JOIN PROJECT - Lockdown BabyBabble - Your Story!
Welcome, Lockdown Mums! This is a special place for those of us who became mums - or became pregnant - in the Year of Lockdown 2020! Here's where you can make your mark alongside other Lockdown Mums, standing up and shouting out loud - I'm here and I survived becoming a mother in a global pandemic! Hear me ROAR!


BACKGROUND
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I had my (first) baby girl, Alicia, in March, and due to lockdown preventing us from meeting other mums and babies, I really struggled to connect with my new identity. After a traumatic birth (she was unresponsive, went straight to intensive care; I had a retained placenta, needed emergency surgery) I felt so stranded, and on top of that, there was no way to seek external validation with other mums.

I decided to set up a writing website to explore these ideas and as I was isolating with my parents, I was able to do this. You can view it here: www.lockdownbabybabble.com

Whilst I started the website to connect with other new mums, this hasn't happened properly yet. Instead, it has become a magazine about babies and care-giving in lockdown - which is great! - but the majority of contributors aren't mums, and they have focused instead on the broader care-giving theme. There have been some incredible submissions from writer-mums though, and it's been amazing to meet them and read their brave, heart-melting pieces.

But I still want to reach those of you who might not write regularly, who might have never written, or those who just write social media posts (which counts as writing by the way). I haven't reached the amazing mums I finally met in person, during those three glorious months from August to November when we briefly attended those mythical gatherings called Baby Groups! I haven't reached the busiest mums, the newest mums, the sleep-deprived mums, the mums who, like me, struggle with mental health. And I didn't know how to reach you. It only took me 10 months to come up with an idea, and actually put it into action...


SO, WHAT IS THIS?
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This as a template to help you write Your Story. Part-questionnaire, part-journal, part-self-help.

This is an experiment. Maybe no-one will join in. Maybe you'll mean to, but struggle to get round to it. Heck, I took 10 months drafting this over and over in my head before actually managing to sit down and wrestle with the words.

This is a way to share your experiences, your reflections, your true stories, in a way which will hopefully be quick and easy for the busiest people doing the most important job in the hardest of times.

This is the first step in creating your own page on on a website. This will be a legacy, your words as a snapshot amongst a collage of incredible experiences. A collection of moments frozen in time. All our difficulties, our elation, together in one place. Not on social media, disappearing down your feed. Not in your gallery constantly being replaced with new precious memories. Here, in a creative time-capsule, ready for us and our loved ones whenever we choose to revisit it in the future.

This isn't about "perfection" - in fact, it's the opposite. It's about our flaws and how amazing we are in spite of them. This is about capturing something rough, something dark and messy, perhaps something secret, something mundane, but always something honest.

This will be a celebration of all of us, our struggles, our fears and the incredible strength that each of us conjures up every day.

This will be here for an entire year - at least. Responses might close temporarily from time to time, while I collect feedback and make any suggested improvements, but they'll open up again. Maybe we'll even continue it beyond a year if there's enough interest.


WHY JOIN IN?
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Time heals wounds, but it also dilutes the intensity of experience, and memories are quick to fade. That's why it's so important to try and capture something, *anything*, even just a glimpse, of what this year has been like for us - becoming mothers in a global pandemic.

What you provide here will be used to create your very own page on the Lockdown BabyBabble website. You will always have your page, Your Story from this Year of Lockdown. Plus, you'll receive a bespoke illustration created especially for Your Story, which will draw out the essence of your writing and feature on your page. These will be created by artists who are volunteering their time and talent to help support Lockdown BabyBabble. In this way, you'll be preserving your unique experiences in a stylish setting, ready to share with loved ones, and your little ones in the future.

By standing alongside other Lockdown Mums, you'll become part of a long-lasting community. Whilst all our experiences are unique, we will share some of the same struggles. We have been thrust into motherhood, the 'best, most awful job' - so goes the title of a fantastic anthology edited by Katherine May - terrifying, demanding, surreal, unpredictable, all in the midst of a global pandemic.

Writing is a therapeutic exercise, a natural high. Even if you don't know where you're going or what you're trying to say at first, the process of sifting through thoughts and finding the words - whether they're the 'right' words or not - will give you a sense of control, of rejuvenation. And that's just the beginning.

Our experiences throughout this year will continue to define us and our babies as they grow. Beyond Your Story, there will be a private Facebook group, with scope for writing circles, workshops, collaboration, mental health and wellbeing support, parenting chat... Whatever the community feels it could benefit from - whether it will require funding, or assembling a team of volunteers - we will try to accommodate, either myself or with a team of voltuneers. The community will be what we make it.


GUIDELINES
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1. You can spend as much or as little time on this as you like. You can write loads, or just make a few notes. What you write doesn't have to be a 'perfect' final version. You can even copy and paste relevant Facebook / social media posts that you have written in the past.

2. There are six sections, they are: Baby & Me; Our Birth Story; Lockdown Life; Loss, Hope & Recovery; Absolute Stars; Sensory World.

3. Once you have joined the project by inputting your name and email address below, you'll receive an email with a link to the template. You can choose to receive the whole template in one go, or, if you'd prefer bite-sized chucks, you can receive it one section at a time.

4. The template includes a mixture of questions and reflective prompts, and you can answer as much or as little as you like. If you would like help with developing your ideas once your have submitted Your Story template, register your interest below.

5. To save and return to your current draft, click through to "submit", then click "edit my submission" and your browser will open a new page showing your responses. It's a good idea to Bookmark this page. You will also receive an email with a link to edit. If you have any problems, email me at lockdownbabybabble@gmail.com and I can retrieve it for you.

6. Try to answer as quickly as possible, without dwelling too long on each question - there'll be plenty of time to make any changes later on.

7. Once you've filled in all the sections you want to complete, you will have the option to upload any photos you'd like to include with your piece.

8. After you have submitted the final section of Your Story, you will receive another email to discuss your draft and any changes that are needed. You will have the final approval.


THANK YOU!
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I hope you enjoy filling out Your Story! I hope it provides a few moments of quiet in your busy (probably chaotic!) day. I hope you will find it relieving to offload. To moan, praise, share - overshare! - and generally vent.

Thank you so much for becoming a part of this important project! I can't wait to see what amazing connections we will make and the directions our creativity will take.

If you have any queries please drop me a line at lockdownbabybabble@gmail.com. Or find us on Twitter or Facebook @LDBabyBabble.

Sending kind wishes, peace and strength.
Lauren xxx

P.S. You're doing great. You got this.
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