what they don't realise is that having my babies wrapped to me manages the risks, steadies the anxieties, pacifies my thoughts. The weight on my body lifts the weight on my mind. Neither do they know that my beautiful wraps, spreading the kilos across my torso, could carry full-grown adults.

Others say it with humour. They think I look funny, my children strapped onto me. (And at just 153cm, with my toddler's feet down my knees, I can see their point.) "Beast of Burden", my dad calls me, with a grin. That my youngest and I are so alike only adds to the spectacle - I look like a woman with two heads.

On occasions, with the prefix 'wow', I receive admiration. They don't know how I do it. They look at me like I am a superhero. The red boots don't help. (Maybe I should wear my underpants on the outside.)

Sometimes, these five words are said with pity. They think I can't afford a pram. (If only they knew..) They fail to see the beauty in the weave, the strength in the cloth, the accomplishment in the carry. They imagine that I envy their fancy car. They would rather run on a treadmill than stride out with their babes. What treasures they miss. Maybe it is I who should pity them.

And there are those who say the words with judgement. I smile sweetly. No, my children are not clingy. They are strong and brave and fast and wild. No they don't just eat organic mung beans and humous. I am not carrying them to make a point, or because I have separation issues. I carry my kids because there are places to go, there is a whole world to see, a world that cannot be accessed with pushchairs and car seats; I carry them so we can see those things together, as a unit, with a single view.

In a land where buggies are the norm, it must be hard to conceive babywearing as a viable alternative. I realise that, to many, I look odd. It is strange to me too that what some perceive as toilsome are, to me, the most perfect blessings.

So I smile, and I chuckle, to show I appreciate their concern and support, or refute their judgement. But what I would say, if I dared, if I was bold enough to meet their observation with honesty, would be:

"Nope, my heart is full but my hands are free! See?!"

And then I would do jazz hands."

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