It takes a Village to raise a child
Having a baby was the last thing on Mikaela Ian Pearman’s mind when she joined ACBDA two years ago.
So when she found out she was pregnant, and due seven weeks before the start of the 35th America’s Cup, there was a brief panic.
“As a woman it sucks that we have to be in a predicament like that: I’m having a baby, what does that mean for my job?” said Ms Pearman, a member of the ACBDA communications team. “A man would never have to think of something like that.”
She was able to make it work — with a lot of help. Her son, Xavi, was born on April 2. She took eight weeks’ maternity leave and then went to work at Cross Island, travelling there from her home in St George’s every day that the America’s Cup Village was open.
On a “good day”, she would leave Dockyard at 5pm; some nights she wasn’t home until after 11pm.
The new mother didn’t have the privilege of making sleep a priority; if she got a “five-hour stretch” she was happy. “[It] would not have been possible without my village,” she said.
Her fiancé Jason Thomas came up with a schedule that got her to work on time. Meanwhile, her sister, Samaela Darrell, looked after Xavi and collected Ms Pearman’s eight-year-old, Amari, after school. Support also came from her stepfather, Troy Burrows, and her ACBDA team, Vicki Abraham and Keyla Grant.
“[Jason] is a network engineer so he works shifts,” she explained. “There were weekends where we would leave the house at 7.20 in the morning, he would drop me here and go to work and then my mom [Kendra-Lee Pearman] would have both the kids.”
When it came to breastfeeding however, she was on her own.
“I wanted to make sure that my son had the best possible start,” she said. “It was a challenge, for sure, but worth it. I pumped twice a day at work. That was super important for me to be able to factor in that time and have that space and that peace. My boss Vicki was very accommodating. Before I returned, she ensured I had a private space to pump where I wouldn’t be bothered. She understood pumping was important to me and never questioned where I was or how long I was there. Because the area was private, I was able to be discreet, which was important to me.
“Sometimes I would [have to] run back from the Village to the office to pump quickly then run back out to do my work — especially when I was busy, which was often. So it hasn’t been easy, but for me it would have been harder to have gone away and never seen the fruits of my labour.”
The former newspaper reporter was hired in 2015 as a joint resource between the America’s Cup Event Authority and America’s Cup Bermuda.
“Essentially [my job was] getting locals engaged: Why is this for me? This is a rich, white man’s sport. I’m not rich, I’m not white, why should I be excited about this?” she said.
Her weekly video spot, “Minute with Mikaela”, converted many viewers into fans. She produced, wrote and starred in the one-minute shows. The final episode came out on Friday.
“That is the thing that I am the most proud of. It was my baby,” she said.
“I loaded it up on the teleprompter app on my phone and as I was reading through it, I got emotional. This is something that I’ve looked forward to doing every week.
“Every day I had people coming up to me in the Village. One man said, ‘I’m here in this village because of you. I did not want anything to do with the America’s Cup and you sold me on coming up here’.”
A visitor called her “the great face of Bermuda and the America’s Cup”.
When it ended, she felt lost.
“It was 2.35 on a Monday. New Zealand came across the line. This is it. Do you celebrate? Do you cry? What do you do?
“It’s surreal. It’s almost like graduating university, when you say goodbye to everyone, see you later. But you won’t.”
She remembers the beginning “like it was yesterday”.
“I got an e-mail on a Friday in June asking if I was interested in meeting about this project,” she recalled.
“I felt like all the hard work that I’d put in as a reporter, all the long hours, were totally worth it because it had prepared me for this role, which is the best role that I’ve ever had.
“I remember when I told my nana that I had gotten this job, she said, ‘It’s only two years. What are you going to do afterwards?’
“And I said to her, ‘If I haven’t learnt anything in the two years then I don’t deserve to have a good job afterwards’.”
She describes Mike Winfield and Peter Durhager, the ACBDA chief executive and chairman respectively, as “the best bosses I’ve ever had in my life”.
“The ACBDA team is a family and a family that I’ll be very sad to leave. They made my transition back to work after having the baby seamless.”
The 31-year-old will start anew at LF Wade International Airport with Bermuda Skyport Corporation, in August.
She would have liked to take a break between posts but with a January wedding, a mortgage, mouths to feed and Amari’s football camp, “I just can’t”, she laughed.
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