On Writing Sex Cells
Before I had my child, before she was even conceived. I thought I knew what kind of mother I would make. I imagined I’d breast feed and for how long. I thought I’d go back to work after around three months and I’d be in control.
I couldn’t have been more wrong and I was totally unprepared for the feelings that came over me when my daughter was born. There was the overwhelming love (luckily) but I also felt ill-equipped by the enormity of task ahead, a task I knew was going to last for the next eighteen years (or so). 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. And it sometimes raised more questions for me than answers.
There are four women in the play and they all have very different views about becoming a mother or being mothered. Lily, takes her son for granted, Sylvie, is desperate for a child at any cost, Janice, has five kids and is desperate for some peace and Tiffany who knows for certain that she doesn’t want children but keeps getting pregnant. The male presence in the play is Mr. Causeway, although he’s obviously not experienced motherhood, he had a mother and their terrible relationship has left an indelible mark on him.
Some trait in each woman relates to how I felt about bringing up my daughter, Saskia. And as I inevitably explored the topic I thought of how views have changed. My mother’s generation seemed to have a less questioning attitude about motherhood and we now ridicule the saying, ‘children should be seen and not heard’. Before starting the play I interviewed friends of mine who had similar journeys to my characters, although I don’t know anyone who’s had as many as five, and it struck me that if there wasn’t such a thing a a biological clock or the broody gene, we’d never go to the trouble. It’s an expensive path, fraught with risk and for a long, long time, you’ll only ever put yourself second. 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 responsibility to my child and that I would have to be mindful about everything I did or said because a mother’s influence is mighty.
I also contemplated the fact that some women really do fall pregnant at the drop of a hat whether they want to or not whilst other women can try for years having IVF treatments and can feel desperate when unsuccessful which doesn’t seem at all fair. Putting two such women in a claustrophobic room together was bound to make sparks fly. Add the other two women into the mix and you get a fire.
The first person that I ‘let’ read the first draft of Sex Cells was my daughter. 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. Without her, this play would not exist.
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.