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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.

You know you should do the vacuuming when your baby does a shit and you have to pull a 20cm long hair out of her ass. This week we have had a sleep regression, meaning she wakes every couple of hours, rolls over and it’s disco time baby.

Sleep deprivation used to make me achingly poetic, I could drink gin and bite on that cold moonlight like a cube of ice. It was a sexy thing to be an insomniac once. Artistic. Vaguely French. I used to find it inspirational. But after about two weeks on four hours a night sleeps, it definitely isn’t sexy anymore. My skin feels simultaneously on fire and completely numb, I feel like someone has bottled me in the eyes, and I cant walk straight.

The night my girl was born they put me into the maternity ward at about 3am. It became apparent that she wasn’t going to sleep in her bassinet. But the hospital doesn’t allow bed-sharing. So I stayed awake holding her while she slept, the entire night. My mother and my partner turned up at 12pm that day and I was silently weeping with exhaustion and overwhelming unconditional love.

I haven’t slept a full night since then. Usually I manage quite well, my house is in order, I shower frequently, and I have a laundry system the gestapo would admire. We bed-share so we tend to get more sleep than the norm. Until this sleep regression hit.

It’s the Great Depression of my motherhood experience, I’m going to remember it with a grim face and I will probably stock pile coffee compulsively for the rest of my life.

Today is a day where I’m just not doing very well at all. It’s hard to convey how upsetting it is when you can’t seem to pull yourself together. This loss of control frightens me; I’m mentally impaired. The baby is fine completely fine – she’s actually sleeping beautifully on my lap right now. I’m doing anything possible to make sure she is happy healthy and stimulated. Mothers are martyrs like that.

But I look like Badjelly the Witch coming off heroin. My house makes Dorothy’s tornado look minimalist. I’m in a sleep deprivation bell jar and I think Sylvia Plath and I would get along quite well.

I just ate half a sugar free chocolate cake for breakfast and I nearly put my electric kettle on the stove top for the second day in a row. I’ve got so many coffee cups around the room that my baby found one tipped the dregs into the floor and started rolling around in the puddle. It was so old the milk had curdled. Then she vomited.

Sometimes I think back on my life before the baby, with all of those romantic notions, and all of those hopes. I couldn’t know that life was going to turn out like this. I thought I would learn French or German and go to Paris or Berlin and be a poet, with plenty of lovers and live above a jazz bar. Isn’t that sweet?

Bella Horlor

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