Hanging It Up

It dangles at the end of the bed. The plastic clips rattle against the bed frame when I walk past it. The straps have yielded to the stretch of my baby’s changing size, the buckles clasped around me in snow, wind and sun. It’s been left there like a forgotten thing – the sling that we used to carry her round in every single day.

Now we are home, a pram is providing her transport. It’s much easier for many reasons. We don’t have to carry the weight of her all the time, there’s a handy storage compartment in the bottom and it’s easier to shade her from the sun. She loves it. At the moment, the world is thrilling to her. Every corner we go around brings a new surprise. A dog, a tree, a twig, a postbox. Whatever it is, she greets it with a wiggle of her legs and enthusiastic whoops. Being in the pushchair allows her to see the world as we go, as well as experience the bumps and rattles of the pavement. Another reason for joy. But it just doesn’t feel the same.

The pram has proved popular

Unsurprisingly, she’s been rather unsettled since we’ve been back. Eating, sleeping, playing, all of these things have been subject to strange reactions. She’ll make a disappointed lowing sound, for reasons that we’re not quite clear on. Having been blessed with a very contented baby, it’s strange to experience moods which don’t have a clear and direct cause. Maybe it doesn’t feel the same to her either.

She’s not the only one who’s been unsettled. I’ve found myself either lethargic or wired. One minute I’m haring around the garden – snipping, raking, gathering – the next I’m slumped on a chair, unable to do anything except stare at the wall. I intermittently crave a box of chocolates and a terrible film to fill a couple of hours or I gaze longingly at my running shoes and imagine the miles I could cover if I strapped myself back into them. I’ve stopped wearing my Garmin because it’s too depressing to see the measly amount of steps I cover.

We’ve both found solace in the garden

The other day, after a bout of displeasure (more noticeably from her), I unhitched the sling from its place at the end of the bed. Clipping it round my hips, I pulled her weight to me and completed the familiar action of wrapping the straps around my body and clicking them in place. She was a warm weight against my front. In an instant, she calmed down. Thinking she was tired, I started to walk from room to room, making shushing sounds. After ten minutes of this she wasn’t asleep but she remained calm. After a while I sat down. This usually upsets her, but this time there was no reaction.

So we sat, her and me, in a puddle of quiet in the living room. The occasional car passed by, the sun beat incessantly on the scorched grass, but we were cool and calm indoors.

All those hours spent strapped together

These are the moments we didn’t have when we were travelling. Sitting, being, enjoying the proximity of each other. There was always something to see or do which kept our focus looking outwards. It also reminded me how the sling had given us a closeness we haven’t had since we’ve been back. Perhaps this is why she grizzles and looks panicked whenever I leave a room. It’s strange for us to not have at least an hour or so nuzzled together, even if it’s because we’re in transit.

Today I made squashed avocado and fried egg on toast with chilli sauce. It was a favourite at the weekend for me when we were in London. While I was pregnant the extreme protein kick was just what was required, and it’s something I came back to again and again. Eating it made me feel just a little more settled. With each bite I was reminded of all the fun things we’ve done in this country, the places we have yet to see and all the things that our little one has yet to encounter.

And while we show her that things can be just as interesting here, I will occasionally slip her into the sling, and remind myself that there are few things that can’t be solved by closeness.

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I'm a writer, teacher and drummer based in London. Short fiction and reviews are my main staples, along with some dabbling in novel writing.

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