I carried all three of my girls in our baby Bjorn.
I loved the feeling when they were tiny of their hot little mouths breathing on my chest. I loved the first time I was able to turn them around and their little legs kicked, ready to run into the world that just opened before them. I loved holding their little hands as we went for our afternoon walks. I loved measuring their growth as I felt their legs bounce against mine lower and lower. I loved having my hands free to wrangle another child, make dinner, or simply to give my arms a rest.
It’s well worn, my Bjorn. Faded from washing the spit up off. Saliva stains on the top from three teething babies. The side clasp on the right slips in and out easily, and the top clasp on the same side sometimes pops open. It’s worn enough I considered getting a new one for Penelope for safety reasons, but felt it safe enough to hold onto for the sentimental reasons.
With my first two, the end of their time in the Bjorn came naturally. As my belly grew with their little sister, the Bjorn no longer fit and so they walked or were carried. I had the last few months of my pregnancies Bjorn free before the next one took up residence on my chest.
Penelope was different. The last baby in the house, there was no growing belly to evict her. With two older sisters, still toddlers themselves, I needed both my hands free so we could all survive that first year and a half. When she started walking, I kept her strapped to me. I couldn’t handle three little ones scampering across a parking lot or in a store if at least one wasn’t confined. And she didn’t mind. She waited patiently in her carseat for me to get the contraption on, then raised her arm as needed for me to secure her in place.
At first, I used it around the house and it lived draped over the back of the rocking chair as it had for Samantha and Ella. Eventually, I only needed it when we were out and so it lived in the car under her car seat.
Samantha’s preschool teachers laughed as I came in every morning, an eighteen month old in the Bjorn, her feet hitting my knees.
On the rare occasion I didn’t use it, they squealed, “You’re free, Peneolpe! Run! Run!”
Gradually, she started getting too heavy. My back hurt if we went into stores and I had to push a cart and carry her, so she went in the front of the cart instead. Then it started to hurt when I bent to give Sammy a kiss at preschool drop off. It became annoying when I bent over and her feet touched the ground and she tried to walk away while strapped to me. So eventually, the Bjorn just lay, crumpled on the floor of the car developing a coating of Cheddar Bunnies and Cheerio crumbs.
I noticed it there a couple months ago on one of the rare occasions I decided to clean out the back seat before something started to grow. I brought the Bjorn in the house and tossed it on the floor of a closet.
This week I cleaned the floor of that closet and there it was, floppy and skinny, not stiff and full as it had been out of the box. I looked at it, held it in my hands, feeling the straps that supported all three of my girls, expecting to feel sad, nostalgic, to get that baby ache.
But I didn’t. I was happy. That stage of my life is over and I will never strap another baby to my chest. And I am ready to be done with it. It’s too used to be donated, the clasps are too loose to be safe. So I tossed it back on the floor of the closet, not quite ready for the Bjorn to be trash.