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My Memories are Alive with The Sounds of Motherhood

By Karen Andrews - 25th May 2011

I remember reading once that a mother’s hearing is programmed to be receptive to the cries of her baby while she is sleeping. I’m not sure if this has been scientifically proven, but I’m willing to bet on its validity. This is partly because I’ve been thinking of how noise influences our experience and shapes our memories. Like the other senses, I suspect noises have an almost unacknowledged power.

The subject of this post was sparked by a Twitter conversation the other night, one as regular as discussing which heaters were good to use in winter. My thoughts were triggered, which led to the story I’m sharing today.

Both of my babies were born in Autumn: my favourite season, and arguably the most beautiful time to live here in Melbourne. But beautiful doesn’t mean it’s kind, and in cooler weather, we soon discovered that our nursery didn’t retain enough of the day’s heat to last the whole night - not even with extra layers of blanketing. It became clear we needed to invest in a heater and we eventually chose a three-column oil heater.

Our nursery was also our spare bedroom for guests when they stayed (and the baby would come in with us). The room was full, with the double bed, cot, and chest of drawers. I stubbed my toe on many a night on the roller wheel of the heater, sneaking out after settling a baby, hiding my yelp of pain, and hoping not to disturb their sleep.

I’d never experienced an oil heater before, and so was surprised at the noise it made: the trickling as it warmed up, oil circulating throughout, and then the popping and crackling as it as it got hotter, struggling to come up to temperature on very cold nights.

When I heard a cry, I would get up and push the door open slowly, letting the warm rush of air greet me as I went inside (it certainly did its job well). I'd lift out a baby, check and see what was wrong. Usually nothing other than hunger, so I took advantage of the bed, using it to breastfeed. Lying on my side, stretched out, with a baby snuggled into my chest, I would often think of many things, happy and sad, to the soundtrack of this heater in the corner, gurgling away faithfully.

We still have that heater now, but it rarely gets used, except when a child gets sick. I’m not sure I could ever part with it. Now I’ve started writing about this, my eyes cast about other objects in the house. Lately, the whirring of the popcorn maker, the zinging of the kernels as they whizz around, signifies the passing of time - how my children now enjoy a movie afternoon and a bowl of popcorn in their laps.

Whoever thought it would be possible to become so attached to household appliances?

What memories of sounds do you have that evoke thoughts of your children and parenthood?

image freedigitalphotos.net Danilo Rizzuti

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