Mother’s Day is sweeter for three Kiwi mums whose “baby” is poised to take flight in the United States.
In the best tradition of start-up businesses, Bridget Fogarty, Jane Langley and Becky Ollivier worked from their respective kitchen tables to write and publish Little Gems: Marvels and Musings on Motherhood From Around the World.
Now they’ve signed a deal with US publisher Andrews McMeel Universal who wants 10,000 copies on bookstore shelves across North America for Mother’s Day next year. That’s 8000 more than the initial print run, funded by a 2015 Kickstarter campaign that raised $12,000.
The trio don’t know how much the deal will ultimately be worth — that depends on sales — but are thrilled that the book’s positive messages about motherhood are a step closer to going global.
The gift book celebrates pregnancy, labour, birth and motherhood by bringing together a mix of sometimes funny, always fascinating folklore from around the world. Fogarty, now pregnant with her third child, got the idea after having one baby in the United Kingdom and one in New Zealand.
She says there were marked differences in attitudes from expectant mothers and health professionals in Auckland compared to London, where people seemed more relaxed about what to eat during pregnancy and whether or not a woman was going to breastfeed her baby.
A teacher, researcher and producer, Fogarty started musing on cultural differences, researching different ideas, theories and folklore from around the world and throughout history.
“I think we over-complicate things; after all, people have been having babies since the year dot, often in far more difficult circumstances than many of us do today.”
She asked childhood friend Langley, an advertising copywriter, whether her notes could be wrangled into something resembling a book. Langley was enthusiastic about the idea right from the start, saying it’s a non-judgmental book and a reaction against some of the more proscriptive pregnancy and parenting books she came across while pregnant.
“We want women to be reminded that childbirth is a miracle … Don’t worry about ‘the rules’, don’t feel you have to rush around madly and don’t think there’s only one way to do things. Look at what we used to do in ancient and recent history; look at what other cultures do.”
When a mutual friend suggested Ollivier could illustrate it, the book began to take shape. It took Ollivier nine months to complete the book: three months of illustrating, three months of design and proofing and three months for the printing. It timed perfectly with her second pregnancy and, the day after the book launch party, she went into labour.
The women hope Little Gems provides a moment of relief from the pressure to do things in a certain way. They say if there’s one tradition we should think more seriously about adopting, it’s one popular in many Asian cultures where mothers stay home with their babies for the first month to six weeks to rest and recover.
The US deal caps a fantastic two years for the first-time book producers who saw Little Gems win the Penguin Random House NZ Award for Best lllustrated Book and the Mary Egan Publishing Award for Best Typography at the Panz Book Design Awards in 2016.
Given their success, work is now underway on a second book about the first year or so of a child’s life.
Some of the folklore Fogarty discovered while researching Little Gems includes:
• An old Russian proverb claims that labour will go more smoothly if both parents-to-be confess the names of all their previous lovers.
• In Kurdistan, swinging a chicken over a woman’s head was thought to ease labour pain.
• As well as being encouraged to let their hair down in preparation for birth (so there are no “ties” that could impede birth), Turkish women are advised to smell the roses while pregnant because the soothing and beautifying benefits will be passed on to their unborn child.
• Mexican tradition holds that plenty of nausea in pregnancy equals plenty of hair on the baby’s head (science, according to Little Gems, seems to back that one up).
• In Sarawak, Borneo, birth is thought to go more smoothly if no “pesky” turtles sneak into the room. Why? The turtle’s neck, which can go in and out of its shell, is thought to resemble a baby not coming out properly.
• Many British and American parenting books talk about the importance of putting baby to sleep in the same darkened room for every nap; in Denmark, parents and caregivers aim to give their little ones as many outdoor naps as the weather will allow, believing babies eat more and are more alert after sleeping outside in the fresh air.
Originally published by NZ Herald, 12 May 2018. Written by Dionne Christian.