Kate Miller-Heidke's Song About Postnatal Depression Is Tipped For Eurovision Success

Aussie singer hopes 'Zero Gravity' makes people feel "less alone" – and she's not the only artist to write about her feelings after giving birth.

Australia is tipped to win Eurovision 2019 this weekend – with a song about postnatal depression.

So powerful was Kate Miller-Heidke’s pop-opera performance of ‘Zero Gravity’ in the semi-finals in Tel Aviv last week, she not only qualified for Saturday’s final but is now one of the contest’s top runners.

And the singer-songwriter openly admits that the track – the first she wrote after giving birth to her son, Ernie, in 2016 – is about coming through a period of deep depression and a loss of creativity.

“For 18 months, I lost my voice – literally and figuratively. I was incredibly tired. I didn’t feel like myself,” she told the BBC.

The song, she said, was “a breakthrough – the first song I’d written in my own voice for a long time”. And she said she hopes listening to it will make people feel “less alone, especially with an experience as lonely as depression”.

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Australia is currently is 7-1 on to take the Eurovision crown, according to Oddschecker – with only the Netherlands, Sweden and Switzerland to beat. Let’s not get into the the vagaries of Eurovision geography here. Whatever happens on Saturday night, the song is already making an impact.

Studies have shown that singing could help mothers recover from postnatal depression (PND) more quickly – and Miller-Heidke is not the first performer to use art to express feelings of loss or sadness.

In 2017, pop star Sandi Thom – whose debut single ‘I wish I was a punk rocker’ topped the charts in 2006 – released ‘Tightrope’, a song reflecting on the depression she experienced during pregnancy and after the birth of her son.

“You can’t do anything, function properly, think straight, make a decision… that’s what’s going on in your head,” she said. “I was able to appear normal on the outside but what was going on in my head was absolutely crippling.”

Although she hasn’t sung about it directly, Adele has also spoken out about her experiences with PND, and in 2016 said she was “too scared” to have another baby. “I had really bad postpartum depression after I had my son and it frightened me.”

I recently hosted a poetry festival about parenthood – featuring a bill of poets who have written about the difficult feelings they experienced after giving birth.

One of them was Jenny Pagdin, who read some of her poetry about recovering from postnatal psychosis. “I barely even knew a woman could get ill and hurt her child,” she writes in ‘On Whom The Rain Comes Down’, from her poetry pamphlet, Caldbeck. “I was sick and fainted and was sick, sick, sick and still it rained down, crosshatching the sky.” Meanwhile, Helen Calcutt, in the title poem from her collection Unable Mother, writes: “I shed. I am made of lines, I am colourless. I am trying to bury a life / I am trying to grow it.”

The US poet Sylvia Plath, who took her own life in 1963, famously wrote about becoming a mother, too. In her poem ‘Morning Song’, she wrote: “We stand round blankly as walls. / I’m no more your mother / Than the cloud that distills a mirror to reflect its own slow / Effacement at the wind’s hand.”

I’ve also written about the challenges of motherhood in a new poetry collection, ‘Primers IV’, alongside the poet Amelia Loulli. In her poem, ‘Postnatal’, she writes: “You came in the night / put your hands around her cheeks and yanked her / from my nipple... You were somewhere all the time / getting closer.”

It’s clear that for some people, writing – and even singing – about their feelings does help. When I listen to Miller-Heidke belt out the lyrics “I’ve been aching, Feeling low, You’re so heavy, I have got to let you go”, in that moment she speaks for everyone who has ever felt like that.

And that gets my Eurovision vote.