Anne Curtis on Motherhood and Her Hopes For Every Child

An exclusive interview with UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Anne Curtis

UNICEF Philippines
UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Anne Curtis and her family
© Anne Curtis
17 February 2021

Anne started her journey as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador in 2015, when she was appointed as UNICEF Celebrity Advocate for Children. Since then, she has shown her passion and commitment in championing the rights of every child in the country.

From joining us in our field visits, raising awareness on important issues affecting the rights of children, to spearheading charity runs and donating the proceeds of her 2018 London Marathon for UNICEF, she has never grown tired of lending her voice and energy for every child. This year, Anne continues her advocacy by organizing a fundraiser with her husband Erwan Heussaff to celebrate their daughter Dahlia’s very first birthday. Instead of giving gifts, Anne is encouraging her friends, family, and fans to donate to UNICEF to help more vulnerable babies and disadvantaged children get the right support in health, nutrition, immunization, and more.

On the occasion of her birthday, UNICEF talked with Anne for a conversation about motherhood and our common hopes for every child.

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UNICEF: Hi, Anne. First of all, happy birthday! This past year must have been an unforgettable year for you, becoming a mom for the first time. What is your biggest realization as you mark your 36th birthday?

Anne: Thank you so much! I think the biggest realization I’ve had now that I am a mother is how important time is; how precious each moment is. Before I had Dahlia, I was so focused on work that I would get caught up with all the business and didn’t take much time to stop and just be in the moment. Now, having her around, I value each and every precious moment I’m given to spend time with my family. 

UNICEF: Then next month is going to be Dahlia's very first birthday, and you actually chose to celebrate her big day by creating a fundraiser to support our First 1,000 Days programme. Thank you for this.

Anne: I guess that’s also one of my realizations. Since I started my journey as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, I have become well informed and educated about the importance of the first 1,000 days in a child’s life. I have witnessed UNICEF’s work in the Philippines in supporting mothers and infants during pregnancy and the first two crucial years of life and beyond. The First 1,000 Days have always been part of my advocacy and the fundraisers I’ve done in the past. But I think this time around, it’s even more meaningful because now, as a parent, I am first-handedly experiencing and witnessing how important those first 1,000 days truly are.

UNICEF: Before Dahlia was born, what was your and Erwan’s biggest concern as first-time expectant parents?

Anne: Being first-time parents, we were excited but really nervous at the same time. Our biggest concern was the safety of our little one in my womb. We instantly knew we had to visit an OB-Gynecologist who can check on our little one, and who can properly advise and guide us on what our next steps would be; what we needed to do to make sure that our whole pregnancy journey goes smoothly, and guide us on how to help our little one grow safely inside me over the next 9 months.

Before I had Dahlia, I was so focused on work that I would get caught up with all the business and didn’t take much time to stop and just be in the moment. Now, having her around, I value each and every precious moment I’m given to spend time with my family.

Anne Curtis, UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador

UNICEF: Do you have any tips for other first-time parents out there who might also be feeling nervous about their little one’s safety, especially this time of pandemic?

Anne: I used to always Google when I got curious and concerned about anything pregnancy-related, then my OB told me that was a big no-no. It’s always best to ask and seek advice from your doctor. It will save you a lot of stress and give you peace of mind once you directly address your concerns and worries to a doctor and seek the right information from experts.

UNICEF: Part of our First 1,000 Days programme is also supporting mothers on breastfeeding. Did you experience any challenges while breastfeeding Dahlia?

Anne: Yes! I didn’t know it was going to be so painful in the beginning. But I was able to seek advice from a specialist and she helped and showed me how to get that perfect latch. It definitely wasn’t easy in the beginning, but I stayed committed and patient. After a couple of weeks, it turned out to be the most beautiful journey for Dahlia and I. I’m at almost a year now of exclusive breastfeeding.

UNICEF: Breastfeeding really is the perfect and most optimal source of nutrition for infants. The only food they need is breastmilk from the time they are born up to 6 months. That’s why we also advocate and work to create an enabling environment for exclusive breastfeeding across the country.

Anne: Normalizing breastfeeding, and having that safe and encouraging environment for breastfeeding really are important for both mothers and babies. Especially this time of pandemic, and other times of emergencies when it’s expensive and risky to feed your baby with milk alternatives and there’s no clean water around.

UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Anne Curtis on one of her field visits with UNICEF Philippines
© UNICEF Philippines
Anne reads a children’s storybook to a group of young children during an event promoting early childhood care and development.

UNICEF: As a first-time mom, who do you turn to for support to make sure that Dahlia is getting proper nutrition now that she can start eating other food while continuing to breastfeed?

Anne: At first, I researched, joined forums, asked my mom, and also sought advice from other mothers. Now, I’m in at least three different mommy chat groups that I know I can ask questions to anytime of day or night. But if I do have some really important and pressing concerns which I need expert advice on, I ask doctors. 

One of the reasons why we also wanted to raise more funds for the First 1,000 Days programme is because we know there are a lot of Filipino mothers out there who need the right information and support to take care of their babies. We want to help mothers and their children get the extra care they need. Especially now that movement is limited, and access to information isn’t easy.

It’s so important to protect babies and children from life-threatening diseases, especially here in the Philippines where complete coverage of routine vaccines among children is below 100%. This puts our children’s health and lives at risk.

Anne Curtis, UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador

UNICEF: Another crucial time during a baby’s First 1,000 days is to complete their routine vaccinations to protect them from life-threatening and vaccine-preventable diseases. What was your and Dahlia’s experience like?

Anne: I will not lie. It was actually absolutely heartbreaking to hear her cry every time she gets her routine vaccines, but now that she is more aware, I just try to sing her favorite nursery rhymes as much as I can to take her mind off it. I educated myself and also asked my pedia what vaccines were needed, especially in the Philippines. I put alarms on my calendar to make sure I wouldn’t forget my appointment for her vaccines.

UNICEF: You have also been a strong supporter and advocate of our Immunization Programme.

Anne: It’s so important to protect babies and children from life-threatening diseases, especially here in the Philippines where complete coverage of routine vaccines among children is below 100%. This puts our children’s health and lives at risk. It is so important for parents and children to be able to access not only routine vaccines wherever they are in the country, but also be given with the correct science-based information about life-saving routine vaccines.

We make sure to always spend time with Dahlia for play time or even just making her see and feel that we are always by her side. We value these times dearly.

Anne Curtis, UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador

UNICEF: Now that Dahlia’s almost a year old, what is she like and how are you getting to know her? 

Anne: Dahlia is a sweet yet kulit (playful) little girl. She loves it when we read books to her and sing with her. She loves waving, watching birds flying, and playing peek-a-boo. Her first word was actually ‘boo!’.

We make sure to always spend time with Dahlia for play time or even just making her see and feel that we are always by her side. We value these times dearly. One thing that I also learned in my work with UNICEF is how important it is for parents to have time and a safe environment where they can play with their babies because playing stimulates early brain development. 

UNICEF: What’s your greatest wish for Dahlia as she turns 1?

Anne: I wish for Dahlia to grow up to be a kind, healthy, humble, bright, and most importantly happy girl. And I sincerely wish the same for ALL children around the world.

Family, friends, and supporters can donate to the Dahlia Turns 1 Fundraiser for UNICEF to help more vulnerable babies in the most disadvantaged parts of the country, in their first 1,000 days of life.