Elena Ruiz of Wrap In ASL shares her heartfelt journey into motherhood and babywearing, while seeking support as a new mother and reconnecting with her heritage. This video also includes some information on babywearing and also wrapping demonstrations that you cannot miss! For more information about babywearing for Deaf mothers and caregivers, click LIKE on Wrap In ASL and join the Deaf-only Facebook group at DEAF BABYWEARING COMMUNITY. You can also follow the Wrap In ASL Instagram @wrapinasl.
[Description: Elena and baby in a backyard of a light-brown house on a very sunny day with a breeze. There is a lot of greenery in the background. Baby is being front carried in a maroon carrier. Subtitles: Elena & Nabi of Wrap In ASL. Elena is a light-skinned multiracial Latina with short dark hair and glasses, and has a black circular tattoo inside her left wrist. Nabi is a 13-month old baby and is a light-skinned multiracial Black-Latinx with light brown hair. Elena has on a black t-shirt and light gray pants. Baby has on a light blue t-shirt with a butterfly, dark blue pants, and brown shoes with leather flowers. Elena wraps her arms around baby, as baby lays head on Elena’s chest-] Subtitles: #ASLBabywearing - #DeafAndWearing
[Video frame changes to Elena seated on grass in the same backyard, with Nabi walking to her, hugging her, and walking away from her. Elena is smiling. Elena starts signing to the camera. There is a small black dog resting to her left as she signs-]
Elena: You know, I admit that when I became pregnant and a mother, it wasn’t the best time in my life. There was a lot of stress, struggle, and uncertainty. It’s for those reasons that I was already at a high risk for postpartum depression (PPD), and that’s just what happened. And we know that Deaf people all over do not have much access to mental health resources, that we are very much barred from getting help.
I also started noticing that many Deaf parents didn’t seem to have a lot of confidence, outside support in how to be a Deaf parent. I’m from a hearing family, and growing up I never saw a model of what it was like to be a Deaf parent- that model didn’t naturally happen for me. By the time I became pregnant and gave birth, I realized that I didn’t have many people to look up to, to follow in their footsteps in how to parent while Deaf- I almost felt a little lost.
I do feel like, while I have MANY different identities, my new identity as a Deaf mother has become more and more primary in MANY different situations. MY identity as a Deaf mother isn’t always my most primary identity, but it was becoming primary very often- for instance, I’d go into a government parenting support office, or a breastfeeding support group, or simply interacting with other parents, I feel like I became THE Deaf parent with a baby. I felt many eyes on me, asking “wow, can she take care of a baby while being Deaf?” I got that sense so many times and so often, like all eyes were on me. I ended up feeling so insecure and awkward. With the absence of a Deaf parenting role model, plus PPD, it was an intense and difficult situation for me to be in for the first few months after giving birth.
Video changes frame: shows a low shelf topped with baby carriers and woven wraps. There is a large framed poster of an Indigenous Latin American woman with a red bandana over her face, with a toddler breastfeeding in a carrier behind the carriers featured on the shelf. The camera is then closer to the carriers, which shows colorful wraps of different designs, patterns, and materials, including folded woven wraps, draped ring slings, a folded mei tai, and a folded soft structured carrier. Elena is shown in a bedroom with the set of shelves behind her. There is a small window in the upper left corner, with bright light coming through. She has on a white softball t-shirt with gray sleeves and glasses.
Elena: Many people ask me, “so how many wraps do you have? How much did they all cost??” Generally, in the wider babywearing community, those questions are considered VERY rude and inappropriate. For me, I don’t agree with that perspective- that I HAVE to share that information with the Deaf community, especially because we have been historically and still are cut off from information access. Because of that, I feel an obligation to fully communicate all information to my community members. [Gestures to carriers behind-] as for these carriers, not all of these are mine. [Quick shot of three folded woven wraps]- These were sent to me from different companies who want me to take pictures of myself wearing the wraps, to write reviews, to provide feedback. So they send me wraps for me to try out and in exchange I do work for them in that way, and I get to try wraps for free without paying full price, which is really nice!
[Gestures to stack of woven wraps by counting a stack of 5 woven wraps, and moves a folded item away from the front of the stack to show all folded wraps-] Subtitles: Woven wraps- NOT stretchy material.
Elena: These are woven wraps, which are solidly woven and not stretchy.
[Elena holds up a beige bag with folded fabric inside of it]- Subtitles: Stretchy wrap- Moby.
Elena: I do have one Moby wrap, a stretchy wrap.
[Elena holds up two ring slings, one white with black triangles, the other one double-faced with grey with small black patterns and mustard color on the other side-] Subtitles: Ring slings.
Two ring slings, or RS.
[Sped-up video of Elena showing the dimensions of a maroon carrier with a panel and hood that has an ikat pattern of cranberry, brown, and mustard colors- long straps are attached to the panel-] Subtitles: Mei Tai carrier.
A mei tai. This carrier originated from China, and many Asian countries, particularly East Asian countries, have long used this carrier and still do today.
[Sped-up video of Elena showing a blue buckle carrier with a dark grey leaves design-] Subtitles: Buckle carriers/Soft Structured Carriers.
A buckle carrier for front and back carries. This is perhaps the most popular kind of carrier, maybe you’ve seen some such as Ergo or Tula and other different brands. SSCs are arguably more popular than the other carriers I’ve just shown. But, I use woven wraps and ring slings most often myself.
[Video frame changes back to Elena sitting and signing in the backyard. At some points, a squirrel is passing by on top of the fence in the background, and there is still a black small dog next to Elena-]
Elena: When I was pregnant, a friend of mine- also a Deaf Latina- started to tell me about something called “babywearing.” She asked me if I had a ring sling, a Moby, and about any other carriers I may have. I was confused, not interested, and dismissed her questions, and moved on. When the baby was born, about a week later I ended up seeing what carriers I had around, and found one sling, put baby in it, and went on a walk outside in the neighborhood. Beforehand, though, I looked up instructions online and I felt they really over-emphasized the importance of “hearing and listening” to the baby’s breathing, to follow auditory cues. But that got me worried and nervous, being that I am Deaf. I still went ahead with the walk, but really didn’t feel totally comfortable with what was happening, put persisted anyways. When baby was 4 weeks old, I went ahead and tried wrapping in front with a stretchy wrap or a Moby, but baby immediately complained, screamed, and wanted out. I unwrapped baby and that was that. When baby was 6 weeks old, I went to an event with two other Deaf mothers, and at the event there were different kinds of carriers- buckles, wraps, ring slings, and I was fascinated by all of them. I asked a person there to show me how to wrap, and talked to them through a volunteer interpreter at the event. I got shown how to wrap with a woven wrap – not a stretchy wrap. During this experience, the demonstrators were clearly awkward and uncomfortable working with a Deaf person, but I bore through it and went back home and intensively researched wrapping through Facebook, different websites, just lots and lots of research all over to teach myself. Also, I found and joined a local babywearing community, and a number of other groups in order to really immerse myself.
As time went on, I started to realize that my self-esteem, my confidence in parenting, were increasing. I felt proud of myself that I was learning something new. I was meeting and connecting with people in a new community. I realized that I had a passion and drive that I hadn’t experienced in a long time. I felt a commitment to not keep all this new information to myself, and to bring it to my Deaf community. I didn’t want more Deaf parents feeling very disempowered by the barriers they face- and while babywearing is not THE solution for that, it is definitely a good tool for new or struggling parents who may be going through a hard time. It can give us independence, a way to connect with others, a source of enjoyment, and most of all, a way to bond with baby. As my own PPD became worse and worse, I started thinking about how I could make sure I didn’t become totally disconnected from my baby? I felt that wearing and wrapping baby in my front and back helped us really stay connected throughout many different moments, where we would gaze at each other and just click, truly treasuring each other. Those moments also happened during breastfeeding- but can definitely happen during bottle feeding, too- that connection and bonding. Through those hard times, babywearing helped us definitely stay connected.
[Video frame changes. Elena is now standing on another side of the same backyard, with a rainbow-colored, triangle-design woven wrap over her shoulder. In the background is a small child-size table and bench set and a spread-out blanket. Baby is at the table-]
Elena: This is an example of a typical day when we’re outside, wrapping, hanging out in the backyard.
[Video frame changes and video speed quickens- Elena is now over with baby at the table, has the woven wrap draped over baby’s shoulders, and with baby facing the camera, Elena swings baby up on her back. Video frame changes quickly with Elena closer to the lens again, with baby on her back. The small black dog is close to them. Frame changes to Elena with her back turned to the lens, showing the process of lifting baby’s legs up and pulling the wrap between both of them to make a seat. The tails of the wrap are over Elena’s shoulders, with one tail being much longer than the other. The pace is quick, and Elena tightens the tails over her shoulders-] Subtitles: Back carry: Reinforced Rear Rebozo Rucksack with a woven wrap.
[With the short tail being tucked under her chin, Elena passes the long tail over her back, and spreads it up on baby’s back. Frame changes to show Elena gathering the wrap tail and passing it under baby’s leg. Frame changes to Elena twisting both tails together across her chest, then tying a knot at the other side of her chest. Frame changes to a close-up of the twisted effect across Elena’s chest, showing her dark lipstick and baby peeking over her shoulder. Frame changes to Elena standing at the side, showing both faces up close to the camera lens. She then backs up and shows the back side of the wrap job. Frame changes, and Elena is squinting from the sunlight in her eyes, and is passing a yellow rubber ducky to baby on her back. Baby takes the duck, and Elena signs to baby, THAT DUCK. YELLOW DUCK. YES. Elena then walks to camera lens and shows the opposite sides of the wrap job.]
[Frame changes to a different angle of the same backyard in bright sunlight-]
Elena: You know, babywearing has always existed throughout human history. Really, how else would people have been able to gather food, help their community, and so on with having a small baby laying around? Of course they put baby on their front, their hip, or their back- this has always been done and is definitely not new. I am of Latinx descent, and I feel a big reason why I connected so much with babywearing is because I know my ancestors babywore, too. I felt a deep, instinctual connection with that custom. So today, I’ll also show a rebozo carry, which is well-known in Latin America.
[Elena bends over to retrieve a wrap from her knees. Video frame changes, with quickened video speed, to Elena unfurling a vivid, color-blocked blue rainbow wrap. She covers her right shoulder with one end of the wrap, bringing the other tail across her back and to her front. She gathers both ends of the wrap and holds them on her right side. She slides her left arm and elbow into the small pouch made from this effect. She then is tying a knot by her right shoulder. Video frame changes to Elena sliding baby into the pouch made with the wrap. The pouch is spread over baby’s back and a seat is made by pulling fabric between Elena and baby over and up from baby’s bottom. Elena adjusts her carry, and turns to the camera lens so the knot is visible. She signs to baby, READY MILK, and offers baby her breast to feed from while baby is wrapped-] Subtitles: (Baby asked for milk).
[Elena is feeding baby. Video goes back to normal speed-]
Elena: Baby can be moved more to your hip.
[Frame changes, Elena is adjusting the carry and moving baby more to a true hip position.] Subtitles: Hip rebozo carry. [Elena resumes breastfeeding baby.]
Elena: You can do a back carry in this, too!
[Video speed quickens again, Elena signs “sorry to interrupt” to baby, grabs the knot at her shoulder, and then shifts baby to her back. Frame changes to Elena bent at an angle, and baby resting on her back.] Subtitles: Back rebozo carry. [Elena is retying the knot by her right shoulder. Frame changes to Elena leaning in towards the lens, showing a side angle of the wrap job, and baby is gazing at the lens, too. Baby then babbles with both hands and mouth- Elena asks, WHAT? Baby points to something beyond camera. Frame changes to Elena standing farther away from the lens, showing the full extent of the wrap job, including the back, front, and both side shots. The wrap is knotted at the right of her chest, with a pass covering her left breast. Elena smiles. Frame fades out into a new scene of Elena sitting with baby in a ring sling on a light-green bench in the same backyard, under a tree shade. Elena is positioned with her right side facing the lens. Elena is kissing baby and snuggling baby as baby is in the sling. Baby is looking in the opposite direction over Elena’s shoulder. ]
Elena: Because I became so immersed in babywearing, I decided to start [Subtitles: Wrap In ASL] Wrap In ASL. I contacted another Deaf Latina mother to design a logo for me, I set up a Facebook page, a blog, and more. My main reason for doing all of this is to spread babywearing education to all Deaf parents and caregivers. I really appreciate the community’s support in making sure all Deaf parents feel empowered, independent, and able to take care of our future generations. [Baby turns to camera lens, Elena smiles. Baby sign-babbles to camera lens and to Elena. Elena places her hands over baby’s heads and snuggles. Video fades to black.]