Thommie Gillow and Hannah Teasdale set out to explore the ‘concealed aspects’ of motherhood and for Milked this includes miscarriages, ectopic pregnancy, divorce and having eight children between them. Milked is divided into four sections, ‘Red Clover, Rosemary, Raspberry leaf and Rioja’ which could represent the four liquids consumed by coping with all of the above. Motherhood is not a series of instagrams of cute babygrows, it’s a tough crawl in blood stained knickers across a landscape of anguish.
‘I pee on a stick/It is still a stick even if/ it isn’t Pavlov’s./ It feels like a punishment’
The bleakness of this grief is expressed through simple words, ‘They took us to a quiet room/ where we could reflect/on that picture/and that lack of sound.’
The poems have been co-written or written individually but are presented without ownership which emphasize their universal nature. Even when pregnancy does occur elation is masked by a fear it might all go wrong. There are unexpected side effects.
‘You can’t stop eating your own body weight in Maltesers.’
The challenges of becoming a mother, giving birth, and being a mother are stark and Thommie and Hannah do not stint on this. What raises this collection out of a grim fest are the moments of wry humour; ‘The vacuum ceases to function/blocked by a more mature piece of cheese.’ They laugh at the chaos of family life and the wreck of the woman they have become, ‘Ah yes, I did eat, I remember/the over ripe banana/a triangle of brie.’ Every woman who has ever wept over a new baby, ‘I want my Mum. I’m terrified’ can relate to this. Throughout this collection love is celebrated. The strong and burning love for our children, first as vulnerable babies but also as exasperating teenagers, and for the partners in our lives, who we want to have intimacy with and not think about babies. Ultimately, the expression of love in this collection is the lasting emotion.