Lilli Murdoch, Digital Communications Officer at Breathe Arts Health Research interviews participant Jenny, about her journey with Melodies for Mums.
Jenny took part in one of the earliest Melodies for Mums sessions, in 2017. She attended with her first child, Renji, who was 9 months old at the time. Renji is now 4 years old, and Jenny has a 2 year old daughter as well.
Our conversation starts with Jenny telling me that she wants to support the programme in any way she can, because of how much she felt it helped her.
She says: “Melodies for Mums holds a special place in my heart. It lifted me out of the place I was in, which was quite a low state. Now I’m not in it, I can’t quite remember the ins and outs of how I felt after my son was born, but I remember how Melodies for Mums made me feel. That’s how special this programme is to me.”
Her emotion is palpable during our conversation, but she says that what I’m hearing in her voice, is happiness, because the singing groups meant so much to her and it’s all coming back to her as we speak.
Jenny tells me that she experienced complications after Renji’s birth, resulting in him being taken into neo-natal care, where he stayed for a week or so. It was an intensely challenging time for her and her partner as they adjusted to being new parents, while unable to be by their child’s side. She also talked of the many difficulties of breastfeeding when your baby is in a neo-natal ward, and the impact this had on her.
Soon after, Jenny was able to take Renji home. Although his health had improved and she had bonded well with her beautiful baby, she found herself struggling with low moods. She couldn’t understand why, at a time when everybody tells you you’re supposed to be filled with joy, she felt so down.
“Asking for help is difficult,” she tells me. “I’d brought a new human into the world. It was a huge adjustment that affected my emotional and mental health. When you’re in it, it’s difficult to know whether it’s just the baby blues, or something more, because you’ve got so many balls in the air. I constantly had the nagging feeling that something was wrong. I was wondering, what’s going on? Why am I feeling like this? But I struggled to ask for help.”
Jenny lived under the weight of her feelings for months, before meeting Tim Osborn, Breathe Project Manager for Melodies for Mums, at a baby weigh-in clinic. Tim was handing out leaflets for the sessions, and Jenny says she jumped at the chance to participate.
“I’m passionate about music”, she says, “I’ve loved it since I was little. I could see how the sessions could be a positive for me and my son.”
She talks to me about her experience of the sessions. About how much she enjoyed the singing and how she incorporated it into her daily life afterwards. She still remembers the songs.
“The songs aren’t ordinary nursery rhymes. They’re from around the world, bringing in different cultures and that’s so special. Even if you don’t understand the language, you can understand the music. After the sessions I would take the music away with me. I would sing to Renji. Music can change the way a person feels.”
She also talks about how refreshing it was to be there with a group of other women, but without having to talk about why she was there. She tells me that she’s quite an open person, but that not all mums want to talk about their feelings, and it was good that there was no pressure.
“I felt so safe in the class. The group leaders were so warm and welcoming. There was no stigma. We were all just there singing and trying to find ourselves through music. The sessions really increase your energy level and mood which is vital when you have a baby. They reminded me that as a mum, you have to count yourself as important. You can’t neglect yourself.”
In fact, something Jenny emphasises multiple times throughout our conversation is how meaningful it is that the Melodies for Mums sessions are focused on the mothers, not the babies.
“When you become a parent, everyone asks about the baby, but what about the mum? The mums get forgotten. With Melodies for Mums, the babies do benefit but that’s an extra. It’s all about the mums and that’s so important. You need to take time to look after yourself. You need to tap into your wellbeing. I can’t bring this home enough.”
I ask Jenny about life after her second child was born. She tells me says that she experienced low moods, much like she did with Renji, and that it was really difficult. She talks movingly of how much she could have benefited from Melodies for Mums again, but stopped short of looking into availability, because she did not want to deprive another woman of a space.
I tell her that we hope through our research with King’s College London, to build a case for singing interventions to be available nationally through the NHS. So that women like her can benefit from the service, whenever they need it, whether it’s their first child or not.
“Oh wow” she says. “If you could reach the goal of making it standard for all women to get this kind of support that would be amazing. I would recommend it to any new mums. People don’t realise how powerful the arts can be for your mental health.”
To find out more about our current Melodies for Mums programmes including dates, times and how to sign up, please click here.