Notes before sleeping 5th February 2014 between 10:07pm and 11:38pm

Yellow batter, Yellow pram, Yellow blanket, Yellow wallpaper, Yellow skin, Yellow sunflower, Yellow sand,

Naoise fast asleep, I am lying next to him in bed he will celebrate his fifth birthday at the end of the month, I remember back to the time when he was born.

Pancakes baking paracetomol. Prior to Naoise birth Patrick jokes that Naoise will be born on pancake Tuesday, I went into Labour on Pancake Tuesday. I am reading The Journals of Sylvia Plath 1950-1962 a section about the birth of her son Nicolas she writes:

“All day the cramps kept up every half hour or so, fading and returning. I sat on a stool in a back, limbo-mood, impatient for the real thing to begin. Did some baking. Then, the moment Frieda was in bed, the cramps started in earnest”

(The Journals of Sylvia Plath 1950-1962, page 645: Journal 1962)

The rain is falling. The waves over Sennon, Cornwall. Ask mum about the waves in winter, the waves that she experienced when living there. Where are the images of you outside the house where mum lived in Sennon. The photos that you took last summer ? Finding it, the address was Seaview, I couldn’t see a Seaview but mum told me that there was one out of the upstairs back window.

Mum celebrated her 70th birthday last week from her home in the far north of Scotland, as a child she had dreamed of living there.

Birth, my birth, was it a home birth, I think so, ask her. Cooking pancakes for Sydney (age 7), its the last meal that I cooked just for him, my first son. Sydney jumping in my bed. His chest is growing bigger, his hair is thick and strong.

Forgetting Naoise lunch box again. Buy peas for Pip our next door neighbour. Bottles of home brewed beer on the landing.

The snow has melted all is dark and quiet.

Lost a whole day on Saturday, couldn’t get out of bed. Sleep to escape. All is darkness all is pitiful as my back is aching after falling chasing after Naoise as he ran towards a road outside the chip shop. I slipped on the wet of the tarmac, full weight down on my coxics.

My niece Christines birthday tomorrow. February Naoise birthday coming soon. Five, how did that happen ? Years fly by. You were a tiny baby no bigger than our cat. Today you covered me in stickers, you made a sticker sculpture, long, beautiful, fragile, colourful.

Sydney calmer, calmer. Watching Pram Face. I am staring into his eyes when he was born.

Back aching, Naoise snoring, breathing next to me. Stirring. Breathing in through his nose. The planets the moon, stories of moon centipedes. Tucking up moon centipedes in bed under small metallic blankets. Telling the teacher to keep it a secret about Naoise thinking that I too have travelled to space like Neil Armstrong. Miss B B, her moon dress, her fruit dress her lettuce dress. Topic related clothing. I hear Sydney snoring. Perpetual rain clatters. The scissors have fallen and landed open caught between the books on the shelf.

York next week, more thoughts of grannie and her flat by the river opposite the castle. Trips to stay with her. The train journey. York station, ghost walks by the minster. Rain. Drinking Hot chocolate in a cafe with my youngest sister. The museum gardens. Tourists. The yorvik centre and the smell of viking poo. Queuing up to see it. The York Castle Museum and the Dungeons. The city walls. The art gallery and a great great uncles painting of the station during the second world war that hangs on the stairs.

The waxing crescent moon, on my way back from the studio. I collect you and park across the road from your school behind the bushes, so as not to embarrass you. The pub car park is full of deep potholes. You disappear into a door. You got the CD player working in the car, we listen to Ben Howard and London Grammar…The rain still pours. I cannot see any moonlight, too many clouds. The studio, hearing the owl screech. Cascading rain. Double duvets. Clothes on radiators, black mildew gathering on walls of the house.

Holding Naoise hand. His hand squirming out of mine. My back aching, must stop carrying him to school. Forgetting his lunchbox. Being rather a rubbish mum. Running along the roadside. I meet him at eye level, I explain again. he wriggles out of my hand. Ministry of funny walks. I grab his hood. He hates this. He won’t comply. I’m meant to be in control. Am I meant to be in charge ? Ok yes health and safety in charge, but how can I be in charge. What is responsible ? Watching the Nelson Mandela film, Long walk to freedom, I felt so small. He was huge. Mum turning 70. Nelson Mandela getting out of prison. How old was I ? Free Nelson Mandela concert. Where was I. How old was mum. Then ?

Nelson Mandela released from prison 11th February 1990. So I was 19 and mum was….add 28 years, so mum was 48 when he was released from prison.

The snow drops are up, but there is no snow.

Sleep between 11:38 pm February 5th 2014-2:00am February 6th 2014


Notes between 2:00-3:47am

Naoise pats my face till I wake up he is asking for buttered oat cakes and warm milk, I cannot face the journey down two flights of stairs in the dark. He keeps patting my face, I pretend that I am asleep. He gives up and falls back to sleep, but now I am AWAKE.

Labour 1999. London Bridge. New year, new millennium. Running against the crowds. Fireworks. The flat occupied by the artist who likes to sleep in a tent. The year you stopped taking Lithium. No longer an Eveready battery body. 2000. All would change.

Conception. Pregnancy. Labour pains.

Royal College of Art. Moss Side flat cockroaches. Sydney calling out mum in his sleep. Naoise tried to get me to make him oatcakes, I pretended that I was sleeping. He kept patting my face. He has given up now. Pancake mixture batter. Nigella Lawson recipe from The Domestic Goddess. Lemon, sugar. Syd’s last meal as my only son. Mum over at the house. Paracetomal. Labour pains. The rain blows sporadically on the windows. That party the bathroom door locked, lines of cocaine ?

Cycling to Salford University. MA Creative Technology.

Rachel Whiteread’s House.

David brings me love heart sweets when I was ill.

Sharing a Marlborough light with Richard in the painting studio.

Flux Magazine.

Life Drawing Classes.

DF tent, All the people I have ever slept with 


1999 you took a train up from London and surprised me with a visit. A picnic in the part outside the Whitworth Art Gallery in Manchester, where you spoke of undying love and affection for me.

My back aches. Small of my back. It reminds me of labour pains. Mix the batter. Leave it to stand. Break the eggs. Break the flour. Bubbles in the pan. A circle of liquid. A pile of pancakes.

“Any more”, “Any more”

You get the last one.

Pancake Tuesday baby.

Yellow wallpaper,

Yellow pram,

Womb space,


Sucking your thumb in your sleep,

Foetal position,

Looking at me,

Looking at you,


Through our eyes,

Twinkle in my eye,

You lived behind my eye,

Grandpa Polatomous was the man that you said lived inside my body and helped to show babies the way out.

Gold high heeled shoes stamping bread dough on top of a kitchen table, the dough is getting stuck to the shoes. Its difficult to move.

Dough rising in a bowl,


Back pains,

Water flooding,

Man falling to earth,

Slowness of it,

Falling to mother earth and landing on his feet,


First moments with child in my arms,


A mess everywhere,

But you,

Your skin so soft,

Blue eyes,

Tiny hands fee,

A picture,


The room,

Pissing in the sand,

Stickers on my back,

Baby birds warming on top of the boiler in Etwall,


Feeding them worms clasped in tweezers,

They all died, however much you fed, nurtured them, kept them warm,

A girl is not a mother bird,

Back to Sylvia’s birth of her son Nicolas she writes;

“Nurse D, gently unloosed my fingers.The Black force grew imperceptibly. I felt panic-stricken—I had nothing to do with it. It controlled me. “I can’t help it,” I cried, or whispered, and then in three great bursts, the black thing hurtled itself out of me, one, two, three, dragging three shrieks after it: Oh, Oh, Oh. A great wall of water seemed to come with it. “Here he is !” I heard Ted say. It was over. I felt the great weight gone in a moment. I felt thin,like air, as if I would float away, and perfectly awake. I lifted my head and looked up. “Did he tear me to bits?” I felt I must be ripped and bloody from all that power breaking out of me. “Not a scratch,” said Nurse D. I couldn’t believe it. I lifted my head and saw my first son, Nicolas Farrar Hughes, blue and glistening on the bed a foot from me, in a pool of wet, with a cross, black frown and oddly low, angry brow, looking up at me, frown-wrinkles between his eyes and his blue scrotum and penis large and blue, as if carved on a totem. Ted was pulling back the wet sheets and Nurse D, mopping up the great amounts of water that had come with him.”

(The Journals of Sylvia Plath 1950-1962, page 647: Journal 1962)

















About Helen Sargeant

I am a visual artist, mother of two children aged 12 and 4, and co-founder of the MeWe arts collective. I intend to use this site to explore how my personal experiences as a mother informs my arts practice. To reflect upon the maternal in relationship to memory, loss, and mental health in particu…Read more


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