Please enjoy this post written for International Babywearing Week 2015 by Nicki Townsend, a sustaining member of BWIofHR.
Since the age of 11, when I started helping at the local school for children with cerebral palsy, I have been passionate about volunteering and I wasn’t going to let a little thing like having a baby stop me from continuing!
In June 2014, my wife and I moved to Virginia Beach from the UK. I was 20 weeks pregnant and, having hit pause on my career in order to move and become a full time mummy, had plenty of spare time. I was excited to discover that our church ran a children’s clothing exchange and thought that it sounded a brilliant project to get involved with.
The clothing exchange runs twice a week at Haygood United Methodist Church. It’s pretty simple (which is very handy given the baby brain): people bring in good quality, clean children’s clothes which have been outgrown, we count them and award credits which can then be used to take out clothes that do fit. I spend time counting and sorting clothes as well as chatting to parents, helping them find clothes and entertaining their children so they can have a good look through our stock.
I continued to volunteer right up until my son was born in November, although I was deemed exempt from climbing up step ladders, and figured that I would allow myself a few weeks off after his arrival. So, the new year arrived and James and I went back to clothing exchange, and that is when I realized that I wasn’t actually any use at all. Holding my baby, nursing my baby, rocking my baby to sleep, putting my baby down, picking my baby up as he didn’t want to go down and then rocking him back to sleep took up most of the morning and then I attempted to count and sort clothes with only one hand. Alternatively, I could pass James over to one of the other volunteers and be useful, but in doing so, stopped them being able to be productive. Hmmmm. Problem…
I can hear you all shouting at your screens, “babywear!!” And yes, babywearing has been the wonderful solution to our problem. We started with a baby k’tan which I loved when James was a little squishy. I liked the idea of a wrap but didn’t trust myself to get it right so the baby k’tan gave me the confidence I needed. James did not stay small for long though and once he reached about 16lb we were getting fed up of it sagging. So we joined Baby Wearing International, went along to the Virginia Beach meeting and checked a SSC out of the library. The following month we borrowed a ring sling and the third month a SSC which had the ability for James to forward face. We have now bought our own Tula because we love the simplicity of getting it on and off and my wife, who also baby wears but less frequently than myself, trusts the buckles. I’m also a sucker for things being pretty and I really like all the Tula designs. It was a tough choice deciding which one to get (we finally decided on rockets for anyone interested)!
And so I continue to volunteer at clothing exchange and now I am useful again! Just yesterday I found myself with a clingy, jet lagged (we had flown back from UK the day before) baby who was under no circumstances going to be put down. Up onto my back he went and there he stayed for the entire time, snuggled up and happy. We have even been known to let some of the other volunteers have a go with the Tula!
I am still passionate about volunteering. I believe that volunteers make the world a better place. Many charities, churches, schools and organizations rely on volunteers to keep running. According to volunteeringinamerica.org in 2013, 29.1% of residents of Virginia volunteered which is higher than the U.S. average of 1 in 4. Not only does volunteering help others (I will never tire of seeing a delighted child who has just found a sparkly pair of shoes or a cool super hero top to take home), but it also benefits me. I enjoy the social aspect, getting to know fellow volunteers and clients, and it gets me and James out of the house. I am proud to be passing on my life values to James that helping others is important and I look forward to the time when James is able to help out too. James enjoys coming to clothing exchange because he is surrounded by loving people and because there are usually some other children for him to play with. He is also one of the best dressed babies around and it doesn’t cost us a penny!
If this blog has inspired you to look into volunteering then I wish you the best of luck and encourage you to explore options in your local community.
The Children’s Clothing Exchange runs every Tuesday, 3-6pm and Thursday 9am-noon at Haygood United Methodist Church, 4713 Haygood Road, Virginia Beach. We accept clean, gently used clothing from newborn up to age 16-18. Please, no more than 40 items at a time. I would love to see you there!