It’s 4am and I’m wide awake in a hospital bed.
With one hand I am replying to emails on my phone about the tech time for my play which is due to open in five days’ time. With my other hand I am attempting to hold my baby steady as I breastfeed. I gave birth four days ago. I have not slept in two days. I can taste colours.
Now some people would argue that producing your first play within weeks of your due date is a reckless and foolhardy thing to do … and they’d be right. But it should have been fine! It was all planned out because I am good at plans. Girrrl I had plan A, B, C, D, LMNOP! It. Should. Have. Been. Fine. But babies don’t give a sh*t about your plans. My baby came five weeks early. In Devon. The day after my sister’s wedding. So here I am. 4am. Emails. Tasting colours.
If someone had told me, before all this kicked off, that this is what I had to look forward to then I may have made different choices. However, now that I am here, with baby, with play, even with all the stress and the total lack of sleep, I still would not change a thing. That is because I have climbed inside my own body and collected wells of strength that I did not think I had. I’m doing things that terrify me but I’m still doing them and it is such an incredibly empowering feeling. I feel fearless, I feel like I could bite a man’s skull in two! Like Britney, I am stronger than yesterday! “It’s what women do,” my Mother tells me, “we’re strong, we have to be.”
It’s always fascinated me the way women find ways to cope and we seem to have a strength that comes to our aid in times of crisis, we see it throughout history, in the news and amongst our own family and friends. Women are made of strong stuff and I feel that strength particularly when I am around other women who I love and respect. I feel it when I am close to my Mother, when I am with my sisters, when I have the great privilege of working with the amazing, creative women of film and theatre. I see us fight against prejudice, pain and pettiness and it makes me proud because women have the power to be broken and build ourselves back better.
I feel it particularly strongly since giving birth, I feel a connection to my body that I’ve never quite felt before – I feel magical and I see that magic now every time I look at another woman. I am the proud mother of a daughter who I hope will grow up to be a woman who recognises and celebrates her unique strength as a woman. I just might advise her not to produce a play a week before her baby’s due date.