My Mother can often be heard telling people how I began my career at the RSC aged 8, as a munchkin. Which is about as relevant as when she tells them I have my gold medal in acting from LAMDA, still unaware that that is somewhat less impressive than actually having been to LAMDA, despite my advising her of this on numerous occasions. My Father, in his speech at our wedding, remarked that I earnt more as a Munchkin than I have ever earned since, in the performing arts.
Tomorrow that changes. Tomorrow I start rehearsals for the RSC for two shows for their Summer Season at The Swan. And it is brilliant but bittersweet. Not just because it's taken circa 12yrs to get that call. But because I am on maternity leave from my office job. Because we have a 15 week old little boy called Hector. And he is the best thing I've ever done in my life, other than meet and marry my husband.
So, having planned to continue sitting on my arse, watching Sky Box Sets and eating cookies whilst I breastfeed, I will be up and out of the house by 8.45am tomorrow, having got up at 6.45 to try and do two boob feeds and express some milk.
We've spent the weekend talking and thinking logistics. Our families don't live anywhere near, and friends will help out on the odd day, but they have jobs and partners and children of their own to look after. We've got childcare to help look after him and bring him to me each lunchtime for a feed and a cuddle and bring him back home (courtesy of the rather wonderful Bea & Co). My ever supportive husband (courtesy of his extremely understanding boss) is going to work from home. Then we have to work out our move to Stratford and whether we rent out our London flat. I know - a no brainer. But possibly not when you see how much stuff we have to sort out. It probably is time to throw away the blow up sex dolls bought for that Edinburgh show.
I've found myself holding Hector tighter in the last 48hrs than ever before. Staring at his face and repeating Mama over and over at him so he doesn't even contemplate anyone else holding that title, even if he doesn't get to see me for most of the day. We were planning to move him out of our bed, into the side cot but now I'm thinking I want him by me whenever we have the opportunity. I can't even imagine how hard tech weeks and understudy weeks with performances in the evening will be.
But I'm hoping it is worth it. In fact, I know it will be. Once the shows are up and running I'll get most days with my baby, and to do what I've always wanted to do in the evenings and the odd matinee. And that's a pretty good life, right?
And more importantly, the more parents that do it, the easier it will get. The RSC has a nursery. PIPA has just launched. My friend went off to Malaysia to film when her bubba was 6 weeks old, and was apparently expressing milk in the forest. So if she can do it, so can I. There are brilliant women and men pushing for this industry to accommodate working parents, not least my agent and the RSC casting team, and for them I am thankful.
And I might start crying on the bus tomorrow morning on my way to work. In fact, I'd bet money on it. And I might start crying again when he arrives at lunchtime for some boob. And I might not get to socialise with the cast at breaks cos I'll be in a room with a breast pump. And some cookies. So if you see me crying, or indeed with my tit out, or both (because believe me, those two things are in no way mutually exclusive), feel free to come and say hi, or give me a hug. Maybe not whilst I've got my tit out actually, but after. After would be fine.
And in the unlikely event that you're in the production and reading this, know that the stain on my jumper is not an early, and let's face it, odd, character choice, but probably just regurgitated milk.
To be continued....