I found the Bjorn complicated, and difficult to work with only two hands.
This is a perfectly natural sentence for anyone who has had a child it the last five years, but must sound perplexing and perhaps a bit pervy if you haven’t, as if I was having trouble working erotic massage on a Swedish tennis player. Some details.
There are a number of commercial baby carriers on the market today; Ergos, Bjorns, slings both manufactured and home-sewn, and what have you. Selecting one is not a task to be taken lightly. Sometimes, babies are fussy, sometime one hurts your back, and in extreme cases, sometimes they can kill your kid. No kidding.
We had a Bjorn given by a friend, and it worked well enough if you had someone else to help you out. On your own, putting down the baby and making adjustments was nearly impossible. I found it too complicated to wrap my brain around how all the straps worked on little sleep. Fortunately, I had another option. The Moby.
The Moby is really just a very very very long piece of cloth. Like most baby crap, it is an item that could easily be replaced with something from the hardware store or craft shop for pennies on the dollar*.
The Moby, though, is a little different. It has, like many California new-age baby products, an air of ‘Green Earth Mother’ ambiance to it. The mom on the front cover was carefully selected and positioned to suggest:
‘Inuit mother on the Equinox, overlooking an Aleutian Island beach ’, though I suspect she is really
‘Partially-Asian at Ocean Beach, New Jersey, with all the Hypodermic Needles and Tampon Applicators cleaned up’. But that’s just flippant cynicism. Back to the point.
The Moby itself can be tied, twisted and folded into 50+ configurations, each suited to a different baby need. There is ‘breastfeeding’ fold, ‘twins’ fold, ‘infant’ fold and ‘toddler’ fold. You are not paying for the cloth, you are paying for the instruction guide.
One fold they don’t have, consciously omitted or not, is the ‘man’ fold. By ‘man’ fold, I really mean “Clumsy, ham-fisted man who is over-confident in his folding ability and should just stick with a sling’ fold.
Now, there is a term in biological parlance called an ‘invagination’. It’s a little like the opposite of ‘phallic’** in that it means an inward concavity. An example would be if you poked your finger into the side of a partially deflated balloon- the inward depression you made would be an invagination.
The Moby works on the invagination principle. This very long piece of cloth is folded in half lengthwise before any of the myriad of folds are even attempted. The last stage of almost any fold is to insert the baby into a little pocket that you have somehow created with said fold. This pocket is the invagination.
I had no truck with this. It seemed too complicated to get the folds situated perfectly, and I feared that if I slipped the baby into the invagination, she may disappear completely, or drop out through some other odd canal that I was unfamiliar with. I felt as uncomfortable with ‘invaginations’ as I did with anatomical ‘vaginations’.
There was, however, a fold that looked both manly and doable. The Moby was folded in an “X” configuration across the chest, redolent of two strips of artillery that I imagine the Mexicans wore during the Alamo. You tied it up and basically inserted the baby’s limbs through various parts of the “X”, strapping her to your chest and retaining a hint of machismo. I decided that this was the fold for me.
Unfortunately, I decided this on a day where I had not yet even tried the Moby. To add to this, I decided this just before I was to go visit Joy, Baby G’s something-in-ex-step-brother’s-wife’s-mother’s-whathaveyou-woman-in-law (we have a complicated family), who lived about eight blocks up the street. I also decided that eight blocks was close enough to not bother with the stroller.
“What could go wrong?” I asked myself.
Sure, it was a little blustery out, but I had a method. Baby G was still small enough that I could zip my sweatshirt around her to protect her from the elements. I set her down for her nap and started fussing with the manual. The phone rang.
“Hi Joy, yes were still coming over, “ I said as I made the final adjustments to the Moby.
“Oh well, she’s just waking up now. How about 20 minutes? Great. See you then.”
I hung up the phone and went over to the baby. I picked her up and inserted her- via the directions- into the fold. It was a little crazy and wiggly, but she fit. I was quite pleased with myself, until I realized I had forgotten to put on a shirt.
I did a quick mental calculation- I had about twenty minutes to get to Joy’s, and it had taken me almost that amount of time to figure out the fold. I didn’t want to chance it again, so I figured I’d just stuff an extra shirt in my pocket and explain it when I got there.
We set out of the apartment at the very same moment that ‘blustery” turned to “blustery with rain.” Baby G was just deciding that she wasn’t having the Moby, and certainly wasn’t having the Moby with rain. I zipped up my sweatshirt around her, and she decided she wasn’t having Moby and darkness either. She wriggled and began to cry, but I had logged four blocks already, beyond the point of no return. I would just get her to Joy’s and make the adjustments. It must of looked ridiculous, this rather panicked looking man with a writhing mass in his abdomen in the rain, and I felt like a Bad Parent.
I had no idea it could get much, much worse.
When I got to Joy’s the baby was in full screech mode. She buzzed me in and I hastily spit out a hurried apology.
“I just got to get her sorted. I’m not wearing a shirt,” I might have said.
Joy has a full length mirror at the end of her foyer, and when I unzipped my sweatshirt, I saw what all the fuss was about. Baby G had writhed and struggled so much that she was completely contorted in the Moby’s folds, like a marionette tangled in it’s own wires. She was hanging in the most unnatural position, and I audibly gasped as I saw what a mess I had gotten her into.
“Oh crap! Sorry Joy, I gotta fix this!”, I said as I rushed into her living room.
I disrobed both me and Baby G, and tried to soothe her. I grabbed the bottle, but she was having none of that, either. She was pissed and screaming, I was the cause of it all, and it finally occurred to me that I was half naked in the living room of someone whom I didn’t really know all that well.
“Could you hold her? I need to put on a shirt,” I said, failing to explain why this was so.
We went through a series of jiggling, trying the bottle, Joy making funny faces- nothing. I had to admit defeat.
“Sorry, Joy, I’d better get her home.”
Unfortunately, defeat meant that I had to bring her back outside. The Moby was lying on the floor, like a particularly long and coiled piece of scat, and I had to somehow coax it into a baby carrying device again, as I had given myself no other option.
I also didn’t bring the manual with me.
Lacking any impromptu invagination skills, I tied my best Cub Scout knot around the baby, hung her from my neck, zipped her up in my sweatshirt and headed out into the rain. I was sure this was going to be eight blocks of bloody screaming hell.
The second I hit the sidewalk, she calmed…..right…….. down. The rain had stopped. The wind had died. There was a final, blessed moment of silence that the parents of colicky babies know so well. It was like God finally saw fit to remove the vice-clamps from the sides of my head, and I breathed long breaths, unclenched my teeth, and felt my feet firmly on the ground.
My feet were in skateboarding sneakers. My sweatshirt was covered in patches- all bicycling trips over ten years, but nevertheless looking like the duffle bag of a recent college graduate on a European Vacation. I was wearing pajama pants.
In short, I looked like a man who was dressed like a boy. Comfort was important in this babydaddy gig. I just never figured it would backfire like it did.
Now, in these early days, I would often forget to eat if the baby was fussy for long periods, and today was one of those days, clearly. She was calm, I was starving, and the rain had stopped. I figured I could just pick up a quick curry from the Vietnamese place on the way back.
“How quickly could you have that ready?” I asked.
“Five minutes, no problem,” they replied.
It did not take five minutes.
By the end of twenty, the baby was crying, it had started raining again, and the Moby was beginning to unravel. My teethed were clenched, God screwed the clamps back on and gave them an extra turn for good measure, and my feet felt like someone else’s.
“Curry for you, yes, thanks for waiting.”
I snatched it from the man, possibly giving him a look that was intended to curse his generations for centuries, such was my chagrin for a 15-minute late dish, and lit off.
Immediately the Moby unraveled entirely. The baby skittered out from her hastily-constructed man cage, into her default sweatshirt-pseudo-invagination. Lacking extra appendages- and I now understand why Hindu deities are depicted with extra arms, because there would be no better parent superpower than that- I shoved the bag ‘o’ curry in my mouth, untangled the baby, and plodded on. I sort of shoved the spent Moby into my waistband, but the thing is long, and was dragging behind me like a length of toilet paper. To boot, I couldn’t prop the baby’s butt up on one arm- the standard baby hold- because the weather was too foul and she was getting slippery. I sort of wrapped both arms around her like a sack of potatoes and clutched her to my chest. I still had the curry in my mouth and the Moby-toilet paper dragging from behind when I decided I had better walk faster. Hell, I’d better run.
I want you to picture this scenario, from the outside looking in. Pretend you are an older Asian grandmother.
You need scallions for tonight’s pancakes, but the weather is wretched outside. Usually, you wouldn’t bother, but your own son has to work late, and his wife has a terrible cold. You risk the weather, and head out to California Street. Not too many shops, but enough to get what you need.
You turn the corner from 21sh Ave and look up towards the Presidio. There, in this terrible weather, is another person. He- and you think it is probably a ‘he’ from this distance, as no ‘she’ would be moving so erratically- is coming down the hill, fast.
Due to the topography, you can clearly see that he has a line of rope dragging behind him, like a dog who has chewed through his leash and is making a go of it. As he approaches and his features come into focus, you notice that he is carrying something, something clearly very precious to him, but he looks panicked. He comes closer. You realize that what he has is a BABY, but he’s all over the place, clutching it like he just stole a bag of oranges from the Safeway.
He has no idea how to hold a baby, the bag of food he’s clutching IN HIS MOUTH-like a dog- is whapping against his chest and spitting turmeric stained globs of oil all over him and the kid. It looks like he looked up the word ‘ransom’ in the dictionary this morning and decided ‘I can do that!’ without an instruction manual.
He’s dressed like a teenager.
Would you call the cops?
* In the beginning, like most concerned parents, we fell for the hype. Eventually, though, we cottoned on, figuring a plastic bucket from a discount store on Clement did the trick of ‘European infant bathing equipment’ at 1/5th the price. Eventually.
** I take issue with the notion that anything longer than it is wide should be labeled as a symbol of the patriarchic/phallo-centricocracy. Some things are, sure- the Trump Tower comes to mind as the ultimate in penis replacement. Other things- not so much. Take a ballpoint pen- a little penile, yes, but function over form here. I imagine an invagination-pen would just be messy and require enormous sheets of paper to get your point across.