Mothermorphosis: Australian storytellers write about becoming a mother

Monica Dux

Mothermorphosis: Australian storytellers write about becoming a mother
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Mothermorphosis: Australian storytellers write about becoming a mother

Monica Dux

Beaming with joy. A natural mother.Worst Mother. Best mother. Guilt-ridden.Incompetent. Exhausted.

The mythology of motherhood is often reduced to cliché. But how do we articulate the complex internal conflicts, the exhilaration and the absurdity of this transformation? Mothermorphosis is a collection of essays on the experience as told by some of Australia’s most talented writers and storytellers.

In these stories we read about the yearning for a child, the private and public expressions of love, identity in the face of motherhood, gratitude, pride, celebration and loss. Ultimately we learn that there is no one version of this epic story, no one tale that could ever speak for all, and no one way of encapsulating the experience. However, in reading other women’s experiences, the hard bits, the ridiculous bits, we can only become more compassionate, not just to other mothers but hopefully to ourselves.

Review

Religion, politics and money are usually cited as the top three topics to avoid at a dinner party, but surely parenthood trumps them all. To the uninitiated, the mysterious world of ‘tummy time’, ‘co-sleeping’ and ‘toxins’ may easily be construed as having religious connotations, while few decisions can feel as political as ‘disposable versus cloth’ or ‘breastfeeding versus bottle’. To my own non-mother eyes, the stories of motherhood that infiltrate our media suggest that mothers must navigate a seething minefield of potential faux pas on a daily, nay, hourly basis. And rather than dispel this vision, the storytellers Monica Dux has gathered together in Mothermorphosis invite us to explore this bizarre landscape in the most generous way possible – by sharing their own tales warmly and candidly, however raw the material.

And the material is frequently raw. George McEncroe’s harrowing birth story in ‘I Wore My Red Lips And Pretended I Was Fine’ shook me deeply, as did Hannah Robert’s in ‘The Second-Best Blanket’. Jane Caro doesn’t hold back when she describes ‘grieving the loss of the independent person that (she) had been’ (‘The “Me” I Had Been’). Nor does Susan Carland when she addresses the particular fears she has raising a Muslim girl in Australia today (‘Mother Courage’). These essays are intimate; I felt as though I was there with the storytellers, in their own homes or hovering beside the midwives.

In her introduction, Dux writes that motherhood is ‘at once mundane and commonplace, yet at the same time utterly unique and momentous’, and it is this experience that Mothermorphosis captures best. These essays are utterly unalike, yet echo one another in small details and sentiments. I found it sad, if not surprising, to see how many storytellers expressed concern over how they might be judged by other mothers. For this reason it’s heartening to see how stories, like those shared here, have the power to lessen that concern.


Bronte Coates is the digital content coordinator for Readings. She is a co-founder of literary project, Stilts.

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