I’ve always connected motherhood with new dreams and ideas. The continuation of something longer than yourself; an invisible string into a much longer future. A gentle shock against death. A redefining of death. I like how motherhood is both mundane and repetitive – it is a perpetual suburban reality, but also a range of colours that don’t make sense to anyone else, far beyond reason and language. It is a dance of the heart.
I think the decision to have children in my early twenties came from growing up in a fairly chaotic household, with my brother and three younger sisters. I never felt lonely or that I needed anyone else. The walls of my garden and my family inside them became a kind of endless soap opera. A swan dance of hidden motives and unwritten stories. Tears turned to laughter and laughter to tears more often than the people who stood at the bus stop in front of our house. I think it is this kind of emotional disarray that I still revel in, especially when I am writing or performing.
I became aware early on that the biggest misunderstanding about motherhood is that it somehow stifles your creativity and that your identity is no longer your identity, but belongs to your child somehow. I encountered a look of surprise when I suggested I might be inspired by the process rather than consumed by it. The amount of times someone has asked my husband how his art is going and turned to me and asked me about babies is tiresome. It’s the same in the media, “mother, wife…” and the father is seen purely as a person in his own right, praised for his work solely with no mention of having children, when actually my husband does just as much parenting as me.
It seems strange that we still have to define ourselves so clearly by these roles and not just see it as a continual expression of life. If anything, I was overwhelmed how much fuller my own world grew when having children. How for the first time I became anchored to a whole new set of stories, realities and most of all other women. Women I would probably never come into contact with before my pre-baby life. I found myself having a common ground with women of all generations, each of us feeling comfortable enough to share intimate realities because we shared the experience of motherhood.
I think it’s this new openness that I find most refreshing. There is still a long way to go but there is definitely a new community of people feeling empowered to discuss everything from post-natal depression, pressure to breastfeed, body image, IVF, how and whether you keep working and so on. Topics that have been hushed for so long because motherhood is deemed as natural and a privilege. I find myself learning new things everyday that I’m surprised are never really spoken about.
I’m just finishing the film Hurt By Paradise which I co-wrote and directed. I play a young single mother, Celeste, who is desperately trying to get her first collection of poems published. I wrote motherhood into the character but didn’t want to dwell on it too much. I liked the idea of having a single mother character whose downfall had nothing to do with being a single mother. You are aware she is a mother but that is not the driving focus of the plot. You don’t feel sorry for her because of it, you hopefully see a portrait of a modern woman who is just trying to figure out how to do everything day to day.
I was pregnant all the way through the filming, five months pregnant when we started shooting. I was nervous about it being public that I was pregnant for some reason. I waited until about half way into shooting before I told the team. Of course it was exhausting doing two months of twelve hour days and somedays it felt too much. But there was something almost quite primal about the whole experience. I found myself making decisions purely based on emotions – I knew I had to tell this story like it was the first time each day, similar to carrying a child and knowing that they will eventually see the world just as you describe it. There’s a lot of power in that.