The other night I dreamt that I was in a dark garage and I was trying to slowly get a car out of a complicated parking spot. I don’t like driving, but I’ll tell you about that some other time. Back in my dream, I got behind the wheel and I started driving, slowly, until suddenly I realised I couldn’t find the brake. The wall was just ahead of me and I couldn’t stop this car that wasn’t mine moving doggedly towards it. It was a dream, but it felt very real. I desperately felt around with my right foot looking for the brake but it was too late: the car had already slammed against the wall.

The dream came only a few days after a much-needed conversation with members of this community on Zoom. The chat was partly sparked by the idea of movement and how children start moving at their own rhythm, and how hard it is not to fall into the milestone trap and be anxious about whether they are behind, or boast if they are ahead. It was also inspired by the courageous gesture by US gymnastics champion Simone Biles to withdraw from the Olympics to take care of her mental health.

This is the thing. I’ve had a very challenging year from a personal perspective. Doing this newsletter is an act of love and trust that things will grow, but it is also far from sustainable now. I need to grow, and there are many steps to take on my to-do list, many stories to write, people to talk to, and partnership to form. But just as children sleep more during growth spurts, I also need some rest in order to grow and flourish. I wrote a whole piece about this need to slow down and find my own rhythm as my closing thoughts after attending the Entrepreneurial Journalism program at CUNY.

So, for a few weeks, please expect a shorter newsletter and slower responses to comments and emails. I am trying to spend more time with my family and take care of myself before crashing in slow motion into a dark wall.

In the meantime, I want to leave you with an outline of some of the stories I’m working on, so that I can come back to this list and see how I’ve fared, and you can ask for follow-ups too.

  • I have been reporting on a programme in Greece that is helping migrant mothers breastfeed, as many opt for formula milk instead and don’t have the means to access clean water or to buy enough formula. Expect a story on this soon.
  • I have been following the comments coming in on the document I shared on early education. This is an experiment to see whether you can help me as I develop my thoughts for a series on whether we need early education spaces at all. Here is the Google Doc, so feel free to jump in and see how it’s evolving.
  • I’ve been talking to Silvia, one of the members of this community, about the benefits of reading out loud to children. I’m looking into the research and I’ll also talk to Catherine, another member, about story time in US libraries. If you have any thoughts or experience of reading stories to children in the first 1,000 days of life, please send them my way!
  • Hanny, another member, has told me about the work she’s done in The Netherlands to look into the expectations of mothers before they give birth, and how to support them. I will be following up with her on that soon. Something she told me really caught my attention: midwives reported that babies during Covid restrictions cried much less in the hospital than before. She said this had to do with fewer family visits and unwanted external stimuli. If you gave birth during Covid please get in touch, I’d love to hear about your experience!
  • I will also write about yoga for infants and toddlers, with the support of Maria, another member of this community. And you know the drill: if your toddler is into yoga, I’d love to hear about how that happened.
  • I’m starting a longer investigation into obstetric violence for La Revue Dessinèe Italia, a new Italian magazine that does journalism in comics. The story won’t be published until 2022, but you can expect a preview of my investigation before that.
  • I’ll be reviewing these three books: Jessica Zucker’s I Had a MiscarriageThe Orchid and The Dandelion by Thomas Boyce and Melissa Hogenboom’s The Motherhood Complex. If you’ve read any of them, let’s exchange notes!

As you can see, there is plenty on my plate. So, feel free to share your thoughts about these topics, as well as resources and ideas. As usual, you can reply by email, or as a comment below this story. And thanks to all you members who are contributing to my understanding of The First 1,000 Days.

What I’ve been reading

“The story of how my kids are conceived starts like this: A woman and a woman wanted a baby and so they asked some friends for help,” writes Jennifer Berney in this short essay on Motherwell. She explores many the possible answers that we can give children when they ask how babies are made – and how we can go beyond heteronormative answers that include a man and a woman falling in love. “Babies are made not just through intercourse, but in whatever way sperm finds its way to egg. In 2021, it’s not by any stretch unusual for doctors, friends, and donors to have a hand in making babies,” writes the US author. I look forward to checking out her book The Other Mothers dedicated to her journey to build a family as a queer woman in a gay relationship. Stay tuned for more.

What I’ve been listening to

I’ve started listening to Passenger List, a fiction thriller podcast now in its second season, produced by the talented folks at independent podcast network Radiotopia. Passenger List tells the (fictional) story of Kaitlin Le, a US student of Vietnamese origin who begins her own investigation into the disappearance of Atlantic Flight 702 that carried her twin brother. The podcast has a superb script and some amazing details, such as the family conversations that Le has switching from English to Vietnamese. There is the mystery of an abandoned child too, and an initial plot line that reveals to be a dead end. I will continue listening but for now, highly recommended if you want to take a break from real-life stories. (Although all the story lines in the podcast so far could very well be real.)

What I’ve been watching

This short video of an Argentine dad that has gone viral. The baby’s look of curiosity and admiration while listening to her father playing the guitar and singing is so heart-warming!

Who’s been inspiring me

Joni Hess, a US journalist, wrote this story detailing how her personal experience of giving birth to a stillborn baby helped pass a law in the US state of Louisiana that will help other families with stillborns by offsetting funeral costs, mental health services and medical bills. Hess testified before the Louisiana Congress about her own experience and how she had to make tough choices regarding her stillborn daughter’s funeral because she couldn’t afford it. It is a heartbreaking story, but also hugely inspiring.

With love and care,
Irene

📣 Imogen Champagne, a member of this community, edited and improved this newsletter with lots of love, logging in from Bega, Australia. Thanks, Imogen! (If there are mistakes, they are my fault, not hers!)

📷 Photo credits and alt-text: Photo by Михаил Павленко on Unsplash, snail on a tree branch.

This is not a space to simply comment. This is where you take part in the community.

2 thoughts on “Slowing down – and a preview of the stories I’m working on

  1. Very wise of you to hit your brake!
    I’ve given birth in Covid times – May 8th 2020, even my husband wasn’t there the whole time I was in the hospital due to covid restrictions. I absolutely loved the first week at home when visits were forbidden.
    My toddler loves yoga (but I don’t know how to find a nice toddler course in Dutch). She got into it by copying her aunt and nieces during a sleepover.. now we regularly read a yoga book where we try the poses of animals. Good luck for you and all the best for your downtime!

    1. Thank you, Wies, it was much needed!
      Can I ask which book you read with the yoga poses? I am still researching the yoga story!
      PS You are not the first person to tell me they loved not having visits in the first weeks because of Covid! There is something in there that is very important, I think!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *