A strange relationship exists between Taylor Swift and my specific experience with motherhood. Since the birth of my second son, she has been inextricably linked with my time as a mother, and she continues to be in a big way. I call this strange because Taylor Swift is a child-free woman with a life that is radically different from mine. And yet.
Midnights Meets NICU
As I write this, my son was born a year ago today, the same day as the release of Taylor Swift’s Midnights. According to Spotify, I was among the first ten percent to listen to it.
This isn’t because I’m a diehard Swift fan, though I do like her. When Midnights dropped, I was sitting on a cot in a NICU room where my newborn son was staying. His first few days were rather rough for both him and me. While my husband went home to our oldest, I stayed behind with our newest. He was tiny and helpless, and I was mostly unable to hold him for various medical reasons. This broke my heart in a way I can’t properly describe. (I insisted on doing every feeding for this reason.)
I opened Spotify, looking for some level of familiarity and comfort. Midnights was the first thing that popped up, and I thought, “Okay, let’s go.”
There’s something strange about a NICU unit. My son’s stay was only three nights and four days, and this was difficult enough. I watched parents with exhausted, hardened features and slumped shoulders who practically lived there. The family room had a fridge full of food that would be eaten by parents who were forced by circumstances to half live there. Looking at it always made me feel like crying, partly from the natural impact and partly from the postpartum hormone comedown. Despite being entitled to meals delivered to the NICU, I would always leave to go down to the cafeteria. The air in the NICU was oppressive and sad, and I felt better mentally when I took a break from it.
Midnights ended up being the perfect album for me at that moment in time, unsurprising for an album Taylor said was inspired by “sleepless nights” and “falling apart.” For this reason, Midnights will always hold a special place in my heart because of the circumstances surrounding my first listen. Its late-night feeling and intense introspection perfectly fit a dark and lonely NICU room inside a bright and bustling hospital. Don’t ask me quite how, but it did.
The Eras Tour Meets Empty Movie Theater
Now, here’s the thing you need to understand about contemporary motherhood: you rarely feel like a full human being in your own right. I personally work full time from home while taking care of my two young children. This leaves me with little time, energy, and mental headspace. So, the night before a day off to prep for my son’s one-year-old party, I went to the theater by myself.
I went to the theater to watch the movie version of Taylor’s Eras Tour, an experience my husband told me he would go with me for (for the popcorn, really), but I wanted to go on my own. Now, I wasn’t expecting an NH theater to be packed at a 7:30 PM showing on a Thursday night, but I wasn’t expecting it to be empty. I entered that theater at 7 PM, and the screen wasn’t even on yet. I sat down exactly where I wanted and munched on some popcorn, waiting to see if anyone else was coming or if this was going to be a private showing. Exactly two groups showed up, culminating in a grand total of nine people in the theater.
It was sitting in this dark theater with eight other random people that I felt the most human in months. It was an experience entirely for myself, a night during which I could sit and feel the full range of my emotions without being impacted by anyone else. There were a few times that I nearly cried, and while The Eras tour is deserving of much praise, it wasn’t quite the concert that made me teary. It was the power of a night alone but out in the world. It was the combination of Taylor Swift meeting my experience with motherhood. And on some level, I was brought back to my nights in the NICU when she helped me through a mercifully short and minimal situation that no parent should ever have to face.
So, here’s to Taylor Swift, a complicated human being and master storyteller who has somehow shaped my experience with motherhood in ways I did not expect.