As a new mother, you have to navigate your new world and find your place and identity within in. It’s a time of joy and trepidation. At the very least it requires a certain amount of organisation to get your act together to make it out of the house, deal with public transport or traffic, and make it to an appointment, even if it’s ‘just’ a mother and baby group. The importance of doing this, however in my experience, cannot be underestimated.
When I was asked to photograph a series of events at Olive Loves Alfie in East London, it all came back to me. I was able to take unobtrusive photographs of women, who with their babies or toddlers at their knees, were there to listen to talks aimed at new parents. The talks were given by other mothers with expertise, thus creating an intimate atmosphere where advice and support were shared. Topics like nutritional advice when weaning, style tips to boost your confidence or career advice for returning to work, and that magical secret that eludes so many of us – ‘how to get your baby to sleep’.
I was reminded of my early days as a mother, and how much I would have loved something like this, something aimed at me. I remember rushing out of the house in a flurry of change bags, car seats and other paraphernalia only to arrive late and flustered to a baby signing class, My newborn baby was fast asleep and clearly was too young for the class (!) but the woman welcomed me and my friend and we still laugh when we remember that cup of tea we enjoyed while they slept.
So, I’ve collected a series of images from the events that are entirely candid in an attempt to capture the contradiction that most parents will recognise – that of trying to be everything for their child, whilst holding on to their own identity, or trying to create a new one.
Huge thanks to Ashlyn and Emma for commissioning me to photograph this series. I wonder if they’re aware of the impact that these events had on the women who came. The creation of strong communities and networks is important for everyone but it seems to take on a particular significance for new mothers.