Behind extraordinary ideas, there are extraordinary people.
The hum of motherhood
A letter to Victorian mothers of new babies
A letter to Victorian mothers of new babies
Over the past year, I have had the privilege to read, hear and listen to stories of Victorian mother’s experiencing life in a pandemic with a newborn. As a mother of two small children, I was deeply moved during my conversations with people navigating this stage of their parenting journey at this moment in time.
I heard the transition into motherhood described as:
A change of identity.
An uphill battle.
A new level of vulnerability
The transition into growing a person inside you comes with a new level of love but also, an equal sense of anxiety.
Is there anything wrong?
Am I eating the right foods?
Has the baby stopped kicking?
Our daily lives continue but the awareness of a baby inside is ever-present. A low hum that has started to resonate in your daily movements and is ever increasing as the baby grows.
Perhaps the hum expands into a full marching band. It interrupts throughout the day. It is glorious but triumphantly loud, coming to a crescendo as your baby arrives, and then the hum settles in your psyche. Ever there. A hum beneath the surface.
Or all too often – but not recognised enough – is the hum of a baby growing and then the heartbeat stops. The world stops. Time slows. But the hum of the baby that you weren’t able to welcome into your arms keeps simmering below. The hum of motherhood never stops.
This hum carries on – regardless of whether the day was a success or not. No matter how old your children are, no matter how many years pass after the hum began, the hum carries on.
For those who have grown babies and birthed babies in these last two years, if I can only say one thing to you, it is this.
I see you.
We see you.
We see you trying to make decisions for your baby’s health above your own.
We see you trying to choose who your one support partner is in the birthing room.
We think of you in the middle of the night, recovering, bleeding, leaking and worrying for your newborn.
We see you juggle priorities, caring for your own health, caring for your baby’s.
While the world crescendoed towards chaos, unease and an anxiety that threatened to whir louder than the hum of motherhood, you needed a world that was peaceful and content.
The hum of motherhood carries through the night, through the days of lockdown and through a global pandemic. It never stops. It weaves throughout our households, our communities and our regions.
But parents need a village. Mothers need a village.
They need people they can trust around them.
A person to hold their child.
Someone to provide a meal.
A confidante who will listen.
A community to see them, see the struggles and successes.
The village around us is our witness. To witness the changing of both mother and baby’s body. To witness growth and new experiences.
The options are limited. Save lives, stay home and protect the health of the people around us. But this comes at the cost of losing the villages around us, as we knew them.
Perhaps we lose our village for a moment, a few weeks, months. A small amount of time in the grand story of life, but the moments that mothers have had in isolation are significant.
In a moment, a baby learns to laugh.
In a moment, a woman may feel safe and ask for help.
In a moment, a realisation that a miscarraige is happening.
In a moment, new life emerges into the world.
In a moment, a realisation that a relationship is over.
In a moment, there is time to ask who is truly in your support network.
As the hum of motherhood reverberates through the body we search for ways to connect.
You spoke of feeling invisible, stretched, scared, vulnerable, lost. It is often our support systems that remind us that not all is lost. Friendships endure. Sleep returns. Your body will heal. But without people reminding us, the future feels unstable.
When we look back on this time, we need to capture the stories of our communities. We want to learn how to better support and better connect our communities in the future. Like every other year, a new generation of women made the transition into motherhood.
This is what I heard:
I had been at various times angry at COVID; I felt like it had stolen from me, an opportunity, a time in my life.
I looked forward to his vaccinations because there was somebody then who would check him, and somebody I could see face-to-face
There was a lot of TV. A lot of Bluey.
‘I made my world like, this small, because the anxiety of having to deal with the pandemic and then being pregnant… I think I dealt with the anxiety by blocking it out.’
I actually am so blown away at my support network. Because I’ve never really had to lean on them this much and so I didn’t know what they were capable of until now.
If I didn’t call them and at least talk to them and see them face to face over Facetime, my mental health would just deteriorate really rapidly.
I just want to sit down somewhere. I just want to sit somewhere. It is raining, and it’s cold, and I’m tired, and I’m so tired, and all I’ve done for months and months and months is walk and walk and walk, and I just want to sit down to drink my coffee; that’s all I want. I can’t sit in a park, I can’t sit under a shelter, I can’t sit in a café; I just want to sit down to drink my coffee.” And I remember that I did stop in the park, even though I wasn’t supposed to, and I just sobbed on a seat for a little while.
These are stories of mothers in Victoria’s 2020/21 lockdown.
The hardship, the moments of joy. The despair and the relief.
And yet, support was found, often in unexpected moments.
A GP asking, “How has your last couple of weeks been? Can you tell me how you’re coping?”
A mother turning up to help mentor her own daughter in motherhood.
A meal at the doorstep.
A cousin calling up and saying ‘I have postnatal depression too’
A support worker calling and asking, “Do you need help filling out your forms to receive more financial help?”
A stranger helping you with the shopping.
Leaning into faith and family.
Facetime. Instagram. Tik Tok.
To the mothers in Victoria who have miscarried, carried to term, birthed, nurtured, fed and cared for babies in this pandemic, all we can say is we see what a strain this has been. Thank you for your resilience while the health of our communities are at risk.
While the world stopped and the streets were silent, we heard the hum of motherhood.
Beneath it all, it still sings.
Marita Davies is a writer living in regional Victoria on unceded Taungurung Country. As a writer and storyteller I acknowledge that the land that I reside and work on has a long history of storytelling and sharing of culture. I pay respect to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander elders, past, present and emerging.
Outside In is a storytelling project that holds space for mothers of newborns during Victoria’s pandemic lockdown. The project team is Marita Davies, Dr Lilian Pearce, Sarah Lockwood and Alicia Stafford. An audio version of this article can be found on the project website: motherhoodoutsidein.com.
Outside In is supported by the Department of Premier and Cabinet, Victoria and eLM, Uniting Church Synod of Victoria and Tasmania