Sleep Stills

This month is all about sharing our stories, contributing to very our own 'museum of motherhood'. So here's a new exhibit for mine:

I’ve made a short film about my children sleeping. About trying to hold on to those magical night-time moments spent looking down on them, so still. Seeing their perfect potential, and knowing that with every quiet breath, I am watching them walking away from me.

For almost a year, my friend Sam has been filming herself for ten minutes every day in the same place at the same time in remote Knoydart, Scotland. Her project, Stay The Same, is nearly at an end. Many months ago, she asked friends to join her exploration. This film is my small contribution. I’m quite nervous about sharing it, as I am not confident of its value to anyone but me. But I’m sure Sam will appreciate the effort…

While Sam is choosing to stand still, my life seems to be racing by, each moment charted in my children’s rapid development.

My children’s only moments of stillness come with sleep. Those are the quiet moments in our days together, when the love I have for them swells into me with every breath.

In response to Sam’s question, seven months ago, on 3 November 2011, I started to take a photo of each child as they slept. Before I stroked their hair out of their eyes. Before I tucked them back under their covers. Before I kissed their delicious cheeks. Before my daughter snuffled against me for her dream-feed. Before I whispered how much I love them. I took a photo.

The photos were strange. Harsh light flooding a dark quiet moment, rendering it in a way it never was. They stripped the mystery from the room. And yet they caught the beauty of my children’s peace. Their faces a blank canvas for my hopes. A moment of sleeping growth, frozen for the afterwards.

I wrote this at the start of the process, and it still rings very true for me:

“As we watch them sleep, it feels as if we can hold them suspended in time, and they will never leave us. Yet here, as they are most still, they are also the most in motion, growing, changing, and taking yet another step away from us. When they sleep, under our roof, wrapped in our covers, kissed by our lips, it feels like they are ours. Yet the bitter beauty of the night is that we know that they are not ours to keep, they are our gift to the world.”

I have finished this little film for now, but I cannot bring myself to stop taking my photographs.

I would love to know what you think of it.

And if you'd like to share a story of a moment in motherhood, big or tiny, that has meant something to you, we would love to read it. Join in here.