The first time I heard the term ‘sling consultant’, it baffled me. What do they do? I never understood what made them different to other experienced sling users. That was, until I had a consultation.
Following my first time carrying, I wanted to learn more and booked a mei tai workshop with a local consultant, Rosie Knowles of Sheffield Sling Surgery and Library. I was inexperienced, unsure of what to expect and tremendously nervous. As a novice, I felt a little stupid and that I may appear a poor student in such a new area.
I needn’t have been concerned, Rosie put me at-ease straight away. It was her approach and depth of knowledge that made a lasting impression on me. The overall attitude that she put across was one of confidence, support and above all, patience. It was this demeanour that put my anxieties to rest and I no longer felt awkward as a novice. The amount of knowledge and practical experience left me wondering how one person could get to this level.
I left that consult feeling happy, self confident and excited to wear again. Then, it clicked. How would I be able to teach about slings and have people leave with that sense of pride? That would be the dream.
So, that is where my journey began. As my passion for slings grew, so did my urge to share this love with others. Once I was settled as a father, I looked into teaching further and becoming a baby-wearing peer supporter was the first step. I looked into schools that would provide this training and Born to Carry came up. Funnily enough Rosie Knowles was a trainer for Born to Carry and I booked in, knowing I would be taught by a familiar face.
The course was detailed, incredibly informative and nurturing to my teaching skills. Through both theoretical and practical elements, I learned how to apply those skills to real life situations and how to problem solve any issues within my capabilities as a peer supporter. Finishing the course and completing my assessment to become a trained baby-wearing peer supporter, filled me with a deep sense of pride and ambition to enable parents across my city. I was eager to attend my next sling meet and put what I had learned into practice.
Over the next months, I peer supported at events for my local group Sheffield Slings, assisting members and introducing them to different carriers to suit their needs. This was, at times, incredibly busy and took a lot of attention with people of varying skill and anxiety levels, but was more satisfying than I could have dreamed.
Alongside this, a very good friend of mine also runs a sling consultancy and I spent a lot of time at drop in sessions at her home. Amy Bower, of The Carrying Works, has a very different approach to teaching when it comes to her drop-ins. With a much less structured, and almost communal environment, attendees are able to openly discuss their queries in a group setting, whilst being consultant lead. This allows for more open problem solving and to pool experiences and tips. If an attendee has something specific that they wish to go through in more detail, Amy then will apply all her skills and attention to ensuring that they are confident.
Seeing two different teaching methods demonstrated how being a consultant isn’t rigid, but is in fact a reflection of one’s personality. These meets allowed me to learn from a consultant and apply the information I gathered to parents whom I was supporting.
After a few months of peer supporting, I began to consider taking my qualifications to the next level. I started off speaking with Amy to establish how to go about looking into a consultancy course and to understand if I was even ready. Her words of encouragement filled me with confidence and excitement at the possibility of moving forward.
I focused my attention on Slingababy, as this school is where both Rosie and Amy trained, so felt like a good starting point. Upon further investigation into the Slingababy course, it looked perfect for what I needed, but unfortunately I wasn’t in a position to afford the fees.
Therefore, when December 2014 rolled around and Slingababy announced a Christmas competition, I was over the moon. The first prize was a complementary place on the four day course.
I was determined to do my very best for this competition and spent a long while planning how best to make my point. The entry could take any form, so it was entirely open to imagination. Therefore, I put it to my strength – writing. Rather than a long-winded personal statement, instead I opted to submit a piece of poetry.
I wanted to encompass my journey to being a father and the connection that slings allowed me to have with my son. It needed to tell a story, but also explain why I wanted to do the course and be a consultant.
That poem was titled ‘To Be A Sling Dad‘. I was, and still am, proud of the poem that I entered. It was because of that piece that I came as a runner up and was awarded a voucher which allowed me to claim a discount on the course fee. I was excited that my poem had gotten me anywhere in the competition and looked forward to working out course dates.
However, in the end it wasn’t meant to be. Due to other commitments and health issues, I did not find the time to follow through on my ambitions and my hope began to fade.
I spent the next year honing my teaching skills further and ensuring that my time wasn’t wasted. I attended as many meets as possible, peer supported members through their new sling needs. Therefore, when the Christmas competition for 2015 came up, I was ready.
The 2015 competition was slightly different to my first experience. With more questions to answer and a similar focus on originality and quality of entry, I would have to up my game from the poetry of the previous year. I looked through sling photos in hope of inspiration and that’s when it hit me – a photographic story, a visual guide to what slings and the community mean to me.
From there I compiled all the images of me slinging, teaching and my favourites from the baby-wearing community. I added extra detail in writing and opened my heart to describe how the course would allow me to give back to a community who have supported me through my parenting life thus far. Seeing it all together as a finished project, made me realise how important baby-wearing is to me and just how strongly I wanted to progress as a helpful resource to parents.
I sent in my entry and waited.
It was a nerve wracking time. What if this year’s entry wasn’t as good as my last? If I fail this time, is fate trying to tell me to quit? So much went through my head and the announcement couldn’t come quickly enough.
On the 21st December, the first of the Facebook posts was released explaining that vouchers had been sent and if nothing had been received, then it meant a progression to the next stage. I had nothing. Excitement filled my head, but I held back, trying not to jinx anything.
The 22nd came and again, nothing. My excitement intensified.
Then on the evening of the 23rd, I received a message. I was a runner up and had won a substantial voucher towards the course costs. I didn’t expect to get anywhere in the competition and never in a million years did I think I’d get that far. I was genuinely gobsmacked by the shear overwhelming generosity of Slingababy.
Little did they know, but that gesture had given me the confidence I needed to pursue my ambition and to follow a dream that started when I had that first consult. My dream will soon become a reality and I can’t thank Slingababy enough for allowing me the opportunity to give back to my community, my second family.
The next step, begin the course. To be continued…