Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Only Child

I read once that in the original Snow White fairytale, there was no stepmother, only a real mother filled with jealousy of her daughter. A sort of "be careful what you wish for" tale. I thought about of the mothers with Postnatal Depression who cannot bond with their children and wondered if this was the true story behind Snow White. I do not mean to demonise anyone with Postnatal Depression or other illnesses, but to try and see the story behind the fairytale.

POSSIBLE TRIGGERS: Domestic Violence, Postnatal Depression

Poem (c)opyright Laura Morrigan 2015

Only Child 

(A retelling of Snow White)

A mother's wish for her child is always selfish
When I felt the life moving within me
I wished for her to be all things

Beautiful, wise, brave
And lucky

When she blossomed into the world
Tearing out of me
I thought I would know beauty
But there was only pain

Days, weeks, months passing in a blur
Only knowing the lingering sadness
Of this part of you
Becoming something else
Growing, changing on its own

Skin as white as snow
Skin that needed
Thick lashings of sunscreen
Like whipped cream
And to be kept out of the sun
Lest she turn red as a lobster

Crying all the time
When she was hungry
And I
Who she was once a part of
Unable to guess her needs


Wanting to turn back time
Why did I ever wish for a child?

I would watch him playing with her
With her little pink toes
He made her laugh as I never could

I remembered when I was his everything
I faded into the background
He barely seemed to see me
My drab clothes over my stretched body
Misshapen by childbirth
The damage she had done

Postnatal depression they finally said
There were pills
A counsellor
Things got better for a time

I tried to love her
Tried to relish the fact her beauty grew as mine faded
Tried not to see how his love for me faded as his for her grew

I threw the pills down the toilet,
Nothing would make it better

I wanted her to bleed like I had for her
I wanted to see that snow white skin split open
I wanted her to feel the pain that I did

I slit open
That snow white skin
So many cuts
I cut my only child
And felt no remorse

Somehow I failed
She broke free
Running down the street leaving behind her blood drops like rubies

The surgeon in the hospital who sewed her up
Had a face like a prince in a storybook.
I knew that he loved her at once
Just like everybody else
I played the grieving mother but this time no one believed

She didn't look at me as they took me away to the psych ward

They say I won't see jail and for that I am grateful
Here in this ward where the walls are painted like a forest
Because they think it will keep us calm

She visits me and tells me I am still her mother
I relish the scars that cover her arms and chest
And mar that skin as white as snow

They should not have shown me mercy
If they ever let me out
I will kill that snow white bitch.


  1. Great poem! I studied fairy tales in my undergrad. None of the Cinderella stories we read involved the mother (except for Vasilisa the Beautiful, which uses the mother's dying blessing), however I would definitely think that the mother in some early tellings of Hansel & Gretel had postnatal depression. She was uber jealous of those kids and I remember one version had her making love with their father in the next room while she was planning to murder them lol.

    I can really relate to your poem. I don't want children personally, mostly because I just don't like them. I know if I had been forced into that situation because of a relationship (thank god this isn't the 1950's) this is probably exactly how I would feel about the kid; jealous, annoyed and wanting to detach myself from them. I have zero maternal instinct, except maybe for my cats, whom I adore lol.

  2. Hahh, cool! I wish they made a movie adaptation of Snow White from the viewpoint of the stepmom too...:D

  3. Really sad and a hard topic you are writing about! Thanks for being so brave!

  4. Laura, that's a very insightful look into postnatal depression. I think most fairy tales have their roots in reality. People turned human deeds into fairy tales as a way to distance themselves from the truth - monsters are always human.



  5. I have had 4 mother figures in my life. My mother, my former stepmother, my current stepmother, and my mother in law. My mother and step mother are the sweetest, kindest, most motherly ladies imaginable and I'm so lucky to have them. My former step mother and mother-in-law are wicked indeed. Nothing to do with postnatal depression, but with mental illness in general. I so understand that there are women who struggle to grasp the maternal role due to conflicting mental disorders of their own. Unfortunately, that causes the children involved to suffer. Fascinating version of Snow White you have created. It is so deeply meaningful to me.

  6. umm... speechless here, hard topic indeed :-O

  7. Awwwwww thanks everyone! (blushes) I have no words for how much I appreciate the encouragement on my writing!

  8. This is lovely, I especially liked the part "Here in this ward where the walls are painted like a forest / Because they think it will keep us calm". :)

  9. This is a difficult topic but I like this take. Very brave.