Anna & the play

On Writing Sex Cells

Before I had a child, before she was even conceived. I’d worked out my mothering plan of action. I knew if I was going to breast feed how long I would breast feed for, when I’d go back to work and what kind of mother I would be.

Ha ha ha ha!

Nothing, can prepare you for how you are going to feel when that baby arrives. I honestly thought that other women had made a pact to hide the truth about what being a mum was really like. – I imagine that a lot of women didn’t feel like me but on hearing some feedback from the first two rehearsed readings, I don’t think I was alone.

When I started writing Sex Cells, I obviously knew it was a play about motherhood but some hidden aspects about how I felt about my mother and being a mother came out during the writing process. It also raised more questions for me than answers.

There are 4 women in the play and they all have very differing views about being a mum. Lily, who takes it for granted, Sylvie who is desperate for a child at any cost, Janice who has 5 kids and is desperate for some peace and Tiffany who knows for certain that she doesn’t want children but keeps getting pregnant. (I mustn’t leave out Mr. Causeway who’s relationship with his mother was truly dreadful.)

Some trait in each woman relates to how I felt about bringing up my daughter. Lily’s attitude was in some ways the opposite of what I felt but got me thinking about how my mother’s generation seemed to have a less questioning attitude to being a mum (a massive generalisation of course) but I’m harking back to the ‘children should be seen and not heard’ days.  I interviewed friends of mine who were on completely differing paths re mummydom (I didn’t find one that had 5 but quite a few who didn’t have or want any). And it struck me that if we were in our right minds or just not biologically broody then we would never have kids, I mean, you love them so much that you’d rather die than see them suffer, so who wants to put themselves through that – I mean logically.  And now that we have the choice about whether to have them or not, in our Western society at least, it does seem that a lot of women are choosing not to have them.  In the play it’s Janice who say’s ‘the weight of responsibility is overwhelming’ and that’s what I felt. I knew as soon as I gave birth that I had an overwhelming power over this child and that I would have to be mindful of how I used that power. By that I mean, I was aware that one wrong word can stick for a lifetime, and that is huge. I also really contemplated the fact that some women really do fall pregnant at the drop of a hat but know they don’t want them and other women try for years with IVF etc and are desperate, that is a gaping chasm on the fairness front. Putting two such women in a claustrophobic room together was bound to make sparks fly. Add the other two to the mix and you make a fire.

The first person that I ‘let’ read the first draft of Sex Cells was my daughter Saskia. Without her encouragement, I  wouldn’t have had the courage to see it through to this point. So I’d like to thank her for helping me to develop as a writer and for being in my life. And without her this would have been a very different play.

I think everyone should have someone in their life who propels them to do better than they thought they were capable of and I feel fortunate that I have such a person in my husband Mark.

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