Wanting by Helen Anderson for Skin to Skin

At times like this, she thinks – perhaps – she can mother

The Birth by Clare Hansford

When the world is night-slow and dark-still, she is nearly enough. The only demand is her palm on her little one’s rise-and-fall. At times like this, she thinks – perhaps – she can mother. This is a yearned-for, needed child, born in defiance of pessimistic prognoses. He came to her in a shock of suction, stirrups, stitches. When she curls around him here, she almost avoids the scar.

In the rush of day, this yearning, needing child reserves his smiles for others, firing puke into her hair like atomic accusations of her lacking. Come the commotion of light, she will jiggle him through the streets in the posh pram she scrimped for. He will twist and she will wish she were as invisible as she feels.

Uninvited, other people will call out “Baby’s hungry!” and she will sit on the insult of knowing he has only just drained her dry. She must not tell. She does not tell the doctor, for fear they will take the child away. She fears she does not fear this as fiercely as she should. “Baby picks up on Mum’s mood, dear.” So, she observes him through a sterile screen. It’s the one thing she can do to protect him.

But when the world is night-slow and dark-still, she dares to snake her hand over to his chest. Whispering in time to the in-out of his gasps in the small of her neck. A half-dream. A prayer-song. At times like this, she dares to think she can be mother enough.

Helen Victoria Anderson is a British writer of creative non-fiction, fiction and poetry. She enjoys mixing ‘dark’ with ‘light’ to make ‘thought-provoking’. She is fascinated by the therapeutic potential of creative writing. Helen has an MA (with Distinction) in Creative Writing from Teesside University. She won First Prize in the InkTears Flash Fiction Contest 2015 and was also awarded First Prize in the Bridgwater Homestart Short Story Competition 2013, judged by Dame Margaret Drabble. Helen Victoria Anderson’s work has been published in magazines such as Alliterati, Confingo, Compass Literary Magazine, Material, Miracle, The Black Light Engine Room and Fat Damsel, as well as in a number of short story and poetry anthologies.

Artist Feature on The Birth by Clare Hansford

The Birth is part of a triptych; The hook, The knickers and The birth. A very intimate painting for the exhibition ‘Skin to Skin’ being held at the Python Gallery in Middlesbrough.

Of this work Clare writes:

A bump in the bed with a monitor. A tray at the end of the bed with snacks and the ‘hook’ which was left there, forgotten, but felt like a threat if my waters didn’t break soon. Contractions had been going on now for almost four days with no sleep.

Thankfully it wasn’t needed in the end. Phew.

Being held up in the delivery suite and helped out of my water soaked knickers. Possibly four sizes too small. I laughed heartily and nervously with the midwife.

My arms reaching out to my newborn son held up my the midwives.

You can open your eyes now. he’s here.

Skin to Skin is an artist/writer collaboration between Clare Hansford and Carmen Marcus. As new mothers they wanted to explore and deepen understanding of the isolation and intimacy of the first three months of being a mother. Together they created work in the hope that it would break the silence on this subject inviting conversation and sharing and hopefully healing. The idea began as a Pecha Kucha poetry-image performance for Deranged Poetesses and is now an exhibition at The Python Gallery Middlesbrough. The exhibition also features Skin to Skin The Notebook: a collection of poetry, micro memoir and flash fiction written in response to Clare Hansford’s illustration My World is Small. Wanting is featured in the anthology.

Author: Carmen Marcus

As the daughter of a Yorkshire Fisherman and Irish Mother, my writing brings together the visceral and the magical. My debut novel #How Saints Die was published with Harvill Secker in 2017. It won New Writing North's Northern Promise Award as a work in progress and was longlisted for the Desmond Elliott Prize in 2018. My poetry has been commissioned by BBC Radio, The Royal Festival Hall and Durham Book Festival. As a child of an 80s council estate I am an advocate for working class writers and stories. I’m currently working on my first poetry collection The Book of Godless Verse and my next novel. I try to live up to the words of my first critic and primary school teacher ‘weird minus one house point.’

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