The Amautik and the Mother-Baby Bond

Back in April 2011, after my husband and I finished a 5-day ski touring trip in Auyuittuq National Park on Baffin Island, we stopped to take a peek into an artist’s co-op in Iqaluit.

From smoothly sculptured stones to block printing, Inuit art is some of Canada’s finest. Wanting to take home a little reminder of our trip to the Arctic, I chose a small print of an Inuit woman and her baby looking at each other within the hood of her amautik. The amautik, a parka with a built-in baby pouch in the hood, is a clever garment, developed out of necessity to keep the baby safe from the elements. It also creates a beautiful picture of mother and child sharing one vessel as they go about their daily activities. I could never have known when I purchased the print how relevant that image would be to me just two years later.

Ski touring in Auyuittuq National Park. The famous Mt. Thor on the left. Photo by Paul Zizka Photography.
Ski touring in Auyuittuq National Park. The famous Mt. Thor on the left. Photo by Paul Zizka Photography.

I don’t have an amautik but I do have a Moby Wrap that keeps Maya close to my body when I’m needing to carry her for longer stretches and when she needs to feel close. It keeps me hands-free (in fact she’s sitting in it right now sleeping as I type) but still closely connected. She can hear my heartbeat as well as I can hear her breathing. A carrier like the Moby makes me feel like I have extended the pregnancy well beyond the 40 weeks, and in these first few weeks I believe that’s how it should be. I have heard the term mother-child used to describe the mother and baby as one single unit after birth, something to be respected and honoured to allow the child a smooth entry into the world. An article on Scientific American even suggests that mothers and babies share cells. No wonder the bond needs to be strong.

It is an important reminder for me as I think back to that ski touring trip in the Arctic and many of the adventures I have been on in these recent years. I was in a very different place then – mainly kid-free, but also free of many other responsibilities. Being a freelance writer, I had freedom to travel whenever I wanted and set my schedule as I pleased. I could choose which projects and contracts I wanted to take on, and feel a sense of satisfaction when I handed them in. My employment history – I rarely lasted more than a year-and-a-half in a job – reveals a lot about my preferences for project-based work and why I moved into self-employment. My work has been so much more fulfilling ever since I made that shift.

Resting with Maya in the Moby Wrap. Photo by Paul Zizka Photography.
Resting with Maya in the Moby Wrap. Photo by Paul Zizka Photography.

But raising a child has no deadline, no clear end. Motherhood is an endless contract and one I signed the day I stared at a pregnancy test and said to myself, “Well, there’s no going back now.” I can’t think of a better thing to invest my heart into, though. My work can wait. For now, I have a full time gig spending time with the most adorable little girl on the planet. Even though there is no end to this commitment, there is something new to be found in every day, every moment.

And while some day she’ll spread her wings and fly (hopefully not too) far away, in many ways Maya and I will be sharing an amautik for the rest of our lives.

Author: Meghan J. Ward

Meghan J. Ward is an outdoor, travel and adventure writer based in Banff, Canada, and a Fellow of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society. Meghan has written several books, as well as produced content for films, anthologies, blogs and some of North America’s top outdoor, fitness and adventure publications. She has a forthcoming travel memoir (Fall 2022), to published by Rocky Mountain Books.

3 thoughts

    1. I do really enjoy it. And it’s just so much more convenient than holding her in my arms or hauling out the stroller. At some times of day it is simply the only way to calm her down and that makes total sense!

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