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  • Writer's pictureClaire Tchaikowski

The road so far, and where we're going.

Updated: Nov 10, 2020

I’ve not written a post from a personal perspective for ages now. I got swept up in a spiral that has changed my life completely. 6 years have passed since I sat there watching Rupert Bear with my toddler on catchup TV, getting angry about the content of an advert directed at women, openly undermining our abilities and undercutting our intelligence. In an interesting parallel that has had me pondering the impact that advertising has on our self-belief, I completely underestimated what was about to happen next.

This is described in more detail elsewhere, but having mentioned the possibility of producing an advert for breastfeeding and opening a facebook group to explore the idea, people started showing up to offer help. And the project grew and grew, harnessing the passion and skills of the people who showed up.

We came from the UK, from Lebanon, France, the United States, Ireland, Switzerland, from Nigeria, Canada and Australia. We were from different walks of life and professions, mothers in their teens to grandmothers, all backgrounds, Faiths, and all sorts of socio-economic and family situations. Opposing extremes to some people. But not to us. We were all, and still are, just passionate humans collaborating to uplift each other and others.

After the ad launch in January 2017, hundreds of emails started flooding in from all corners of the world asking to use the advert and our human milk infographic. They came from lactation consultants, from midwives, nurses, from peer supporters, infant feeding Leads and groups, from doctors, scientists, university tutors, medical schools, local Government departments of 5 countries…

And I had not planned a single one of these. It was incredible to receive these messages. I was astounded, excited, honoured, and, a year later when the emails were still coming to my inbox every day, I was also finally fully aware of what I had started. The momentum was incredible.

That sounds very glossy. So here's the underbelly. Not only did I completely underestimate the amount and impact of the work in the lead-up to the advert shoot and launch, but I’ve also spent the 3.5 years since then playing catch up with all the things I had never imagined would follow.

I'm also a full time carer, and I don’t mind admitting that I've dropped many juggling plates along the way. I've upset some people and it’s kept me awake for months. I’m still making amends as I go, balancing and learning as best and as fast as I can. I've burnt out several times. I've sobbed my eyes out on my partner's shoulder.

Some of it has been elating, inspiring, beautiful. And some of it has been draining and awful. And my goodness I’ve learned so much. Looking back I suppose I was naive. But then it wasn’t a “planned Organisation”. I was “just” an overwhelmed, pretty isolated, and very annoyed mother who put her finger on a change that it turns out I wasn’t the only one longing for.

I don’t say this for sympathy. Only to explain where we've come from and where we are now, and to show that sometimes muddling through as best you can is all you can do. And it is enough. This is the journey. Changing paradigms is a messy business. And also absolutely worth it.

It had been a dream of mine for years to start a brand of some sort. One that had meaning, that inspired community, changed how business is conducted, and that took care of the Earth. I'm passionate about politics, and I won't hide that I'm raging about how the world is organised, and how much damage we are capable of inflicting on each other and on our planet. I guess motherhood 'accidentally' precipitated what I'd been marinating for decades.

I've been a professional songwriter, singer and vocal arranger for over 20 years. That's a dream that came true too. I love the Arts, all forms, for the freedom they afford to push boundaries. When it became clear that Human Milk's work was needed, Kirstie MacLeod, Katherine Wright, Lisa Ravenscroft, Daniel Puzey and I teamed up to found Human Milk Clothing & Accessories. We wanted to set something up that would serve as another great vehicle for the science, raise funds for our education work, and bring a new perspective to maternity and womanhood.

We wanted clothing that we could wear anytime, pregnant or not, breastfeeding or not. Clothes that don’t box us in. That are inclusive of more than one of our roles and shapes at once. Sustainable, ethical clothes that are produced in respectful conditions, that you don’t have to throw out or pass on when you stop breastfeeding.

It's taken what feels like ages. We've progressed in a semi-organised, reactive, intuitive kind of way. I’m a dreamer who says “Hey let’s do this thing!!!”, but I can’t put together a business plan to save my own life.

So after searching for a long time for the right person, our MD Eva Fernandes came on board in May 2020, and we've been taking everything apart in order to put it back together in a sustainable, organised way. This is where we are now. We're ready.

Though we remain open to suggestions that are even better, you’ll find our plans and the funding we need to find in order to succeed here. Everything that can be done on family savings and by calling in favours and volunteers has been done. There are a few ways you can help. We need you!

It feels very grown up. But it's time. We're all under the influence of centuries of prohibitive controlling of women's bodies and abilities, and many decades of heavy marketing that tells us that women's bodies are decorative, rather than phenomenal and vital to the health and survival of our future generations. Women and infants are suffering the consequences of this perception.

It's time to change this. It's time to take care of each other.

Thank you for reading and journeying together.


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