I Didn’t Want to be a Mum

Words & Muse Sophie Ebrard

 This project is about telling women it’s ok not to be ok. This project is about the truth of motherhood.

The exhibition will take place in Amsterdam, Netherlands in September during Unseen photography festival.

 It opens to the public this Thursday 19th September – 22nd September.

When I became a mum, it was pretty much a slap in the face.

I didn’t quite anticipate the change that would not only happen to my life; but also to me.

I was 3 years into being a photographer, I loved my life the way it was.

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I wanted ten more years to enjoy it. I didn’t want children to disrupt this beautiful path I was on. I was determined that motherhood would not own me, or ruin me. I fought against its uncool image. I did not want to look like a mum. I had just been shooting my best personal work on porn sets (a series of images that was to be known internationally called “It’s Just Love”), how could I now push around a pram?

But everything changed with those first few weeks postpartum. I was in Amsterdam (where I had just moved 3 weeks before Jules’ birth), with no girlfriends to share feelings I was too ashamed to admit. I felt an intense feeling of isolation and it left me feeling vulnerable.

What if I don’t like being a mum? Am I weird feeling this way? Am I the only woman in the world to experience this?

I loved my son to bits but I didn’t like the role. And I mostly felt alone.

When you are used to being able to do mostly what you want, when you want and how you want, the challenges of pregnancy and motherhood can make you feel that you are losing a part of yourself.

Becoming a mother involves an identity shift, and is one of the most significant physical and psychological changes a woman will ever experience.

Yet when a woman gives birth, society puts pressure on new mums telling them it should be one of the most joyful moments of their lives. Of course, it is, but the struggles of parenting are hard and can at times overshadow the joys. The perception and reality of the day to day are so different, it creates confusion.

These unspoken challenges mean that women often struggle through this in isolation, ashamed to admit how they feel.

There is little that is written about the challenges of becoming a mother; a process that has been named by an anthropologist as matrescence.

But it totally makes sense when you start thinking about it and reading about it more. It takes years to go from being a kid to an adult (adolescence); so, you cannot suddenly become a mother just because you popped out a baby.

The process of creating the exhibition felt almost like therapy to me. I wanted to understand what had happened to me on a personal level.

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I now want to educate people on the realities of the experience.

I hope it creates a platform for other women to come forward and express their feelings without guilt or shame.

I hope that starting an honest dialogue free from guilt or judgment will benefit future mothers. This project is about telling women it’s ok not to be ok. It’s about the truth of motherhood.

If I can help a few women come to terms with how they feel or just be able to articulate it, I’ll be happy. I want to be the engine of change and I mostly want to normalise the experience.

Exert from a diary entry that is at the exhibition

Maybe from the outside I looked like the image of a successful modern mother, but inside it was a daily battle.

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Was I meant to feel complete? I didn’t. I felt sadness and loss. I mourned my freedom, I fantasized about my old life. But the fantasy is impossible. I will never be free, not like I was. I felt trapped by my own choice and punished by my naivety.

I walked in circles to get him to sleep; counting the hours and the days, pleading for time to pass so I could return to who I was. It gets easier as they get older, right?

People say, “treasure every moment, it goes so fast”. It fucking doesn’t.

I looked at friends who didn’t have babies and I was so envious of their lives. It was like seeing a version of my life I no longer had. The holidays I couldn’t take, the parties I couldn’t go to.

I loved my son but I didn’t love being a mother.

I didn’t want to meet new mums like you’re supposed to do, because I didn’t see myself as a mum, as one of them. Why would I be friends with someone just because they have a baby too? I felt like a fraud of a mother. And mostly I felt alone.

I DIDN’T WANT TO BE A MUM
PRINSENEILAND 95 HS
19 – 22 SEPTEMBER 2019
13:00 – 20:00

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