The Motherhood offers a window into the crushing reality of sleep-deprivation and the incredible highs of loving a new human.
Paying it Forward
Jamila says the catalyst for the book was a visit from friend (and Australian musician, actor, radio presenter, and business entrepreneur) Clare Bowditch, not long after the birth of her son Rafi in 2015.
She went from working in a busy office connected to her staff and team, to feeling isolated at home with a newborn.
“There’s a point around 2 to 3 in the morning when you’re up breastfeeding in a dark room when you genuinely feel like you are the only people in the world. For some people that can feel very loving and special, and for others it can be isolating as it was for me,” Jamila recalls.
“One day Clare rocked around with her kids and helped me clean up and had a cuddle and headed off. After heading off she sent me a text message. It was so long, it was one that went over two pages. It was like an essay.
“She reassured me about so much of what I was feeling. That what I was feeling was normal and valid, that it was okay to be upset and scared and that didn’t mean that I loved my baby any less and I was going to be any less of a good mother.
“She really told me what I needed to hear in that moment and gave me some confidence that I was doing okay and that I would find that happy contented life again.
“There is something particularly powerful about letters. I think they are so incredibly intimate. You can refer back to them - not like a telephone conversation that is gone in an instant. You can return to them for reassurance.
“I decided that I wanted to pay that forward and talk about my own experience to help new mothers. I was very aware their experiences vary greatly, but that my experience would be useful to some women, but not others.”
The diversity of experiences
Jamila says it’s important that women share their stories as their experiences are so vastly different.
Reaching out to women she knew and others that she admired and believed had interesting stories to tell, Jamila says she was overwhelmed by how many people said yes.
She says her request tapped into a genuine desire to pay it forward when it comes to new motherhood.
“I asked 32 women to contribute to this book so I could put together a range of experiences.
“I wanted the book to be diverse. It was quite deliberate that the book was as inclusive as possible. I wanted to make sure everyone felt respected and their experience was represented.”
The book contains stories of multiple births, caesarean sections, those who breastfed and those who didn’t, culturally diverse experiences, mothers and children with disabilities, nuclear families, single parent families and same sex families.
In the book, Kirstie Innes-Will and partner Jen Clark describe their journey through egg donation to another couple and then their own IVF experience from the remaining embryos. Both tell their stories separately, from the perspective of Jen as birth mother and Kirstie fielding questions at the hospital trying to explain she is Jen’s partner, the baby’s mother, and “not just some random”.
Katie ‘Monty’ Dimond presents a warts-and-all on breastfeeding and the horror of mastitis. Describing formula as “grouse” she assures herself she is not letting anyone down if breastfeeding becomes too hard and painful.
Lanai Scarr gave birth to triplets – two identical boys and a girl in an emergency C-section taking her family from three to six in an instant.
Kumi Taguchi gave birth away from home in Hong Kong, isolated from family and friends and disconnected by language and culture.
Jamila says historically woman haven’t spoken openly about pregnancy and birth because the reality is that motherhood is full of contradictions.
“It’s full of overwhelming love and joy, coupled with extreme sleep deprivation, shock and anxiety. It is possible to be blissfully happy one minute and desperately sad the next.
“But we worry if we speak honestly and express the negatives that people will think that we don’t love our children and the complexity of adapting to new motherhood is made all the more difficult because of the vast amount of judgement that exists.”