Sixteen years ago, when my son was a baby, I was an expert at baby gear. I could tell you the crash-test ratings of car seats. I would look at strollers and know exactly how much they cost. But my crowning achievement was my expert skills with the Ergobaby backpack.
Oh, how times have changed.
Sixteen years ago, the Ergobaby was innovative because it was so comfortable to wear. A hip strap bore the brunt of the weight, and two shoulder straps distributed the rest of it. When the baby was little they snuggled up against your chest, but when they became older, you’d wear the baby on your back.
I had a giant cape with two holes cut in the middle of it; one for my head, and one for my baby. Give me the Ergo, the cape, and a golf umbrella, and we were weatherproof.
So when I saw an infant backpack for sale at the local thrift store, I snatched it up thinking it would be great fun for when I babysat my nephew. It wasn’t an Ergo, but Evenflo was a brand I recognized. I checked the internet to make sure there weren’t any recalls on this model before bought it.
The first time I tried to wear it, I realized I was in over my head — literally. I had to put it on head-first because I couldn’t figure out how the straps worked. There was a hip strap, like my old Ergo, but instead of shoulder straps there was one more that was a mystery. “What the heck?” I texted my friends a picture. “How do I wear this?”
“Maybe it’s a cross-body strap,” someone suggested.
“Could it be a hip sling?” asked another.
I experimented with both options and realized that the mystery strap was meant to cross my back. My husband helped adjust it properly while I kept both hands on the baby to make sure he was safe. After 20 minutes, I discovered the cross-body strap threw my back out of alignment and wasn’t comfortable. Still, I got a few more uses out of the Evenflo until I asked my sister to bring her Ergo with her the next time I watched my nephew.
Strapping into the Ergo was like old times, even though it was a new model. Sure, I wasn’t a 27-year-old mother anymore with unlined skin and wide-eyed optimism, but as a 43-year-old aunt, I had skills and experience on my side.
Click, snap, tighten, cinch — we were ready to go. We walked around the neighborhood and looked at flowers in the back yard. But then we reentered the house, and I faced my hubris.
Removing my nephew from the Ergo was easy. Getting me out of it? That proved impossible. I couldn’t unclick the hip strap. It had a safety lock on it that my 2005 Ergo definitely did not possess. “Help!” I called. “I’m stuck in the baby backpack.” Unfortunately, everyone was on Zoom calls and couldn’t hear me. Finally, I stretched the strap out as far as it would go and slinked away to freedom.
Maybe next time I babysit I should stick with something easy, like a stroller. How hard could that be to assemble? I bet stroller technology hasn’t changed a bit.
Jennifer Bardsley publishes books under her own name and the pseudonym Louise Cypress. Find her online on Instagram @jenniferbardsleyauthor, on Twitter @jennbardsley or on Facebook as Jennifer Bardsley Author. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.