Since the birth of my son León at the end of October, I’ve been living in a state of constant wonder. Wonder that my body was capable of giving life, again, after two losses. Wonder that this being who was growing inside of me can already open his eyes and look at the lights on the Christmas tree. Wonder at how little my mind is projecting into the future these days, focusing instead on the present, on recognising a new expression on León’s face or the way his neck moves in a different way. Wonder at how great it is not to feel overwhelmed by the stress of holding several jobs at the same time.
So if I am taking a brief break right now to write this newsletter, I do it with a little bit of resentment towards my past self who said I would be taking a full-fledged maternity leave. I am writing it late, way past my usual deadline, knowing that it will reach your inbox on a day other than Thursday, which is when I usually send it. But I am battling with myself because I know it is important.
I am sometimes shy about this newsletter, which is about to turn two years old. I tell myself that I haven’t dedicated enough time to its outreach, to make it known on social networks, that growth has stalled for over a year, that the chances that a keen reader may randomly stumble upon it are so tiny that really there is not much point in writing it.
Let’s keep exploring the importance of early childhood
But then I am also very proud. Proud of how many of you read it week after week, of the emails in which you congratulate me or just send thought-provoking comments my way. I am proud of the research I do for it, and the personal writing too. I am proud of its mission: making sure that we all realise the importance of early childhood and what comes just before. I am also proud of its principles, especially of how much I believe in the community that supports it — by that I mean, you, my readers.
So, I am typing this with one hand while I hold León’s head with the other, taking a break from caring for my newborn because I want to ask you to please continue supporting this work.
Supporting research and journalism about early childhood
By supporting this newsletter, you will be supporting an independent journalist, and mother, who lost her job as a journalist two years ago during the pandemic.
But I wanted to continue my work. Early childhood development is a crucial topic that the media often ignores or covers in sensationalised ways. We’re raising the next generation of leaders, activists, nurses, doctors, politicians, you name it. The decisions we take today on how to raise children will have repercussions for decades to come, if not longer.
I am doing my work through this newsletter, but also through my position at the Dart Center for Journalism and Media at Columbia University, who have picked me as their senior advisor to their Early Childhood Journalism Initiative.
Over this past year, my work has been recognised by big journalism organisations such as the ICFJ and the Solutions Journalism Network, who have given me grants that have made some of my reporting possible. I have written for new magazines, such as La Revue Dessinée Italia, turning a story about obstetric violence into a comic. And the Bernard van Leer Foundation, a leading early childhood development organisation, invited me to guest edit their yearly magazine, Early Childhood Matters.
My work is really making a difference. But it always starts here, with the ideas that I put to you, and which you help me refine.
A year in review
Since the end of the year is quickly approaching, here are my favourite stories from this year and a reminder of the topics this newsletter covers.
When Roe v. Wade was overturned in the U.S., with far-reaching and devastating consequences for women, I wrote about how criminalising abortion jeopardises everybody’s reproductive rights — even those who have miscarriages.
I visited the Mavrovouni refugee camp in Lesbos, the Greek island that has been one of the main arrival points for asylum seekers and other migrants for many years. I spoke to pregnant women and new mothers about how traumatic it can be to begin a life without the right support.
When Russia invaded Ukraine in February, I asked what it is like for a child to experience war and what may help them on a day-to-day basis. (I also later looked at how safe spaces can be created for children who experience war.)
What happens when a child has an imaginary friend? Can it help children develop, or is it a dangerous exercise that can lead children to lose grip of reality? I looked at both the science and at a very special imaginary friend, Baidui. (If you want to know what happened to Baidui, this is the second part of his story.)
Earlier this year, the U.S. faced a serious shortage of baby formula and suddenly everyone was talking about breastfeeding as a solution. I took a deeper look at the politics of formula and breastfeeding, explaining why it was not the solution to the U.S. formula shortage.
Have you heard about gentle parenting, and have you tried it yourself? And have you ever felt like a failure for not managing to apply it to the children in your life? I wrote about a personal experience, and what insights it gave me into the different fads of parenting.
I’d love to hear about the stories that have touched or affected you most this year. Please hit reply to share your thoughts. You can also leave a comment below this story on the website (commenting is one of the perks you get by becoming a paying member).
I will be back before the end of the year to mark our two-year anniversary. In the meantime, a genuine thank you for being here.
With love and care,
📣 The First 1,000 Days is edited by community member and friend, Shaun Lavelle.