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Mother’s Ruin: Being Cool

This is an on-going series that investigates Bella Horlor’s new role as a young mother. An artist and poet, Horlor shares the banal quandaries that exist between artistic and maternal labour. 


I wasn’t always the mother with the mum-bun and the muslin cape. I remember existing as a singular creative person, doing things as decadent as drinking a bottle of Fat Bird for a creatively inspirational breakfast.

The other week my baby girl suddenly started to poo frothy dark green explosions. Her ass became a little saagwala paneer cannon and I was terrified.

She was vomiting and suddenly the coziness of her skin felt a little too warm and I was sure she was sweating, she was definitely sweating and were her eyes glassy? Her head floppy? Was she cross-eyed? Was that a rash?  Oh my bloody Jesus. Sierra. Hotel. India. Tango.

Briefly I had a flashback to a night of drinking red wine, smoking out the window, and watching Bridget Jones’ Diary in my underwear. For Inspiration.

It’s not like I could just put her down, frown at her, shrug, toss my hands in the air and go drink a bottle of wine while I sing “Malibu” from the next room.

I called every number I could think of because actually going into the hospital with her by myself seemed much too definitive and truthfully; I knew she was fine. She wasn’t crying or even vaguely out of sorts. There was no rash, her head control was just it’s usual excellent self, and her eyes were a bit glassy because she had skipped a nap. All this I knew logically yet I lost my cool entirely. I was on an emergency medical help line while the baby industriously blew raspberries in my ear and shrieked with delight.

This is the first time I’m utterly responsible for a small being. It’s not even a cat, dog or a pet rat that has to die in your lifetime. I mean, lets face it, that’s a bit inevitable. Unless you’re one of those old people who buy a pet deliberately so it will outlive them and sit devoted on their grave to become a quaint fixture of the cemetery. Pets die and it’s sad but we move on and maybe upgrade to the Schnauzer next time.

But a baby?

Contemplating her death is something that is so painful it lives in the recesses of my deepest anxieties; it keeps me staring at her for hours while she sleeps just to check that the next breath definitely happens.

Some people make art to secure some sort of permanence, although these days it’s far trendier to concentrate more on the conceptual longevity than the actual artifact itself. I knew a man who made sold works made of plaster for an exorbitant sum. But the water that binds the plaster will eventually evaporate and the work will just be expensive dust. He knew this. This was cool. I knew another fellow who never gessoed his canvas, or varnished his paintings and layered oils and acrylic paints without a care for the unwanted cracking and crazing that someone certainty didn’t pay for. This was a bit punk. Kind of a ‘fuck this’ to the bankable art industry. I’ve done this kind of work. It’s cool not to care. But you can’t be a ‘cool’ parent. The love gets in the way. This creation is disarmingly sobering.

My aim for being a mother was something like Carol Brady but not quite Courtney Love. But now I’m hysterically emotionally involved. It feels as exposing as uncontrollably crying in public. These pure drops of sentimentality are just pouring all the time and there isn’t much I can do about it.

I guess now I’m still singing karaoke, but “Malibu” is now a lullaby.

Bella Horlor

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