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I’ma party, I’m gon’ dance, put your hands up on my body.

On my body, on my body, put your hands up on my body.

I’ma party, I’m gon’ dance put your hands up on my body.

On my body, on my body, put your hands up on my body.

I’ma party, I’m gon’ dance put your hands up on my body.

On my body, on my body, put your hands up on my body.

I’ma party, I’m gon’ dance put your hands up on my body.

On my body, on my body, put your hands up on my body.


August 17th 2012 Heatwave by British grime artist Wiley, featuring vocals from Ms D is at number 1 in the UK Singles Chart.

It sells over 416,000 copies.

This is the song at number one the day my son is born.


Heatwave has a pretty raunchy music video set by an outdoor pool. Rows of thin, bikini clad women gyrate in a pool. Breasts jiggle. Vaginas in tiny knickers thrust. Wet T-shirts with the slogan ‘Show Off’ bounce around. Bottoms burst out of tight little pants with the word RICH sewn on across the back. Women throw themselves on to lilos. Ice creams drip. Hands are placed perfectly over silicone breasts to cover nipples. Ice cubes are sucked through pert lips. Girls with slick tousled beach hair and shiny white teeth jump up and down, completely synchronized. There’s shots of bottoms underwater. Sun. promises of a heatwave and long long nights ahead. And there’s Wiley and the men (fully clothed) squirting water through water guns and talking about riding off on their Yamahas…


And here I am. The midwife didn’t think the baby would be coming this quickly, she attempts to half-fill the birthing pool in the hope this baby might be born in water. The lights are subdued; they softly change through a series of calming colours. It’s the closest it could get to ‘tropical’. And here I am, gyrating around, breasts out, knickerless, wet soaking hair, crying, screaming, gums bleeding, vagina bleeding. Sucking gas and air through cracked lips. Crouching in a tiny tiny pool of water. No lilos here, just an Ikea colander at hand to collect the ‘unspeakable’. Wiley’s lyrics swimming in my head. I reach out and hold my son, on my body, on my body, put your tiny hands on my body. You are here.


Before you were here, I read the newspapers, I watch the news, searching for a way to document or remember or describe or connect with the very moment you enter the world. So very aware of how that very moment is simultaneously so ordinary and yet so extraordinary. I make a list.


Wiley’s song Heatwave is at Number 1 in the UK singles charts.

The newspapers print souvenir Olympic editions.

There are sunny spells and heavy showers.

There is one winner of the 2.3 million jackpot.

Two women row into history.

Tower bridge turns gold for 10 minutes.

Eight badminton players are disqualified after deliberately trying to lose.

People jeer and people boo.

A cyclists dies.

A politician hangs on a zip line, wearing a hard hat and waving a Union Jack flag.

A celebrity cheats on her partner.

A billionaire walks free from court.

There’s a clearance sale at Harveys furniture store, everything must go.

Ikea deliver a table and four chairs.

We go to the car wash.

We go to the cafe in Sainsbury’s, we share a bakewell tart.

We buy a hoover, a shoe rack and a handheld hoover.

Eastenders moves to BBC 2.

There are 28,957 jobs up for grabs.

House prices slump.

More than 1 in 7 shops are empty.

Amazon sell four million copies of the 50 Shades of Grey trilogy.

A man is hit by a train.

A man is found dead in the sea.

A man is found hanged in his cell.

A man runs through the streets carrying a torch.

A man dies drying his clothes on his walking frame by the oven.

A man tells how he hid his wife’s body at home for two months.

A man breaks into a church hall with a machete and attacks members of a singing group during their rehearsal.

A man who has been missing for 23 years returns home.

A (fully clothed) man dances around a swimming pool whilst (half naked) women gyrate and bounce and flick their long wet hair.


What sort of man will you be?


Bats are unsettled by the rainy weather.

Blackberries and elderberries start ripening far later than usual.

People queue to buy watches, water bottles, passport holders, tea towels, cushions, over gloves all with the Olympic circles on them.

In Mexico City 70% of the population are overweight.

There are more than 83 million fake Facebook accounts.

Five insurgents are killed in a gun battle in Kabul.

Police in Peru seize £1.5m in counterfeit notes.

A teenager kills 8 people and wounds 5 others.

A dead humpback whale washes up in an ocean pool in Sydney, Australia.

The population of Scotland reaches a record high.

Hong Kong suffers the worst air pollution in two years.

Local chefs in Mexico City prepare a 53-metre-long sandwich, the longest ever made in Latin America.


And here I am. The woman in the room next to me is having trouble. She’s trying to hypno-birth and she’s very distressed. Out of everything that is so hard and painful about this labour, hearing the screams and cry’s of this woman in the room next to me is without doubt the worst. Someone help her please. It’s like giving birth all over again. I close my eyes. I imagine the places beyond these walls, I imagine the rest of this hospital, room after room of big, round bellied naked women, heavy pre-milk breasts drooping out, large maternity knickers and pile cream at the ready, wet, bleeding, under tropical lighting, with men (fully dressed) next to them, all squirming around in perfect synchronization. And I am reminded of Wiley’s Heatwave. I hold my son on my body, on my body, and I worry about everything that I have to tell him about the world.




About Jodie Hawkes

I am an artist and mother of two (a daughter aged 4 and a son aged 1). I make live art performances with my partner Pete Phillips as Search Party. Since 2005 we have made duo performances for theatres and public spaces, and have performed in venues and festivals in the UK and Internationally, inc…Read more


More posts by Jodie Hawkes

2 Responses to “BEFORE YOU WERE HERE”

  1. Helen Sargeant

    Dear Jodie,

    I am writing this after having had a gawp at the Wiley video. Wow.

    I love this post, and your beautiful words about birth, how you have captured the ordinary and the extraordinary. The control, lack of control that we have over our own bodies and our children’s bodies and lives. It made me think about my own birth experiences and my body in relationship to that of my sons.

    When I was giving birth to my youngest son, I had to endure listening to some dreadful choral music playing on radio 3 in the early hours; the midwife thought that I would like it. I could’nt string a sentence together. I was writhing about in the pool mid labour, but all I wanted was for it to be turned off. Its strange that its often the most inconsequential things that can cause the most anxiety.

    My eldest son is going through puberty and we have some really amazing conversations, its an exciting time for him as he changes from boy to man-boy. He talks to me about wanting a “six pack”. I try not to look horrified and I try to be kind and say that its not important, or rather ask him why he thinks that its important. I am touched about how aware of his body he is. He seems very together and confident about what is happening to him. I feel out of my depths, the teenage stage terrifies me. All this letting go, all this negotiation, all these hormones, all this growing at a phenomenal rate. I wish he was’nt bothered by muscles, and it also makes me think about why he places such importance in this.

    His thoughts about his body made me think about how little we talk about the objectification of mens bodies or for that matter children’s bodies.

    One of the first things that I said to my eldest sons father as he lay in his plastic cot after he was born was “to think, one day he will have a beard”. It was a funny thing to say looking at a new born, but the time has flown and one day very soon that man beard will sprout. He may be in competition with me as I seem to be getting hairier as I approach the menopause, but I will not be giving him shaving lessons, my legs are scarred from teenage experiments with razors.

    I wonder what kind of man he will be ?

  2. Lena Simic

    such a powerful post, really loved reading it, so vivid and visceral, from the image to reality. scary and sad as well. i am experiencing having a teenager and a baby at the same time, and there’s this constant pull push with my older children as they need their independence more and more, and yet, here’s my baby, so utterly dependent on me. love both things really, a sense of accomplishment with older boys and the neediness with the little one. time goes so fast and they are becoming men. i think that’s why i had to have this little one, to do it all over again. such joy such pain.


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