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A journey through the underworld - Ellie Nova

I live in Lewes, East Sussex with my husband and three-year-old son, River. My story ‘Send Nudes’ appeared in anthologies Cyber Smut and Sending Nudes.

It seems like a lifetime ago that I was published by Guts – around the time I completed my MA in Creative & Life Writing at Goldsmiths. I was living in South West London, had recently quit alcohol for good and was pregnant with my son.

Now I write to you from the beautiful, creative town of Lewes, in East Sussex, which we moved to 18 months ago. I gave birth 20 November 2020 and the past three and a half years have been a journey through the underworld. I had been led to believe that early motherhood would be a joyful time; a hazy cloud of cute babygrows and sing-a-long mum and baby groups. A little bit of tiredness, sure, to begin with, but everything settling down after a few months as you eagerly post pictures of your baby on Instagram dressed as a bumblebee with the caption ‘We’re so in love.'

Instead, from the moment I brought River into the world with a shocking ferocity which set the tone of what was to come, I have met the edges of myself. I endured two and a half years of broken sleep which affected everything from my perspective on life and my mood, to my cognitive abilities (many days loading the dishwasher felt like an insurmountable task). My inner critic has roared loudly at me ‘why are you finding this so hard? What’s wrong with you?’ day after day, and I have felt overwhelming grief for how motherhood has been compared to what I expected it to be. I have sobbed in circles of mothers, I have screamed in the woods and hurled sticks at the ground, I have raged and raged and fallen to my knees and shattered into pieces.

I can’t believe I was duped into believing the work of raising a child was mundane.

I have met my straight-jacket perfectionism head on, and realised how futile it is in this realm. I have had to face beliefs I’d formed about motherhood and paid work that were gifted to me by our capitalist patriarchal system. I have felt as if my heart was being ripped from my body when my son cried in the night, and been stunned by his beaming, bright little face when he runs through the door chirping ‘Mummy!’ Me – really? He loves me that much?

Last June, once we finally night-weaned River and I started to sleep again, things gradually began to change. I crawled upwards, through the dark, keeping my eyes on the point of light that broke through the ground. I emerged, in summer last year, into the overworld again, blinking in the sun. And now, as tulips open up to brighter days, I am beginning my own spring of matrescence. Standing stronger. Washed with hope. Starting to make sense of the past few years.

And have I been writing? Well. I have had a couple of pieces published in the Positive Wellbeing Zine for Mums – a poem on my first year of motherhood titled 'Have you been writing?' in Issue 16 and a piece about self-care for highly sensitive mums in Issue 17. I have been writing a diary, sporadically, documenting my motherhood experience which I hope one day to turn into a book.

But lately where my writing has been blooming is on Substack – you’ll find me at A Little Fantastic. Here I write about living an alcohol-free life with presence and compassion. I am alchemising my past struggles with alcohol addiction into a life supporting others to find freedom from alcohol. I have recently completed a life coaching course with Beautiful You Academy and this month will be studying with The Sober Club to specialise in sober coaching.

I have been working on my memoir here and there over the past few years, and after an intensive few months juggling various courses and working in a fundraising role, I am planning to create more time to return to it this year. I have felt somewhat disconnected to my writing life lately, as I have from so many parts of myself. In this process of emergence there is, I think, a gathering of these lost parts of myself – a remembering, a bringing back in, a weaving together. I will never be the woman before, the woman who wrote ‘Send Nudes’. I am someone else now. I am someone new.

* * *


Ellie Nova completed an MA in Creative and Life Writing at Goldsmiths College. She previously worked in fundraising and communications in the charity sector. Her non-fiction, poetry and short stories have been published in various places online and in print. Her short story ‘Send Nudes’ first appeared in our Cyber Smut anthology and later inspired our anthology called Sending Nudes which landed features in the Guardian, BBC Culture, Stylist, O Globo and more.

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