Celebrating femininity and empathy through images and words

Our Books (in chronological order of publishing date)

From the back cover of Oy Yew by Ana Salote:

‘Lay low and grow,’ is the motto of the waifs of Duldred Hall. The only way to escape their life of drudgery is to reach the magical height of 5 thighs 10 oggits. But Master Jeopardine is determined to feed them little and keep them small.When the master’s methods grow more sinister the waifs must face their doubts. What is kept in the Bone Room? Why is Rook’s parlour locked? A new waif arrives and the fight for survival begins. But this child brings another mystery: who is Oy?

The waifs will grab your heart from page one and not let go. This book entertains on so many levels. Charles Kinglsey meets Jasper Fforde with shades of Gormenghast.

Fiona Faith Ross, author

Destined to be a classic. Jeopardine’s decline into horrific madness offers readers of all ages the same thrill as Dahl’s Child Catcher.

Helen Baggott (read-reviewed.com)

 

Oy Yew (RRP £7.99) can be ordered from our store here

 

Chapter One of Oy Yew, by Ana Salote:

 Chapter 1     Caught

Oy was slight, weakly, overlooked. He had thought himself some sort of ghost, till one day, when he was about seven (he guessed), someone saw him.

‘Oy, you,’ said the girl. Startled, he had slipped away, through a gap, into a yard, through a hole, into the innards of a half-collapsed shanty. There he survived on crumbs and smells until, some years later, he was seen again.

He was in the alley behind the bakery when the waif-catchers netted him. He fed daily on the smell of bread, letting the vapours swirl around his brain and conjure of themselves a high-risen floury loaf. He would seize it with his two hands, break open the crust, and inside would be fluffy and white with a puff of steam, and he would scoop out the new bread and eat. That warm salt vapour would feed his mind for hours, but his body did not know bread.

Only other children were fast enough to catch the waifs. It was popular sport and paid well. The Affland girls who flanked Oy were tall and strong, and so explosively alive that Oy could hear their blood thundering. His feet pedalled air as they carried him to the office of Mrs Rutheday.

‘We got another one for you,’ they said, lifting him onto a block so that he could be seen through the hole in the wall.

Mrs Rutheday turned showing her face. The wall had more feeling in it. She might have been scoured from stone, her mouth was a ruled line and her hair was like iron wire.

‘Family name?’ she asked. Oy was in shock like any wild thing when it is handled. He could only pluck at his rags and gape like a fish.

‘What is your surname?’ she asked again.

One of the girls poked him.

‘What does it mean?’ he said with effort. He had picked up some stilted language but it was strange in his mouth.

‘Your second name, noodle. It comes after your first.’

‘You,’ said Oy.

Yew, Mrs Rutheday wrote. ‘First name?’ she asked.

‘Oy,’ he said.

The girls spluttered.

‘You’ve caught us a joker,’ said Mrs Rutheday. Then she looked at his pale vacant eyes. ‘No, there’s not enough brains in there to joke with. Oy Yew it is then. What is that thing he’s wearing?’

‘Old flour sack, ma’am.’

‘Alright, take him up.’

They pushed him into a room so long that its eight rows of benches disappeared to a point. Behind every work station sat a child, and each child was possessed of a pair of eyes, and each pair of eyes looked at him.

‘Who wants this one?’ shouted the eldest of the two girls.

There was no answer.

‘Name of Oy Yew,’ said the other girl to breaking laughter.

A faint, croaky voice came from somewhere far down the hall: ‘Here, he can sit here.’

The girls craned to where a shy hand waved and shoved Oy towards it. Oy fixed his eyes on the fuzzy, white head of Linnet Pale and stumbled down the aisle.

So Oy went to bench 54, to sit by Linnet, and to be trained by her in assembly. They had no idea what it was they assembled, only that they strained their eyes over sixteen tiny screws, and that the part thus assembled was passed on to the next bench, and from there to the next, till the thing was much increased in size, whereupon it was loaded onto trolleys and taken through the arches where there were flashing lights and sparks and a smell of burning rubber.

Linnet had no pigments in her skin or hair except for a stain on her temple. The other waifs said it was the hole where all her colour leaked out. Oy thought she was perfect. At first he was alarmed to have someone evidently seeing him, constantly speaking to him and even caring to know what was in his head. Once he got used to it though, it was exciting. It unsettled and warmed his insides, this business of having a friend.

To start with the conversation was all one way. What language Oy had was buried deep. He had always thought in pictures, pictures as vivid as life, but with Linnet’s help he began to speak. Neither had known there was so much to say. Oy especially, as he learned more and more words, had seven or eight or nine years (who knew) of thoughts all stored up for telling.

The talk fell naturally into the great rhythm of the factory.

‘Where did you come from?’ asked Oy, his voice climbing above the tapping of a hundred little hammers in the rows behind them.

‘To begin with? I came from Poria on a raft, of course.’ Linnet shouted over the strikes and clattering.

‘What a raft?’ Oy shouted back.

Linnet looked puzzled. ‘You know, a flat boat. Sometimes it’s just a few logs tied together. We’re all raft-children aren’t we? Can’t you remember? You were too little I expect. On fair days the beaches were all dotted with seeing-off parties. All the way down the coast you could see them, loading the rafts with spares like us. It’s not something you forget easy, sitting on that bit of wood, and all that mass and slap of water and the sea smell, and your family getting smaller and smaller as you’re sucked away and away, all the way down here to Affland – that’s if you don’t drown first.’

Oy stared at her with wide, empty eyes.

Linnet leaned towards him. ‘Are you listening?’ She looked into his eyes then pulled back fearfully. ‘You was more than listening. You was right inside my head.’

‘Is it wrong?’

‘Not really. I just ain’t been listened to quite like that before.’ She shot him little sideways glances, then smiled. ‘Go on, tell about what you ’member.’

‘I can’t remember no sea trip,’ Oy replied. ‘I can’t ’member nothing before the bakery. I just sprout there, like weed I think – live off crumbs and sour dough slung out back. I watch and hear through windows and in the alley but no one sees me. So I wonder what I am. Am I a ghost p’raps?’

‘That’s silly,’ Linnet giggled.

Oy had always wanted to try laughing, so he copied her. This tickled Linnet even more. Then the noise from the steam room swelled and swallowed all.

 

***

 

At night in the waif sheds, while others slept, they talked on, as though they knew their time was short.

‘Tell me about your home in Poria. Why did you have to leave?’ Oy asked.

‘Us Porians, we generally don’t talk too much about that.’

‘I’m sorry.’

‘You weren’t to know. Oh, I’ll tell you anyway. My family…’

‘What a family?’

The boy in the next floor space twitched and pulled his blanket over his head.

She lowered her voice to a croaky whisper. ‘My family kept me for as long as they could, but I was always expecting to be sent away. I knew it was my time when the harvest failed second year running and then my mother’s belly started to swell…’ Oy looked confused. ‘With a baby – that’s a sign a woman’s going to have a baby. That’s when my father started to build a raft.’

‘Did it make you very sad?’

Linnet shrugged. ‘Ain’t no point being sad about what can’t be helped.’

***

 

Like a duckling that takes for its mother the first object it sees, Oy took for his friend the first person to really see him. The endless assembling, all the endless hours of endless days, did not bother him. Hunger and hardship were only what he’d been used to, but now everything was shared, and that put a shine on it. Linnet was just as pleased. She had only ever been looked down on, never looked up to.

‘Linnet,’ said Oy, some weeks later, ‘if I am a person do you think I had a mother?’

‘Yes, you must have had a mother, just like I had, even if it wasn’t for long.’

‘Do you think she forgot about me then, put me down somewhere and never bothered to pick me up again?’

‘No, there’ll be more to it than that.’

Linnet patted Oy’s arm. Oy hadn’t been patted before. He looked at his arm curiously, then started. He felt three sharp knocks on his backbone and cold metal pressed to the corner of his mouth.

‘Poker faces, poker backs.’ Mrs Rutheday looked down at him.

She had no expression. She could not read expressions, so she hated to see them, especially smiles. In fact she did not like curves of any sort.

‘Are you making your quotas with all this chatter?’ Her voice was grittier than the sanders.

Oy tried to answer but found that he had forgotten how.

‘Yes’m,’ Linnet butted in, ‘we’ve never missed.’

‘Mr Gurney had better raise them then, if you’ve got leisure to talk.’ All the time she appraised Oy, making him want to hide. ‘Stand,’ she ordered. Oy stood. She tipped her head. ‘You’ll do. He likes them small for the house. Be ready at six tomorrow for the cart to Duldred.’ Linnet began rising from her seat in protest, but Mrs Rutheday’s frozen face weighed her down again. ‘What, you want to go too? Attached to this one are you? None of you lot are pretty but the master wouldn’t want anything as plain freakish as you at the house.’ She turned to Oy. ‘Mind what I say. Front gates, hour of six.’ Mrs Rutheday moved away, knocking kinks out of spines with her poker as she passed between the benches.

Linnet sat back staring at her hands.

‘What did she mean?’ asked Oy.

‘You’re being sent to the big house, to be a house servant for Master Jeopardine.’

‘Is it near?’

The noise from the steam room grew loud again. Linnet shouted. ‘Fifteen miles or more. But not allowed out. Like here. Work, sleep, work, sleep.’

For the rest of the day they chose their words carefully, knowing that there were few left to them. That night, as they found their spaces under the high windows of the waif shed, their faces were passive but their eyes were busy storing friendship.

 

Oy Yew (RRP £7.99) can be ordered from our store here
 

From the back cover of Hearth by Sarah James and Angela Topping:

In Hearth, prize-winning poets Sarah James and Angela Topping join forces for an exciting sequence of paired poems which echo and interrogate each other, finding shared ground and surprising connections.

Home, memory and commonality are explored through objects that often surround our living spaces, our hearths, our hearts. Opening and closing with collaborative poems, the poets’ two voices come together, part and come together again.

From old fires that ‘spark and flame’ to ‘the heart of a secret’ and ‘silenced tongues’, the sequence picks out the people, places and things that shape our lives. The dialect of everyday jostles alongside the influences of Shakespeare, Ted Hughes’ Crow and Mrs Beeton. There are shared words, music and dancing, but beware also of the sharp sting of pins, ‘shadow wolves’ and falling.

Sarah and Angela’s jointly-written poem ‘Crow Lines’, taken from Hearth, was highly commended in Cheltenham Poetry Festival’s Compound Poem competition. (2015)

 

James’ and Topping’s poetry duet explores ideas of home through memories and objects from childhood. Crows, sewing and laundry lines are recurring images; “The sister I never met hangs out my sheets” (The Washing Line, James) and “small acts of love, pinned up with such hope of drying” (Spring Lines, Topping) with a nod to Larkin and Hughes, amongst others...

…These poems conjure safe, hard-working family childhoods. There is nostalgia but not the syrupy it-was-all-rosy-then nostalgia. It’s the sort that says we are older but we carry memories to pass down; a solid ground from which our families spring upward into a future distance far beyond us…

…Hearth is a gentle, accurate, evocative duet… 

Myfanwy Fox, Fox Unkennelled

 

Hearth (RRP £5.00) can be bought from our store here

 


 

From the back cover of The Forgotten and the Fantastical, edited by Teika Bellamy:

In this beguiling collection of fairy tales for an adult audience there is both the familiar and the unfamiliar. Here you will find modern twists on old favourites such as ‘Little Red Riding Hood’, ‘Pinocchio’ and ‘The Dream of Akinosuke’, as well as reinterpretations of ‘The Mermaid of Zennor’ and Arthurian legend. Original fiction has its place here too, with characters so vivid that they will continue to haunt you long after their stories have been read.

Features new writing by:

Rebecca Burland, Becky Cherriman, Tomas Cynric, Barbara Higham, CM Little, NJ Ramsden, Lisa Shipman, Marija Smits and Lindsey Watkins.

 

 

‘Enchanting, fascinating, alchemical - writing that pulls at the threads of well-known stories. But these are not just the familiar tropes, tales of morality, or social commentary: these are symbolic events that are transformed and empowered by writers who have allowed the story to filter through their own experiences. These stories bring the tradition of oral storytelling onto the page - and into the present.’

Alison Lock

 

The Forgotten and the Fantastical (RRP £8.99) can be bought from our store here

Carnival

What is this all about?

To celebrate the launch of The Forgotten and the Fantastical, edited by Teika Bellamy, we’re organizing a blog carnival. We’re aware that getting to a bricks-and-mortar launch isn’t a possibility for all our authors and supporters, so a blog carnival is a great way to get involved with the launch of the book – but without having to actually travel. We’d love to get as many creative folk involved as possible, in order to share poetry, art or prose on the theme of ‘fairytales’.

What should I write about?

Here are some ideas for blog posts…

  •  Favourite tales
    What were your favourite fairy tales as a child? Are they still your favourites? How has adulthood/motherhood changed your opinions of those tales? Do the classic fairy tales disempower women? Is there a need for more feminist fairy tales? Which fairy tales do you like to read to your children? Which literary fairy tales do you like to read? Who are some of your favourite authors of ‘modern’ fairy tales? 
  • The art of fairy tales
    Should fairy tale books be illustrated? Or should the writer be the sole artist in creating pictures of the story in the reader’s mind? Who are your favourite illustrators of fairy tales? Please do share some of your own (or other artists’ images). 
  • Real fairy tales 
    Has anything ‘fairy tale-like’ happened in your own life? Or have you learnt any emotional truths from fairy tales which have stuck with you? Please do share some of your own ‘real’ fairy tales! 

When? 

The carnival will be happening on the one day: Tuesday 31st March (posts need to be up by midday GMT) 

Deadline for submissions: Sunday 29th March midday GMT 

We will need your submission in advance of the carnival date – they won’t be edited, merely checked for suitability. 

How do I sign up? 

Please visit this link here to get signed up to the carnival.

Thank you for considering sharing your thoughts and creativity :-)

 

 

From the back cover of The Mother’s Milk Books Writing Prize Anthology 2013: PARENTING, edited by Teika Bellamy:

This anthology of poetry and prose brings together all the winning and commended pieces of the 2013 Mother's Milk Books Writing Prize. It features winning writing from: Stephanie Arsoska, Alison Bond McNally, Cathy Bryant, Anna Burbidge, Dawn Clarke, Jordan Clarke, Lanora Clarke, Clare Cooper, Susan Cooper, Jan Dean, Helen Goldsmith, Barbara Higham, Sarah James, Kimberly Jamison, Alison Jones, Sharon Larkin, Helen Lloyd, Rachel McGladdery, Alison Parkes, Julia Prescott, Lindsey Watkins, Abigail Wyatt.

 

 

 

It is fantastic to know what a fruitful subject parenthood can be and also to read so many beautiful poems which include breastfeeding and its joys.

Poetry judge, Angela Topping

A fabulous collection; all the pieces sit beautifully together. -

Prose judge, Susan Last

 

The Mother’s Milk Books Writing Prize Anthology: PARENTING (RRP £8.99) can be bought from our store here

 


 

Front cover of 'Look At All The Women' by Cathy BryantFrom the back cover of Look At All The Women by Cathy Bryant:

Look at all the women! What a waste of time / life would be without them.

Women are everywhere and doing everything – fighting the Nazis, breastfeeding babies, falling in love (or at least tripping over it), feeling embarassed, inventing new passionate positions or, in our myths, flying to the moon or singing sailors to their doom. These poems capture their voices in a variety of forms, sometimes with bite and sometimes with a gleeful grin.

Witty, tender and sometimes outraged, Cathy Bryant’s second collection tackles the way women are treated in today’s society. Heroines are singled out; the various stages of womanhood celebrated. Bryant enjoys using rhyme to emphasise a point but is equally at home in free verse. Her work is accessible, unafraid and engaging.

Angela Topping, poet, literary critic and author

Cathy’s poetry does a double-take on the world, with humour and always with compassion.

Rosie Garland, poet and author

 

Look At All The Women (RRP £8.99) can be ordered from our store here

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More praise for Look At All The Women by Cathy Bryant:

Wickedly funny.

Mslexia

I have just had a nasty dose of sunburn and I blame Cathy Bryant. You see, doctor, I was sitting in my garden after a vigorous bout of weeding and decided to flick through her latest book of poetry while enjoying a cup of tea. Ninety minutes later I was still there, tea undrunk and shoulders stinging after reading from cover to cover...

...It needs to be read aloud. I started by muttering it in my head but finished by reading it loudly enough to alarm my cats, who came over to see what was up. And if you ever get a chance to read out a poem yourself, can I suggest you have a go with the title work which closes this collection, ‘Look At All The Women’. It will go down a storm (even if only cats are listening).

Judy Gordon, Write OutLoud

This is a truly wonderful book from a poet whose work has been aptly described as “Carol Ann Duffy crossed with Spike Milligan”.

Sue Barnard, Ink, Sweat and Tears

Carnival

What was this all about?

Cover of Look At All The WomenTo celebrate the publication of Look At All The Women by Cathy Bryant on 28th May 2014 we organised a 3-week long blogging carnival. We were delighted with the level of interest shown and seriously impressed by the quality of writing produced. In total 10 different bloggers produced 20 blog posts, that were all incredible.

Each week there was a different theme to be inspired by – each theme ties in with one of the chapters of Cathy’s new poetry collection. The three chapters are: ‘The Lovers’, ‘The Mothers’ and ‘The Eclectic Others’.

So here are the summaries of each of the 3 weeks of the carnival. If you haven’t had a chance to stop by and have a read, please do so. They’re all fantastic!

A big thank you to everyone involved for making this happen.

Week One: The Lovers

'Fantasy, love and oddity.’ — Cathy Bryant, guest posting at Mother’s Milk Books, shares two of her favourite poems about lovers from her second collection of poetry, Look At All The Women.

‘The Walnut Hearts’ Marija Smits shares some ‘nutty’ poetry about love and reflects on the role good communication has on a harmonious relationship.

Georgie St Clair shares her feelings on why we should indulge our passions as lovers in her lighthearted post — ‘Creative Lovers: Not Tonight Darling’.

‘The Lovers – Or What I Don’t Know About Love’ — Kimberly Jamison posts to her blog The Book Word what she has learnt about love from story books, people watching and her own life and wonders if she actually knows anything at all.

‘Implicit v Explicit’ — Ana Salote at Colouring Outside the Lines considers literature’s role in teaching children about relationships.

Week Two: The Mothers

‘Moments with Mothers and (Imaginary) Daughters’ — Cathy Bryant, guest posting at Mother’s Milk Books, shares more poetry from Look At All The Women — her own version of Rudyard Kipling’s ‘If’ and a poem inspired by her imaginary daughter.

‘The Cold Cup of Tea’ Marija Smits shares some poetry that gives a glimpse into the everyday life of a mother.

‘Creative Mothers: You Need to Stop!’ — Georgie St Clair, shares an important reminder, that all mothers need to dedicate time and space to be creative.

‘The Mothers – Or Promises to My Future Child’: Kimberly Jamison posts to her blog The Book Word what she has learnt from her own mother, and writes an open letter to her future child.

‘Bonobos are my Heroines’: Ana Salote at Colouring Outside the Lines puts the nature back into nurture.

‘Baby Body Shame: it’s Time to Push Back’ — Stephanie from Beautiful Misbehaviour wants to challenge society’s treatment of the post-birth body.

Helen at Young Middle Age talks about finding strength from thinking about all the other mothers, during hard times.

Week Three: The Eclectic Others

‘Heroines and Inspirations’— Cathy Bryant, guest posting at Mother’s Milk Books, shares two powerful, inspiring poems, and how they came into being.

‘Sensitivity’ Marija Smits shares a poem, with an accompanying image, that gives a glimpse into the inner workings of a highly sensitive person.

Georgie St Clair shares her creative female heroines in her post ‘Creative Others: Mothers Who Have It All’

‘The Eclectic Others – Or What Would I Have Been Without You?’ — Kimberly Jamison posts to her blog The Book Word a thank you to the women of literature and history who have been in her life, shaped her life, saved her life and gave her a future.

‘Barbie speaks out’ — Ana Salote at Colouring Outside the Lines shares a platform with feminist icon, Barbie.

‘Her Village’ — An older (much older than most) first time mother, Ellie Stoneley from Mush Brained Ramblings firmly believes in the old African adage that it takes a village to raise a child. To that end she has surrounded her daughter with the love, mischief and inspiration of an extremely eclectic bunch of villagers.

Survivor writes about the inspiring life of La Malinche and her place in Mexican history at Surviving Mexico: Adventures and Disasters.

Sophelia writes about the importance of her community as a family at Sophelia’s Adventures in Japan.



Cover of 'Letting Go' by Angela ToppingFrom the back cover of Letting Go by Angela Topping:

But they learn to walk away / like any other guest

Love is about letting go. This notion threads its way throughout Angela Topping’s new selection. She writes tenderly and movingly about childhood, growing up, bereavement and parenthood. These are frank, honest and moving poems arranged in an unfolding narrative which reaches out to the reader, wanting to share and engage.

 

The poems of Letting Go engage the reader with their shaped sense of familial experience. In clear and crafted language the poet opens a heart-door on the pluses and minuses of life, revealing the flow of time and love through the generations. A beautifully judged collection. 

Penelope Shuttle, poet and author

Angela Topping’s poems tug at the threads of motherhood and daughterhood, and lay bare the complicated business of family. They speak of what sometimes can’t be said — when words are rags. These are gentle, honest poems that honour the small sorrows and joys of everyday lives. It is impossible to resist the power of such tender declarations of love.

Martin Figura, poet, teacher and photographer

 

Letting Go (RRP £8.99) can be bought from our store here

***

More praise for Letting Go by Angela Topping:

The first thing that struck me about these poems of childhood, parenthood, daughterhood is that reading them is very much like coming home, being welcomed in and feeling part of the family… …One of the keys to what makes these poems feel so much like coming home is perhaps already hinted at – the fact that the situations and emotions are universal and captured in a way that is so easy to recognise and identify with. 

Sarah James, poet, from a detailed review on: www.sarah-james.co.uk

 

This year I enjoyed Letting Go by Angela Topping (Mother’s Milk Books) for flights of word music and whimsical playfulness just where I didn’t expect it in some very earnest and plain poetry of love and ageing and the work of supporting people.

Ira Lightman, poet, from a review on: www.cbeditions.com

Letting Go is a wonderful collection of poems reflecting on family life through the generations. They are funny, perceptive and sad. ‘Last Gifts’, about a mother dying, is desperately poignant, with strong emotions portrayed through simple words and phrases. Reading this book reminded me, again, to treasure and enjoy my family as they are now.

Saffia Farr, editor of JUNO natural parenting magazine

A lovely rainbow of poems to have at your side as you greet new life and breastfeed your baby, and whenever you want to think about those to whom you have said goodbye.

Sheila Kitzinger, social anthropologist of birth, birth educator and writer

 


 

'Musings on Mothering' book coverFrom the back cover of Musings on Mothering, edited by Teika Bellamy:

Many women have found motherhood to be a creatively rich time, and Musings on Mothering is a glorious testament to that creativity. Here you’ll find poetry and art of various styles, alongside craftwork and prose; all inspired by the timeless theme of mothering. The contributors (mothers, fathers, children, professional and amateur) have captured and distilled the essence of their experiences or reflections on mothering, producing an anthology of great passion. Their work has the power to make the reader laugh, cry, consider, or smile in recognition. Most of all it gives cause to muse on mothering.

Wherever you are on your parenting path, you will find a lovingly-created “something” on one of these pages that will speak to you. Musings on Mothering is a much-needed exploration into the realm of mothering, and as such, it maps out a multifaceted picture of motherhood which is as intricate as it is beautiful.

A heartfelt and honest collection of art, poetry, and prose from all around the world; its celebration of mothers and motherhood (and fathers!) is moving and deeply human.

Lois Rowlands, Publications Director of La Leche League GB

 

Musings on Mothering (RRP £13.99) can be bought from our store here

***

More praise for Musings on Mothering, edited by Teika Bellamy:

Musings on Mothering is a beautiful, inspiring collection of shared thoughts. Wherever you are on your path, there is something within these pages that will speak to you. - Melissa Corkhill, editor The Green Parent, from a review in the April/May 2013 (issue 52)

The book, Musings on Mothering, is an amazing creation and must have taken many hours, days and weeks to put together. Thank you so much [to LLLGB] for sending it to me and please thank all those wonderful moms and dads who had a part in it. -Mary White, co-founder La Leche League International and co-author of The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding 1st – 6th editions

Via Twitter:

For anyone at home with a new baby – I can recommend @MothersMilkBks‘s Musings on Mothering. Thank you Teika! - Professor Alice Roberts, anatomist, osteoarchaeologist, anthropologist, paleopathologist, television presenter, author and mother

I love Musings on Mothering! It is a treasure that will be enjoyed by mothers of all ages. As a great grandmother, the stories, poetry and artwork enveloped me in the memories of my children’s early years. -Marian Tompson, co-founder La Leche League International, co-author The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, 1st – 6th editions

This is an amazing book. It is possible to become entirely lost in it. I have not yet looked at every page because there is so much to muse on. This is the hope of editor Teika Bellamy. Often, as mothers (and fathers), we are so busy caring and meeting everyday needs that we run out of time to muse. This book can help us to read others’ reflections and then see how they make us feel. All aspects of mothering are covered, including chapters looking at ‘From Broody to Birth’, ‘Challenging Times’, and ‘Remembering Mothers’. Poems are interspersed with prose and a range of wonderful artwork from contributors of all ages. On first reading I was overwhelmed by the power of what is within. Motherhood is both wonderful and complex and Musings on Mothering captures this perfectly. All royalties from the sale of this book will be donated to La Leche League Great Britain. - Saffia Farr, editor of Juno

Musings on Mothering is beautiful. The editor has crafted each page and each collection of pieces within the whole anthology so that every piece is showcased as a work of art. I love the interplay of the poetry, prose, paintings, photos etc. I keep dipping into it to discover something new. Thank you so much for designing and crafting such a wonderful book. I feel proud to have been a small part of it. - Alison Parkes, mother, writer and LLL Leader

On many occasions since becoming a mother I have wished that I lived within a tribe of like-minded women as it would have been many years ago. Women who set an example, women to share stories with, to laugh with, to empathise with, women who were sharing your parenting experience by supporting, empowering and sympathising, and all at different places in their mothering journey. Musings on Mothering has felt like that to me. It is perfect for a new mother as it has many different facets to dip in and out of, in those brief moments you get. It has inspiring pictures, beautiful poems and moving stories and experiences, and feels like a scrapbook of strength and support as well as entertainment. It is lovely to find so many different elements in one book so that you feel less alone by reading and perusing, which is a blessing as sometimes it is the moments where you can’t face seeking support or inspiration that you need it the most. Personally I especially enjoyed the breastfeeding stories as I remember feeling isolated in the early days of breastfeeding. I only wish I had had this book from the beginning of my mothering journey so I could have enjoyed this wisdom from others and absorbed the beautiful variety of musings at the times I was most overwhelmed. I feel that reading this when pregnant would have given me a far greater understanding of what to expect from breastfeeding, and why it would be a fulfilling thing to do. This book seems to capture many of the elements that are wonderful and special about becoming a mother that are usually hard to explain or put into words. - Matilda Richardson, mother

An extract from a review on the blog Slummy Single Mummy:

I’m currently reading ‘Musing on Mothering – About Pregnancy, Birth and Breastfeeding: An Anthology of Art, Poetry and Prose’ – edited by Teika Bellamy – and it is absolutely fabulous. As it says on the tin, it’s a collection of writing and art from real mothers, talking about what it’s really like to be a mother – not just the practicalities of never being able to go to the toilet alone, but the emotions and feelings that swell up in you at the most unexpected of times and the amazing bond you form with your baby, even though they’re basically just a helpless ball of mess and screams…

What I love about Musings on Mothering is that it gives you the opportunity to take a bit of time out from actually being a mother, and think about what it means – what is it that defines us as mothers, what are the shared experiences and emotions we all go through? - Jo, mummy blogger, work-at-home mother of two, freelance marketing and social media consultant, copywriter and journalist

 

This is an issue close to my heart. Breastfeeding is free and great for both mum and baby. I fed both my daughters despite sometimes unhelpful advice and misapprehensions about length and frequency of feeding which were constantly pushed in my face from people who should have known better. This book is not just for women, but for anyone who was ever born. Do consider buying someone you love a copy. - Angela Topping, poet and educator

Musings on Mothering, edited by Teika Bellamy, reminds me of mothers everywhere, in that it has an understated cover and a tendency to play itself down and sell itself short. Look within, however, and it is filled with richness; an explosion of beautiful art, touching words and poems, warmth, humour, pathos and sorrow. An absolutely perfect book for all mums, a wonderful gift, a completely lovely book…
…please buy it and give it the ego boost it deserves. - Milli Hill, mother, freelance writer, editor and parenting blogger

Possibly the most beautiful anthology ever lovingly created, ‘Musings on Mothering’ (royalties to the La Leche League) contains poems, stories, memoirs, artwork and photographs, and would be worth the price for its representations from any one of those categories alone. I’m honoured to be in it, and also to be published alongside Angela Topping, one of the finest contemporary British poets. A moving, loving read, and would make a fine present for any mother or mother-to-be. - Cathy Bryant, award-winning poet

Extract from a review first published on the GreenMums blog.

My first thoughts on reading this book were how I wish I had a copy of it 6 years ago when I gave birth to my daughter! No-one can prepare you for your first baby. You just don’t know how much your life is going to change. I remember feeling exhausted, emotional and filled with anxiety about whether or not I was doing everything right. I had no real friends with babies nearby and felt like I desperately needed reassurance that everything was ok.

This book is like picking up a collection of letters from a best friend. Someone who has been there and knows what you are going through. Someone who has been awake all night and slept with cabbage leaves in their bra. Someone who has not drank a hot cup of tea in a week and knows just how painful cracked nipples can be!

This is an honest collection of thoughts and feelings from mothers old and new, and a wonderful celebration of motherhood. I would recommend it to anyone that is expecting a baby or is a mother already. If I was pregnant this would be at the top of my wish list for a new baby gift. - Tracy, mother and owner of Green Mums

Just got mine and I love it!!! SO much beauty in one book! Thanks for doing this, it is a treasure. - Anna, from Oxford

An extract from a review on the blog Bees On Skis:

Mother’s Milk books intend to publish books that hope to share the beauty of breastfeeding and the mother-father-child connection that begins even before birth. The editor and founder of Mother’s Milk Books, Teika Bellamy, has worked really hard on this very first publication, bringing together mothers, and some fathers, from all corners of life all connected by their experiences of parenthood. It is filled with beautiful art, prose and poetry that illustrates this life bond. Reading it, you can’t help but feel the intense emotions of motherhood. Those same emotions that have us laughing and crying like we never did before becoming parents! - Shireen, teacher, writer, mum

My copy has come today! So many beautiful contributions, it’s had me in tears reading it. -Laura, from Mid Wales

I keep welling up as I read it – it’s powerful, moving and reminds me how blessed I am to be a mother. - Justine, from Cambridge

An extract from a detailed review published on the blog Stone Age Parenting:

…The anthology [Musings on Mothering] is carefully arranged into chronological sections, starting with ‘From Broody to Birth’ right through to ‘Our Children’. The anthology can therefore easily be dipped into even for a short time, with a quick flick through, making it realistic to be able to read just one or two contributions from this book as a busy parent on a much needed coffee break, reading it in bite-sized chunks. Equally, with time you can really be drawn into the anthology and its messages by reading many contributions in one sitting, which is what I did not through choice but because I simply couldn’t put the book down, it was that infectious! With time I would have read the whole book in one sitting, feeling drawn into the contributor’s lives, able to deeply relate to most of them…

I could write so much more about this anthology, but will stop here as what you need to do is go out and read it! No other book has achieved what Teika has created here. I would thoroughly recommend it to anyone who is interested in parenting, as it presents a new angle on this most popular of subjects. It also makes a lovely, thoughtful gift for any of your friends who are mothers, especially those who have nursed their children. - Caroline Cole, mother, writer, journalist

I’m now just over halfway through the book and can see myself coming back to it again and again. There are so many wonderful, joyful, moving, inspiring things in it. -Ruth, from Nottingham

Musings on Mothering landed on my doorstep a few days ago, and I have not been able to put it down since picking it up… Metaphorically of course! This book is a beautiful collection of artwork, poetry, missive and musings by parents, for parents. Don’t be fooled by the plain front cover; inside you will find a beautifully arranged, celebratory work of art, that will leave you feeling lovely and warm inside. Whenever I have a spare moment and am in need of some mindfulness, I dip into this book, and I return to the world feeling refreshed and smiling. - Zion Lights, mother, writer, journalist

Detailed Review by Lois Rowlands, LLLGB Publications Director:

Musings on Mothering is a one-of-a-kind book. Although a handful of poetry anthologies on parenthood already exist, what makes this one unique is that La Leche League philosophy sits at its core.

The anthology consists of eight chapters, which in a loose, chronological order chart aspects of mothering from pre-birth to grandmothering. The first chapter “From Broody to Birth” covers pregnancy and labour, with the next chapter “Babymoon” focusing on those first weeks and months with a newborn. Lisa Hassan Scott writes about the broken nights, and how there is an “Other Side to Sleeplessness”. She beautifully conveys how the “gifts of company and empathy” from a mother to her baby in the wee hours help to deepen their relationship.

“Being a Mother” explores the various facets of motherhood, and I read “What my daughter told me” by Shireen Babul with something like relief. It’s a meditation on the deep wordless relationship that develops between mother and child. I remember trying to explain to a friend how I felt that I could almost read my 18-month-old son’s mind and he could almost read mine. My friend looked slightly bemused by this confession. This poem is the first time I’ve heard such sentiments similarly expressed.

There are contributions from fathers, and in “Of Fathers” Tomas Cynric humorously writes about “the happy mental fog of domesticity” in which he now lives. Jim Dawson’s poem “Two Become Three” won’t fail to make you go “aww”. Other chapters include “Everyday Life”, “Challenging Times” and “Remembering Mothers” while in the final chapter, “Our Children”, one of the youngest contributors, Sophie Wood, (aged four) rhymes out what “numnee” means to her.

Musings on Mothering would make an ideal present for a mother-to-be, new mother, or grandmother. In fact, I think that any mother, whether breastfeeding, or not, will find something in here that will speak to her. I really think it’s a book that will ‘keep’, whichever stage of mothering you are at. Some of the poetry instantly stuck in my head, and brought tears to my eyes, while other pieces brought more meaning to me when I returned to them later. Although you may not consider yourself a poetry (or art) lover, I’d urge you to give the book a try. It’s written in an accessible manner, and the art, which is peppered throughout the book really helps to bring the poetry and prose to life. Some of the pairings work stunningly well together. It’s simply a lovely book to be kept by your bedside to be dipped into when you’ve just a little bit of time.

As a further bonus, each book sold helps to raise funds for La Leche League.

 

(Review published in Breastfeeding Matters, Sept./Oct. 2012)

Some excerpts from the book:

 

Four a.m. feed


Beyond the window

Apple boughs sign, frame a moon

Circled in ice. Frost

Whitens a pond, but here all

Is warmth, a cocoon of peace.


PAULINE KIRK

 

An extract from ‘A Letter for When You Are Grown’

…I love feeding you, I really do. I always knew that I wanted us to breastfeed. I looked forward to it with nervous excitement, not quite sure how we’d master our new skill but confident we’d get there somehow. I trusted you to know what to do, just the same as you trusted me. Together we would find our way…

…Now as the months swiftly pass we are still going strong. I never imagined we would get this far and I wouldn’t change it for the world. Our breastfeeding journey is the most magical and intimate experience of my life. I’m so proud to be sharing this with you and so grateful to you for giving me this chance. Nothing has ever made me feel so special and right. It’s empowering yet humbling; the most important and worthwhile thing I have ever done yet so enjoyable and effortless at the same time. Nursing you fulfils me at such a deep level that I eagerly drink in every second of this blissful experience while you do the same taking your fill at my breast. It’s like time stops and for those few minutes it’s just you and me in the world. Our little pauses, day and night, where we drop out of reality and into our special warm cocoon of perfection. Connected in all sense of the word whilst we both recharge our spirits…


DAWN CLARKE


The Cold Cup of Tea

An already-cold cup of builder’s strength tea
Is sat by the sink, and saying to me:
‘I’m delicious, delightful, so drink me up do!’
But I’m knee-deep in nappies, and children, and poo;
So call me again when I’ve sorted this mess
And have time to relax, and unwind and de-stress…

*

Later, much later, when the kids are asleep,
In my nightie and slippers I quietly creep
To the kitchen, and there is that cold cup of tea,
Still delicious, still delightful, and still waiting for me…


MARIJA SMITS

Young mother in the fabric souq by Kathy Grossman

Motherhood


Six months ago
I first put on
my motherhood.

It felt strange at first,
weighing heavy
on my head
and on my shoulders.
I worried how it looked
to others.
Did I wear it right?

Gradually,
I felt more
and cared less.
I caught my reflection
in my daughter’s eye.
It looked good.

Six months ago
I first put on
my motherhood.
It suits me.

I forget what I looked like
without it.


JESSICA STARR