I was nearly born in my mother’s kitchen, my mum told me, but the neighbours managed to rush her in the car to the hospital. People used to help each other, they were poor, but it was good. They never had nothing so they helped each other. Not like it is now. When Mrs Cohen was short a few coppers we used to help her out, that’s the way it was. Bad times, but good people. You don’t get it like that today. Nisht ahir un nish aher... (Neither here nor there).
My mother was a wigmaker on Christian street, she told me that, I don’t remember her doing it. We were poor like everyone else, she worked very hard, she had to look after the little children running about.
When it came to my turn, I was quite scared when I found out I was pregnant, I was 19, still a baby myself. They said in the hospital to my mother: “a baby had a baby”. I looked like a baby in the bed!
I had a wonderful pregnancy though, I had him in the hot weather. I felt wonderful, the second one as well. Also born in hot weather, 9 years to the day. But the girl was born at Pesach (Passover), I had trouble with her. My mother said to me, I think you’ve got a girl, oh it was a terrible pregnancy. Nisht ahir un nish aher... I couldn’t eat anything... oh it was awful. With the boys, I ate like a horse.
I brought my kids up Jewish. I sent my kids to cheder (sunday school), but if they didn’t want to go, they didn’t go. What they choose to do when they grow up, that's not your fault, if they marry an English girl for example. I didn’t like it when my son did that at first, but she's a lovely girl actually.
I never would've had a child outside of marriage; it’s just wrong. I’m a broadminded woman, but its not necessary. I say, live together if you want, but don’t have children, why struggle? It’s ridiculous, what’s the point?
If I had my time again, I’d never think of having one at that age, it’s ridiculous, I was a snotty-nose, what did I know about babies? I didn’t know how to change a bloody nappy. I didn’t, my mother had to come and bath them. It’s wrong for children to have babies. Yeah, go out and enjoy yourself, but use discretion, you can have sexual intercourse without having babies.. Years ago we had one baby after another; we had no TV, that was our pleasure! For the sake of 5 minutes pleasure you’ve got all that aggravation! Prevention is better than cure.
It’s a pleasure to be a mother in a proper way. To be a mother is to bring them up with a husband in your own house, at your own pleasure; then you’ve got no aggravation. The worry you have for children never goes, as old as my children are now I still worry about them. It’s natural.
What does motherhood mean to you? These tales and portraits were collected by twoFaith Fellows working with Proshanti, a charity set up in response to the need for health facilities for mothers and families in Bangladesh.
Originally exhibited at the V&A Museum of Childhood in London as a pop-up 'Museum of Motherhood' (no link to the wonderful M.O.M. in New York) we're delighted to be sharing these diverse stories as part of our travelling exhibition: Story of Mum: mums making an exhibition of ourselves.
To find out more about Proshanti's work or donate, visit www.Proshanti.org.