A Voice from Breathe Melodies for Mums - Breathe

A Voice from Breathe Melodies for Mums

Wed 11 May

Recently one of our women from Breathe Melodies for Mums wrote a blog for us. She has written a very open and honest account of the challenges she faced during her second pregnancy and also her experience with the programme. This is her story...

I had hyperemesis (severe vomiting) throughout my pregnancy, which I found really, really tough.  That and the anti-sickness medication turned me into a zombie.  I was in bed for 22 hours a day, indeed I only got out of bed for those two hours a day because I have a toddler who needed input from me.  The experience left me feeling utterly lost, unable to cope and severely depressed.  I had no idea how I would manage a newborn when I couldn’t look after myself.  I remember feeling I was failing at everything – including brushing my teeth properly. How could I possibly manage a newborn!? And during a pandemic when we were already isolated?

My baby was born well and healthy and the hyperemesis lifted immediately.  I felt like myself again in many ways but some of the fear remained with me – especially because it was so difficult to see people with lockdown restrictions and covid spreading everywhere.  What I really needed was a support network around me, but I felt so isolated and had cut people off while I’d been ill and depressed because I’d had no energy and nothing to say.  A friend, who is also a midwife, talked with me about things I could do to help myself, and another friend recommended Breathe Melodies for Mums. I knew that making music with people and singing in particular can be such a powerful tonic and that it’s good for mental health.  However, the reality was I still felt like a zombie, and a very emotional one at that, because I wasn’t getting much sleep.  I wasn’t sure I could or should physically attend.

My first impressions of the sessions were that they felt so nurturing, calm and well supported. We were all there together and Cleo, the facilitator, held this kind and open space for us to just be. Babies cried, were fed, and napped. That was all fine.

In fact, having the sessions online was a life saver.  Getting out of the house, and back in time for naps, meant that transport could have felt rushed and stressful.  I was so grateful I could attend sessions from my own home.

My first impressions of the sessions were that it felt so nurturing, calm and well supported.  We were all there together and Cleo, the facilitator, held this kind and open space for us to just be.  Babies cried, were fed, napped. That was all fine.  We were there for the mothers.  I felt really accepted.  You could join in or shy away as much as suited you.  There was no spotlight on us individually, but we introduced ourselves and over the weeks got to know each other, all the babies and in some cases, the siblings.

During the sessions themselves, we started with a physical warm-up.  I remember thinking “Oh I haven’t stretched in aaages!”. It felt so good to take five minutes to release the tension in my shoulders and neck, which were sore from breastfeeding and holding a baby all day and night.  Then we did some vocal warmups and launched into so many wonderful, easy, beautiful songs from around the world.  Over the weeks we must have learned 50 songs! But they were all manageable. Some had harmonies, and some were sung in the round.  Some made me cry because it felt so powerful to be singing together and to not be alone. Some of the songs have stuck with me and I still sing them.

Over the weeks I really felt like I got some of me back, that everything was OK and that I wasn't alone. It was an amazing time for me to spend with my baby, bonding, spending quality time together, and being present in the moment.

‘Sylvie’ is a beautiful gospel song, ‘Breathe in, Breathe out’ is something I sing when I am stressed or tired or can’t sleep as it calms me down. ‘Hamba Nathai’ is a really fun one for holding your baby and dancing around the kitchen, although I also sing it – a bit slower – as we’re getting ready for bed.  Same as ‘Imela’. I loved the repertoire and I’m amazed that we learnt so many.

Over the weeks I really felt like I got some of me back, that everything was OK and that I wasn’t alone.  It was an amazing time for me to spend with my baby, bonding, spending quality time together, and being present in the moment.  I’m not very good at being present outside of a designated time and space and so I was grateful for that.  I felt really emotional about the sessions, but in a positive way.  I looked forward to them every week.  I can say without a shadow of doubt that these sessions have been the highlight of my maternity leave and something I will never forget.

It was like a little holiday, and a break of sun behind some black clouds. I'm glad for the positive memories during what could otherwise be a long, lonely and difficult period, and I'm glad to have some songs as mementos of the time.

Now the sessions are over, I look back and I’m so grateful for them and so glad I attended. They really helped me, even when I felt like I’d just sit back and not join in much because I was exhausted or sad, I always left the session feeling like I’d had a mental break away from some of the difficult times of caring for a newborn.  I felt I had been cared for.  It was like a little holiday, and a break of sun behind some black clouds. I’m glad for the positive memories during what could otherwise be a long, lonely and difficult period, and I’m glad to have some songs as mementos of the time.  I feel that’s something that I can hold on to.  It’s helped turn my maternity leave from a long list of struggles, to a more balanced one.

If someone was hesitant about attending, I would say, don’t overthink it, just go. I know you’re sad and exhausted.  You don’t have to contribute if it feels too much or if you feel you can’t sing or it’s going to be too challenging.  Just go and soak it up and give as much or as little as you feel comfortable with.  I think just being with others and being cared for is so important when you’re feeling fragile, and it can take a lot of effort to put yourself out there, but it really is a safe and nurturing space and, you might find it changes your perspective and gives you a sunnier outlook, even if just for a day.

If you or you know someone who needs some support, please get in touch. We have in-person Breathe Melodies for Mums 10-week programmes running all year. Email M4M@breatheahr.org or head over to our Melodies page here.