Being a "mindful mother" is something that many of us aim for, but few of us manage to actually achieve. Thanks to the realities of modern motherhood (sleep deprivation, demanding schedules ... need I go on?), it's not always a walk in the park. But Jemma Farrow found her ticket to mindful parenting with just that - a walk in the park.
As the founder of Zarpar Bebê, Jemma discovered that babywearing (and the associated fresh-air benefits) were the only way to embrace her motherhood journey. “The sleep deprivation combined with frustration and feelings of failure are incredibly overwhelming for a new mother, I felt like I was drowning in them,” she says. “I cried a lot in those first few weeks, but once the overwhelm become just too much to bear I started researching alternative ways to help settle a baby. And that was my first intro into babywearing. I purchased a stretchy wrap when he was 6 weeks and it changed everything! It just felt so instinctual to carry him around with me, he was so much more content and I barely heard him cry anymore. I was able to handle the sleep deprivation more as I could get outside and move my body and help to reset my mind in nature.”
Thus began her foray into babywearing. After testing out numerous options and never finding one that worked perfectly from a functionality and aesthetic perspective, Jemma began making her own. “I have a true passion for beautiful and authentic textiles and found some stunning Nepalese fabrics, so I sat down to my borrowed sewing machine to begin my creation,” Jemma says. “I knew it needed to be as natural as I could make it, it needed to be light and breathable and above all comfortable. Beautiful was just an added bonus.”
This was the beginning of the Zarpar Bebê story, which has gone on to not only be a beautiful business, but a solution for parenting Jemma’s three children, Kyon, Zahlee & Aruanâ. “Zarpar exists to help connect our parenting through nature; to be a platform for this beautiful community to share in your natural parenting journey and feel supported,” Jemma says. “Helping to remind you that your instincts are all you need. That immersing yourself into nature and anchoring your senses into the moment can be all you need to realign your energies and find that beautiful sense of calm.”
We spoke to Jemma about babywearing, her business, ethical manufacturing (she’s a strong proponent) and making the juggle work – with two free hands and a couple of babies in tow …
Take us back to June 2014 when your first baby boy arrived into this world – can you share with us your home birth story?
Funnily enough, it was never a planned homebirth. I had the society’s idea instilled in me that birth belonged in the hospital, so that is where we had planned to be (I now have a very different view!).
My waters broke at home, so we went straight up to the hospital assuming the baby was coming any moment. My surges hadn’t started yet, so they sent us home to labour and come back when I was getting close.
My husband and I went out to dinner and then home to rest. Two hours after arriving home, I was well into active labour. I had prepared myself during my pregnancy with hypnobirthing practices and felt very ready and calm throughout. I never truly realised just how close I was to birthing this little babe at the time as I was just so in the moment and focused on my body.
My husband called the midwife at around midnight just to keep her informed, and she told him all was OK and that there will be some time to go before we needed to make our way there. Half an hour after that phone call, I felt my little babe’s head between my legs so there was no way we were going anywhere.
Lucas phoned the midwife back again and she drove straight to our house (which apparently isn’t allowed by hospital midwives. Love this woman!) and she advised my husband to phone an ambulance.
Those few minutes of pushing my firstborn into the world on our own bed at home with just my husband by my side will be the most treasured memories – right there in the middle of the night was all that we needed, such a raw and powerful connection between all 3 of us.
Seconds after my son was born, the midwife and 3 paramedics were crowding our bedroom. I wish I could have had just a few more moments of just the 3 of us, but my son and I were taken straight to the hospital.
The entire experience was life-changing, it made me realise that our intuition and our innate knowing runs deep. It took me a few months after my sons birth to realise this lesson, but it has now shaped my motherhood journey.
Your son didn’t sleep without your touch – what do you remember about this time? How do you handle the sleep deprivation? What about the feelings of frustration and loneliness?
This was so incredibly difficult for me purely because I wasn’t prepared. I had read a few newborn books while I was pregnant, and they all made it seem so easy, that a baby would simply be placed in his bassinet and fall asleep and be content.
The sleep deprivation combined with frustration and feelings of failure are incredibly overwhelming for a new mother, I felt like I was drowning in them. The advice I always seemed to receive was, “maybe your swaddle is too tight/too loose.” “Maybe he’s too hot.” “Maybe you need to feed him from your other breast for longer.” “Why don’t you try supplementing with formula”. Advice to make you feel even more frustrated. Not once was I told that this is normal, you are doing nothing wrong – trust your instincts and follow your baby.
I cried a lot in those first few weeks, but once the overwhelm become just too much to bear I started researching alternative ways to help settle a baby. And that was my first intro into babywearing. I purchased a stretchy wrap when he was 6 weeks and it changed everything! It just felt so instinctual to carry him around with me, he was so much more content and I barely heard him cry anymore. I was able to handle the sleep deprivation more as I could get outside and move my body and help to reset my mind in nature.
Many mothers feel alone in those early days – what is your advice to them?
Trust your instincts – it can be very difficult to do so when we have all been conditioned a certain way, however when you trust in your instincts, you find confidence in your ability to parent your child.
When you find that confidence, your days become a lot less difficult and you will find that you can connect more easily with other mothers who are on a similar journey without the fear of judgement.
We created Zarpar Bebe to empower families to BRAVELY follow your instincts. Bravely, because it is not always easy to shut the outside advice and opinions out, but doing so will help you find your peace.
You discovered babywearing – tell us about how this changed your motherhood journey? And what did you discover about the world of baby carriers?
I purchased my first carrier when my son was 6 weeks old and as soon as we started using it the change was phenomenal. He would spend most of the day within the carrier on our walks and as I got things done around the house.
We both became calmer and I felt the overwhelm of trying to do everything “right” had lifted. I found my confidence in my parenting and finally had found my freedom that I thought I had lost.
The world of baby carriers is a very overwhelming space. There are many different options, all with 100 different bells and whistles that you are told you need and typically the sales assistants in the bigger retail chains will sell you the carrier they will get the biggest commission from. When you are just starting out, understanding what it is you need from an unbiased perspective was difficult to find.
I purchased 6 different baby carriers before beginning Zarpar Bebê. I just needed a simpler option.
Tell us about how Zarpar Bebê began…
After my second babe was born in Feb 2016, she was another gorgeous koala baby who needed lots of cuddles but none of the carriers I had quite did the job in our hot Australian summer and for a now busy mum of 2.
I needed something that was easy to use and breathable. Beautiful design was now also a factor – as after feeling like a utilitarian mum for all that time in my previous carriers, it was time to feel like me again.
I have a true passion for natural and raw textiles and after countless weeks I was able to source some of the most stunning handwoven fabrics from a beautiful and remote Nepalese community.
My close friend loaned me her sewing machine, and I sat down to create my new Baby Carrier.
I fell in love with my new carrier and so did all the mamas around me and that was just the beginning of the Zarpar Bebê journey.
It was just me and my loaned sewing machine creating the Zarpar Bebe carriers in the first 12 months, late nights at the sewing machine with a baby on my back was the norm. But today, we now employ a beautiful team of home-based women workers in Indonesia who construct our carriers and we continue to support the remote communities of Nepal through our sustainable fabrics.
Thousands of mamas in all corners of the globe are enjoying their Zarpar Bebe carriers and it brings me so much pride and joy that I have been able to help so many families through these challenging, yet beautiful years!
You worked in the retail and fashion industry for more than a decade – can you tell us about your career path?
I studied fashion technology in 2004 in New Zealand. I then moved to Sydney where I worked for a luxury fashion house as the MaxMara buyers assistant.
After a year I moved onto London where I started working at Day Birger et Mikkelsen as the showroom manager – it was here where I learnt about strong work culture and truly beautiful craftsmanship.
I had a short time at Nicole Farhi as a merchandiser before making my way back to the Southern Hemisphere.
The designer job opportunities were hard to come by, so I ended up as a fashion buyer for a few of the high street retail chains – Ezibuy and then the Specialty Fashion Group.
What about the darker aspects of manufacturing – what was your experience?
It was during my time at the high street retail chains where I first witnessed the greed within the industry. As a buyer, it was my job to range and develop weekly product drops inspired from samples which had been purchased from designer and fast-fashion retailers across the world and then negotiate and engineer pricing with the supplier into the company’s target price points. At times, this meant a matter of a mere few cents to achieve the inflated margin goals.
Sample purchasing was incredibly wasteful and total over consumerism to the extreme. Buying trips across the world would happen every 4-6 weeks where hundreds of samples were purchased worth thousands and thousands of dollars, only to be destroyed with a slash through the fabric or drawn on with a permanent marker in order to get back through customs in our suitcases. This meant that if a sample wasn’t used for development, it would simply go to waste and end up in a charity bin i.e. landfill.
When developing the products, the quality was always being sacrificed, cheaper synthetic and poorly made fabrics were favoured to bring products into the price. Suppliers would severely reduce their prices, simply to keep the company on as a buyer. And as a result, it meant less pay for their workers.
On one occasion I worked with a supplier based out of India, he visited Australia to secure our business. He was a lovely and honest man making a living for his family. We built a beautiful range of products together; orders were placed, and goods were in process. He was a week late to deliver the goods – as such, our Managing Director chose to cancel the order completely. Payment for these orders were always on the company’s terms, so suppliers would not receive anything until the products had been delivered, which meant this supplier received absolutely nothing for his and his team’s hard work.
Thankfully, I was able to rework this product back into a later range and I convinced our Managing Director to reinstate the order, however, this is not an isolated instance and happens regularly within the fast fashion industry.
As upset as it makes me to have been a part of and a contributor to such an unethical industry, I am grateful I was exposed to it as it has made me even more passionate and determined to advocate for a better way.
You ended up sourcing fabrics from a beautiful and remote Nepalese community – these now are the signature fabrics of the Zarpar Bebê Baby Carriers - tell us about this journey?
In 2008 I spent 3 months in the North East of India, a region called Jharkhand. I was living within the communities and helped within the schools teaching English. It was here I got to discover the incredible artisanal talents of rural communities, but also the isolation they experience of not being able to make a living from their craft.
My experience there etched itself in my mind and I would always be thinking of ways to support these talented people. I began fabric sourcing in 2015 and I was given the Nepal contact from the friends I made in India. I didn’t really know what I was looking for when I first started sourcing, but when the Allo samples turned up on my door and I learnt the story of the process and the people, I knew this was the one.
Our fabrics are handwoven on traditional looms using a fibre called Allo which is grown in abundance around the Himalayan regions and as such has created a means of income for these otherwise marginalized communities. It is a very sustainable fabric supply as the plant almost grows uncontrollably making it a fast renewable resource. The process involved in the production of the fabric, though labour-intensive, is done by hand which is cutting down chemicals, energy, machinery and pollution.
25% of the Nepalese population live below the poverty line making Nepal one of the poorest countries in the world. The simple lack of well-paying jobs is a major factor to this statistic.
With numerous natural disasters and countless civil wars, it has forced many Nepalese into incredibly vulnerable situations with women and children being the most affected.
We are very proud to be supporting some of these families but strive to do more. It is our goal to expand this further with a fully supported community centre for the families we work with in Nepal.
Tell us about the linen and the materials you use to make your carriers?
We use linen in the main body of our carriers because it is the strongest and most durable of natural fibres.
Linen possesses no elasticity, which ensures the carriers maintain their shape over time. Linen feels cool to the touch and is a very absorbent fabric, taking on up to 20% moisture before it even feels damp. Due to this, it makes it a very comfortable fabric under any conditions, as it quickly absorbs any perspiration without making you feel sticky and sweaty.
Linen is a textile woven from the fibres of the flax plant – it is one of the world’s oldest textiles. It requires little maintenance during the growing period, with minimal water and chemicals used. The fibre is ready for harvest every 100 days meaning it is a very fast renewable and sustainable resource. There is no waste from the flax plant, once the textile fibres have been extracted, what remains is the flaxseed which is turned into meal and oil.
We also use bamboo/cotton padding through our straps of our wrap carrier to ensure it is totally breathable for you and baby.
And what about the lives of your makers? Where do they live/can you share any memorable stories you’ve had with them?
Our makers are based in Bali, Indonesia. Marisa is our production manager and she has been the driving force behind our brand.
She has a beautiful 10-year-old daughter who she raised as a single mama, and she is a total inspiration to me working hard to build her life without family support and being able to provide for her daughter. She has just shared some beautiful news that she is expecting another baby in the new year and I couldn’t be happier for her!
In Marisa’s team is also Silva. Silva and her husband moved to Bali from Jakarta looking for work and they were lucky enough to meet Marisa. Silva has 2 children, 16 and 19. Her eldest son is still living in Jakarta so it is just her, her husband and her daughter in Bali.
Our Nepalese makers are based in the small town of Khar, Nepal. A stunningly beautiful mountain village. They have a very simple and traditional way of life. I will be visiting early next year and I cannot wait to create the next part of our journey for Zarpar and the Khar community!
A working mother of three – how do you get it all done. What are your time management tips?
I’m still trying to figure it out, to be honest – most days are a total juggle. But making sure I have a small moment of connection with each babe throughout the day helps to keep everyone balanced and allows me a little more time without distraction.
I am lucky to have my husband around a fair bit – however, he too runs his own business, so we try to work together as best we can.
I have learnt to take the pressure off myself, I try not to be busy for busy sake. Each Monday I write out my week’s tasks and try to allocate time to do each. Not every week goes to plan, but we make it work.
How do you handle feelings of anxiety/stress?
By re-setting. When things start to get a bit much, I switch off everything and take everyone for a walk to the beach. Or simply sit together in the garden. When there are no distractions and we are all connected, the anxiety doesn’t feel so intense.
What’s your approach to your inbox/digital devices?
I have my phone with me a lot, I probably use it much too often. But I try to be strategic with the time I spend on it and rarely use it in front of my kids if only to take photos of them.
I avoid Facebook as often as I can. Instagram I am able to use a scheduling app to post to my business page so I don’t get stuck scrolling too often, but it is difficult to stay totally clear of it as this is where I connect with my beautiful Zarpar community.
My inbox is currently out of control! I need help, haha!
What’s your advice for mothers looking for a career change/wanting to launch a business or step in a new career direction?
Just start and learn the rest along the way while you follow your passion and purpose. Some days it may feel as if you are getting nowhere, but every small step creates the big picture – just keep going.
I would never have thought I would be running a successful natural parenting business 4 years ago with 3 small people by my side, but anything is possible.
What’s your approach to self-care – how do you look after yourself?
I wish there was more time for this, but It can be super hard to prioritise. There is a lot of demands throughout my days, so stepping away from everyone isn’t always easy.
But I do try to do a regular aerial stretch and yoga class, some weeks I am there 5 times, other weeks I’m there only once. I do also love pottery and clay building, it’s such a therapeutic activity – I try to get to a studio as often as I can.
And sleep! I co-sleep with my littlest (and my other 2 tend to migrate into our bed through the night), so early bedtimes are so essential for me to make sure I get enough sleep!