facilitator - Roundhouse London📍Newham council
MILF’ing since ‘17
raised on pop tarts and Lauryn Hill.
Supporter of women. ❤️
“I’m pregnant!” I will never forget the look of confusion, mixed with slight panic, in the eyes of my fellow actresses as I made my announcement. I was at a private screening for a short film a college of mine had produced and I was happy to see quite a few within the industry that I knew.
“Do the agency know? They’re not going to like it just warning you.”
Not quite the reaction I was expecting. The panic set in. I was 5 months pregnant and not showing yet. I already had some anxiety about what my post baby body would be like and how long it would take me to be able to get back to auditioning. As a woman we’re constantly told by everything around us we’re just not good enough as we are, and that pressure is tenfold when you’re an actress. We want a women for this role that’s super talented but that also looks great on screen, we want you to be pretty, but not too pretty, skinny, sexy but not too sexy, authentic but not TOO real - (I mean we want to see a BIT of vulnerability but no one wants to see you have a genuine melt down about something that’s important to you Susan, that would just make people feel UNCOMFORTABLE and we certainly wouldn’t want that )
It’s one of the few industries out their where employers are actually allowed to politely tell you you’re too old for the job or just don’t have the right “look.” I felt the pressure of all this before but I never was actually too fussed about being overly skinny, I always stayed between a UK size 10 - 12 but pregnancy sent my brain into overdrive. I was in an unhappy relationship and the thought of being a new mum and losing a career that I loved on top of all that seemed like too much to bear. I started spending hours on the internet researching how long will it take to get my body back, how to hide a bump, working mum success stories, meal plans while breast feeding, top 5 tummy wraps, snapback body stories, how to still have energy with a new-born. After reading some disconcerting stories in mum chat rooms my google search changed. Effects of depression during pregnancy. Will my baby be born unhappy? How to know if you will suffer will post-natal depression. Top 10 signs you might get post-natal depression. I tried my hardest to put the thoughts out of my mind. At 6 months pregnant I was powering through a theatre show but My morning sickness was out of control I felt awful. My son’s dad begged me to stop. It was an all-female cast and I’d worked with the director before and she told me it was completely fine if I needed to drop out. However, I’d already worked out that if I did the performance at 7 months and then recovered quickly there wouldn’t be a massive gap in my CV. I flaunted my pregnancy to my friends and family but kept it a secret from my agent and employers. I remember going to an audition for a part in a bbc drama and hid my belly under a baggy top because I didn’t have the courage to say , “no, I can’t audition for this because I’m 7 months pregnant and if you hire me I’d most likely be giving birth on the floor of the set.”
Then the inevitable happened. I woke up one morning and BOOM. There it was. My son had moved from growing in my hips to full blown baby belly and no amount of clever fashion trickery was going to hide it. An audition came through (shockingly it was not for a programme or theatre show that needed an emotionally charged, heavily pregnant women that forgets where the hell she’s supposed to be going mid journey) so instead of drop everything and run to the audition like actors are expected to do I had to admit I was pregnant. But not just any old pregnant no no! I had to admit I was super-duper pregnant with bells on about to give birth any day now (I wish I could have been a fly on that wall) but it was fine. Nothing happened and the world didn’t come crashing down around me. I was proud of what I’d achieved during those months. I’d bonded with the growing baby in my belly at that point and I was just excited to meet him. A few days after my due date my son was born, my birth was straight forward I felt stronger than I’d ever been. All my fears of depression dissolved. My relationship completely broke down and I found myself alone with a tiny baby for the most part, but I knew everything was going to be okay.
I think Tighe was 3 weeks old when I got the email to say my agency was scaling down and they were letting me go, but best of luck in future. I felt deflated at first, I knew I could put myself forward for stuff on my own but I didn’t have time for that, I was a single mum now with a new born and I just wanted to be with my son. Then something amazing happened. I started to get messages from friends and people I’d worked with in the past, “Are you still acting? I’ve got an audition for you! I’d think you’d be great for this part / I’ve put your name forward for this...”
Tighe was four months old when I had my first day back on set of a short film and I felt great. I went on to be cast in a play with a company that had the budget to pay for my childcare and I got to bring Tighe on tour with me, he wasn’t even one yet! Most recently I did a one woman show and found out I’ve been nominated for Best Female Performance in a Play for 2020. Even just to be nominated goes to show how the industry is changing for mothers.
Yes, in the acting world a lot of these spaces are still run by middle aged white men that don’t get it and seeing an actress for a part with a family is a burden to them. Yes, it’s not still plain sailing at the moment, I still have inappropriate things said to me at auditions, I’ve lost jobs and opportunities because of my son. But there is also a revolution happening - women are refusing to audition for unrealistic two-dimensional parts, companies are offering childcare budgets for actors with children, women are writing work about abortion, motherhood, depression, and more and more places are putting these story’s on stage and on screen. I might not win the award I’ve been put forward for but as a single mum of a 2 year old it just goes to show if we keep pushing, keep sharing our stories and supporting each other, we will be seen, we will be heard, because we deserve to be here and be celebrated even after becoming someone’s mum.