Audrey Downes - Co-Founder of the International Association of Infant Massage
A Message from Audrey
My birthday is in October and this year, God willing, I will turn 90. I have had a particularly wonderful life overall. David and I were married 65 and a half years. He was a professor of English literature and had many interests which took us traveling quite a bit especially to England and Ireland.
My background included Nursing. While I was studying for my BA in Community Services we had occasion to travel to Cheyenne, Wyo (my home state, by the way) with a stop over in Denver where David happened upon an article about infant massage which he pulled out for me since I was doing an internship at the Stress and Health Center here in Chico. The article was titled "Massage may relieve infant stress." I subsequently called Vimala and asked where her next Training was-- I would follow her anywhere as I was looking for a program that I might bring to my community. Turns out she was looking for a way to get infant massage on the West coast so she asked if I would like to sponsor a Training here. I inquired about it and found that we could hold it right in the Stress and Health Center.
That was the beginning of "something big" for me.
In my last year at Chico State University (after I had received my Training certificate), I went to Denver to meet with Vimala and eventually we decided to call our organization International Association of Infant Massage Instructors. She would be the Trainer and I would run the "office"--so I brought home a box (maybe 15" x 8" , 12" tall) and made up our stationery heading and started sending letters out to those who had contacted Vimala about infant massage. It truly was exciting to me because I began receiving letters back and no one questioned what we were doing-- they accepted our explanation and even agreed to pay $500 for the Training. You can understand how that felt to me. With the money I earned from my classes I started our "business office". I created a newsletter and eventually sent a letter to the first 85 Infant Massage Instructors promising them "Charter membership" if they would be willing to send $17.50 to support the office and get the newsletter. That is how we got started. It still thrills me to remember it all.
In the beginning when I met friends at the University I would tell them what I was doing and they would reply, "How is Dave?" No one wanted to talk about infant Massage at that time as it had a different connotation to them. I refused to change the name and eventually even the doctors became interested in what we were doing. I won't tell you it wasn't a struggle but I will tell you parents understood completely-- never questioned the classes and began to write for training information. So within the year Vimala returned to Chico to train me as an Instructor Trainer. I wish you could have been on board then--1980!
Now in retirement I still long to be around babies and in fact taught one mother some of the strokes for her baby.