Some reflections on the play “after birth”

A few weeks ago, some of The Motherkind Café peer supporters had a night out to the North Wall Arts Centre in Summertown to watch the play after birth. It was a fairly surreal experience to be in a theatre, masks and all, after many months of avoiding indoor public spaces, and that was before we even get to the subject matter. You might not think that the words “post-partum psychosis” and “medieval plague island” would be a recipe for an enjoyable evening; however, you’d be wrong.

The play wasn’t always an easy watch, and there were a few times when I felt myself literally shudder in recognition. It’s unflinching in its depiction of what motherhood can do to your body and your mind. Even though my experience of the post-natal period was nothing like what Ann, the main character of after birth, is going through, there were plenty of moments that I felt I could relate to. It was brutally honest and horribly sad and strangely heartwarming by turns. It had some high highs and some low lows. But it was also incredibly funny.

I hadn’t expected to laugh so much, but there were a lot of moments when the main character’s descriptions of her experience were so vivid and so hilarious that I just couldn’t help myself. One of the things the play brought home to me was just how funny motherhood can be, how there are parts of it that are so ridiculous that you have to laugh, and then you’re laughing so hard you wonder whether you’re actually losing your marbles. To be honest, it’s probably not helped by the potent combination of no sleep, the complete unknown, the loss of your independence to the day-to-day whims of a tiny despot, and maternal hormones. I once cried when I found a size 1 nappy because my son was never going to be small enough to wear one again. I mean, imagine crying over the size of your son’s bum. You have to laugh, really. But there’s healing in the humour. If you can laugh in the face of despair, even for a moment, little by little, it loses its power over you.

One of the other parts of the play that I really liked was the way the main character moves from being trapped in her own mind to making connections with others and being able to reach out, not only to her loved ones, but also to women who are suffering like she was. It reminded me a bit of what we try to do at The Motherkind Café: creating a community where you can find support from people who understand what you’re going through, where you can be honest without worrying about being judged. Like after birth, we want to bring camaraderie, humour, and hope to the wacky world of motherhood, whatever that means for you, and whatever you want to say.

If you’d like to watch after birth in the comfort of your own home, you can access it via a link on our private Facebook Group, The Motherkind Virtual Café, or alternatively you can email us at hello@themotherkindcafe.org and we’ll send it to you. The link will be live for the next seven days. Please note that in order to access the play, you’ll need to submit your email address via a form so that researchers at the University of Oxford can contact you to see if you’d like to give feedback.

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