I Wake to Listen by Naomi Wood

Honourable Mention – Personal

Naomi Wood reflects on the early days of ­motherhood, exploring maternal bonds and the conflicted emotions that arise from not living up to conventions.

“In October 2018, a year after moving into a static caravan, I gave birth to our child. I thought motherhood would feel magical, but it didn’t. On my second night of labour, the clocks went back, signalling the start of winter. And with this abrupt change, I began a new life as a mother, a structure existing merely to sustain a new life.

“The cries of my child – naked as the branches of the newly bare trees surrounding our home – came with a shocking violence for which I was entirely unprepared. A primal experience in which my entire being turned into another human’s sanctuary ­overnight,” she writes of the experience.
In the series I Wake to Listen – a title taken from Sylvia Plath’s 1961 poem Morning Song, written after the birth of her daughter Frieda – Wood captures her own experience of motherhood. “Privately, I was ripped apart; every emotion overloaded my senses. Yet publicly, a silence had closed in, I felt the need to censor myself.

“My camera became a therapeutic tool with which to pull myself out of the fog of early motherhood. I poured myself out in front of it; ­seeing, accepting and occasion­ally even celebrating my new being. With winter had come peace – space to hunker down and nurture, a quiet space for love to grow.

“The caravan sits in a wild parcel of land, and the oak tree standing next to it provides me with a calendar to mark the passing of time. It reminds me that although each generation of new parents has its own battles to plough through, nature remains, parenting continues. Sprouting, growing, wilting, reproducing – its cyclical nature shows me that no state is permanent.

“I am so tired of the standard parents are still expected to live up to. It feels liberating to step out of these expectations, to accept the duality of the experience and lay bare its brutality.”