Maartje's Breathe Melodies for Mums Experience - Breathe

Maartje’s Breathe Melodies for Mums Experience

Mon 4 Apr 2022

Lilli Murdoch, Digital Communications Officer at Breathe Arts Health Research recently spoke to Breathe Melodies for Mums SHAPER research programme participant, Maartje, about her experience with the study. Maartje talked to Lilli about what it was like being a new mother and how Breathe Melodies for Mums has improved her mental wellbeing and confidence.

Maartje gave birth last summer (2021) and although the country was starting to normalise slightly after the ongoing effects of the pandemic, Maartje and her husband were very cautious of who they had in the house and around their newborn.

Maartje talks about how it takes a village to raise a child, and how this type of support had already diminished, as Maartje is from Belgium, she didn’t have access to usual family support networks. She told me how she missed just having someone around for a coffee who could hold the baby and give her some respite, even if it was only for a few minutes.

Maartje told me that she has a history of anxiety and that she also experienced postpartum anxiety. “I was in the at-risk category” However, she didn’t realise how low she was feeling at the time. She saw Breathe Melodies for Mums pop up on her Instagram feed a few times and thought it looked interesting, but that was it. Then she saw it pop up again and thought “I’ve got to do this”.

The primary aim of the SHAPER research Maartje took part in aims to upscale arts health interventions and make the case for the NHS to fund them long-term.  The secondary aim is to build on the evidence that arts health interventions can enhance health in larger group; Breathe Melodies for Mums aims to recruit 400 women and babies for its role in the study. Each participant including Maartje goes through a number of assessments and answers a series of questionnaires on demographics, mental health and social support.

I’m fascinated to see what will come out of the study, I love research, that’s why I was so happy to be involved. I found the whole process super easy, everyone was nice and responsive throughout, there was never any pressure.
Maartje, Breathe Melodies for Mums Participant

Maartje talks to me about her experience of the sessions and about how scared she was right at the beginning.

“I was terrified. Ida was only2 months old and I was a new mum. I didn’t know what I was doing. The sessions were quite far away from where I live so I had to catch the tube, which I’d never taken before with Ida. I was worried that she would cry, and I wouldn’t know what to do. We had to get the central line, which is pretty noisy, so I bought Ida baby headphones, which we practiced wearing beforehand. Luckily my husband was on paternity leave, so he came with me the first two times and sat in a coffee shop around the corner while he waited for me to finish the session”

Maartje went on to tell me how Breathe Melodies for Mums has made a big difference to her confidence, as she had to learn how to do new and different things with a baby in tow. She told me that in the first session it was difficult to listen to Cleo and look after Ida.

“How do I be a mum and pay attention too?”

I thought Melodies for Mums was amazing, at the end of every session I felt confident, calmer and happier. At first, I was just singing to keep up with everyone. We sounded great quickly, it helped that two of the group already had singing experience. I, on the other hand, had no experience at all, my only experience was singing hymns at school. But it didn’t matter, we all sounded great in the end, including me!
Maartje, Breathe Melodies for Mums Participant

I wanted to know if Maartje noticed if Ida responded to the singing even though she was only tiny when she started the programme.

“Ida spent a lot of the sessions asleep, as she was so small. I learnt a song, whilst she was asleep. The next day I sang it to her, including the high part, and she looked at me like I was ‘Celine Dion’ she was amazed and delighted. She really loves that song; I sing it to her when she’s upset and it calms her down. One of the volunteers brought it in, that’s one of the really nice things about [the music lead] Cleo, she is always excited to hear new songs.  I never wanted to sing alone, but the researchers assured me I wouldn’t be forced to. But then on St Nicholas Day, which is celebrated in Belgium, I brought in a Dutch song and wanted to sing it alone.”

Maartje tells me how close she got to the women in the group and how good it felt to be with like-minded people with a shared background. I ask Maartje how she feels now compared to before the programme.

“Melodies for Mums has made a world of difference to how I feel now compared to how I felt at the beginning. I enjoy life more and I enjoy being a mum, specifically HER mum. Before I used to see mums on Instagram saying ‘I love being YOUR mum’ I thought it was strange at the time, but now I understand this phrase.”
Maartje, Breathe Melodies for Mums Participant

“I’ve heard lots of women say that when you become a mum you lose other parts of your personality, but actually, I couldn’t sing before and now from doing Breathe Melodies for Mums, I found something new; I’m actually a person who sings, I actually have more now rather than less.”

To find out more about our current Breathe Melodies for Mums programmes including dates, times and how to sign up, please click here