Welcome to The M(other) Side of the Perspex – an exhibition of creative work about mothering a premature infant in neonatal intensive care settings (NICU). The work exhibited here was produced by women taking part in a research project exploring their experience of mothering in NICU. The art, poems, videos and soundscapes which form the exhibition were produced during online workshops in the Autumn of 2021 with ten mothers from across the UK. Workshops were co-facilitated by researcher Sushila Chowdhry in collaboration with artists Jessica Howarth, Maya Chowdhry and Rachel Bower.
The research was designed by Sushila Chowdhry in collaboration with Divya Jindal-Snape and was funded by the Institute for Social Science Research, University of Dundee.
The exhibits contained within this page are a snapshot of the work produced by the mothers. Each participant’s unique story is told through creative media is found in individual webpages and can be viewed via a link beside each exhibit.
The exhibition is best viewed on a computer rather than a tablet or mobile phone. Some of the exhibits on these pages may be triggering for people who have experienced preterm birthing and/or spent time in NICU.
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He’s outside my body now, we’re still very close because we’ve got this kind of connection still.
‘Winter in NICU’ written and read by Cupola Care*
I never thought we’d experience this alien world, with its routines, still air, sterile smell, like a vacuum containing and draining you, that doesn’t release you.
In NICU you’re not allowed to touch your baby or do anything. So I used to sit over his incubator every day and put my face on the plastic. He would just be staring at me and I would close my eyes and imagine that I was spinning this cocoon round his body.
‘Golden Cocoon’ – written by Jane and read by Rachel Bower
From seven in the morning until eleven at night I’d just sit next to the incubator trying to hold us both together.
There was nobody else in transitional care and the isolation that I felt in there was absolutely awful for me.
My main job in NICU was to make and express milk. They would wake me up in the middle of the night to express because my prolactin levels would be high.
There’s so many rules in NICU and I think they’re good initially, but then they hold you back from kind of getting back into society, and being a mum in society.
These layered hearts represent mine and my daughter’s hearts. There are 42 yellow stitches for the number of days spent in NICU. The white stitches shows the connection between us.
After a week they said they were going to discharge me from the hospital. I didn’t want to be discharged. I remember completely and utterly just breaking down and saying – you can’t send me now. I remember saying sorry to him as I said bye to him. I just said we’re really sorry we’re having to leave you.
Photo credit: Leilani