All Or Nothing

Now we’re on a break from gigging, the race is on to get our flats ready for the babies. Normally at this time of year we’re about to head up to the Edinburgh Fringe and are concerned about how audiences are going to react to what we’ve prepared for them. This year is no different, except we’re feeling the pressure of judgment from our soon-to-be-born offspring instead.

Hannah’s got a shipment of hand-me-down baby stuff all packed up and ready to be sent over from her sister-in-law in Italy. But she can’t get it shipped over until the baby’s room is empty...but to empty the room, she needs to make space in another room in her flat...and to make space in another room in her flat, she needs to throw out a load of her own stuff...and to throw a load of her own stuff out she needs to be ruthless and unsentimental...and to be ruthless and unsentimental she needs a new personality because she likes STUFF and CLUTTER (especially her stuff and her clutter). Fi has been trying to remind her that the only essential thing that really needs to happen is for the things to be shipped over, as they say in Italy, ‘pronto’...but that’s the last thing Hannah’s thinking about - she’s got hundreds of old theatre programmes to find space for, not to mention 15 years’ worth of old birthday cards!

Meanwhile, Fi has been purging her flat of all surplus items with reckless abandon. Her local Oxfam didn’t know what had hit it. Free from clutter (and also possibly lots of things she may later realise she does actually need) Fi found time and space to completely redecorate the spare room in her flat...and then discovered almost immediately that she’s going to be moving out in the next few months, so the baby is never going to sleep in there anyway. But she doesn’t regret it - it felt only right to re-enact one of those 80s movie montages where a pregnant woman in dungarees holds a paintbrush and a tin of emulsion. And it’s lovely to have that ‘fresh toxic paint smell’ permeating every room of her flat in the last few weeks of pregnancy.

Just as quickly as Hannah’s been sorting through her stuff, Amazon deliveries of new things for the baby have been flowing into her flat at a rate that’s been baffling her neighbours. You see, a lot of people have advised Hannah to buy baby things, so many baby things - and all of them are ‘The Only Thing’ she’ll need. Unfortunately, dozens of friends, books and websites have all got ideas about ‘The Only Thing’ Hannah needs and she has been ordering them ALL. Baby products have even started calling out to her in shops:

(She didn’t. Who does, that’s the question?)

Fi’s been given the advice: don’t buy anything. ‘Just a few babygrows, a blanket and some nappies is all you really need’. Like nothing else? ‘Nothing else’. So that’s what Fi has settled on - she can always borrow things from Hannah, who has two or three of anything a baby might ever need. The one time Fi did order something else online, she didn’t have a good experience anyway...what she thought would be a pack of thirty breast pads turned out to be thirty packs of thirty breast pads. And when she went to collect them from the post office, ‘BREAST PADS’ was printed in enormous font down each side of the massive box they’d been packed in, which was fun to carry home on the bus.

All in all, getting everything ready for these babies has involved almost as much effort, joy and panic as putting together a show for Edinburgh. And the fear of failure is just as real. What if our miniature audience is not impressed by the way we’ve organised their sock drawer? What if they’re not keen on the pattern on their changing mat? But, as we often ask ourselves in the run-up to Edinburgh, as we fret over the GSM-count of the paper for our flyers or worry about how best to format the show script for our sound technician: are we focusing on the wrong things?

It's Been A Journey

The tour is over and we’re now officially on maternity leave from performing. Our final gig was at a private party and when the hosts booked us, they had no idea they’d have two 8-month-pregnant women waddling through their marquee, worrying about the strength of the temporary stage blocks. Thankfully it was a rural area and there were several farmers in the audience, so we felt reassured that between them there would be some lambing experience we could call upon if necessary.

We left the gig on a high. Neither of us had given birth! We’d both been given a plated meal backstage! We could hang up our head mics and sit on our arses for the rest of our pregnancies! When we got into the waiting taxi to get the last train back to London, the driver wasn’t quite in the same headspace. He was angry that we were a bit late (“I’ve got a bloody pick-up waiting in Saffron Walden”), he was concerned about his gammy clutch (“I knew I should have brought the other shitting car”) and he hadn’t been expecting luggage (“the boot’s full of crap for my wife’s bollocking watercolour class”). He didn’t realise quite how special this night was for us. Nor indeed how special we were. Obviously, we didn’t want to be treated any differently just because we were heavily pregnant, but the thing is...we were expecting to be treated very differently because we were heavily pregnant.  

“Oh well - this will be a fun new character for our next show!”, we thought, as he glared at us in the rearview mirror. “A furious taxi driver - what potential!” And then the taxi broke down and we found ourselves stranded on the side of a country road in the pitch dark watching the last train to London disappear from the National Rail app and things got a bit less fun. Turns out he’d been right to worry about the clutch. And we discovered he was also right about our luggage being “a real ballache” when we had to haul it into another taxi and then onto two different trains from far-flung stations.

We made it back to Liverpool Street Station in the end so we didn’t miss out on our final Pregnancy Night Tube Experience - one of the features of this tour. A bump suddenly feels so prominent and out of context at 1:30am, as you’re sitting there wondering whether to give up your seat to someone who is legitimately ‘less able to stand’. And drunk people are much freer with their theories and opinions - on Friday a guy told Hannah that she was “100% having a boy” because her face looked “a bit masculine” (she knows she’s 100% having a girl) and a few weeks ago, a woman advised Fi that she should “seriously consider” eating her placenta, but only if it was raw.

So all in all, we’re starting to think that gigging non-pregnant again is going to feel a bit bland. Although, next tour, we will have two babies in tow...

The Motherlode

In the early days of pregnancy, there’s a fine line between looking like you enjoyed your dinner and looking like you’ve got something cooking in there. We knew there’d come a point when we’d need to start acknowledging our bumps during shows so audiences didn’t get distracted by thoughts of: “Is she...? But is she also? They can’t both be...can they?” and we knew that point had probably come when we got chatting to someone in the bar after a gig and mentioned that we were both pregnant and she said “Ohhh, I did wonder. But I thought it was just bad diet.”

Now there’s no way of hiding it, and part of the joy of having a bump is that people feel they can say anything to you. A sales assistant in M&S approached Fi in the (sensible) shoes section the other week and asked her when she was due, then quickly segued into a rant about everything her daughter had done wrong since becoming pregnant. Sandy’s grandson had come early (her daughter’s fault for working too long), been quite small (her daughter’s fault for working too hard), and had a “ridiculous name” (her daughter’s fault for marrying a man whose Grandfather was called Ronnie). Fi said that Sandy’s daughter sounded like a terrible mother, which made Sandy beam with pride, and agreed it was definitely within Sandy’s rights to call Ronnie a reasonable name like Matthew if that’s what she wanted to do.  

Meanwhile on a visit to Italy to see her husband’s family, Hannah found herself inundated with advice from all the Mammas in the district about not going outside for at least six months after the birth “because the air is full of germs”, and making sure the baby is always dressed in a vest and long socks “to protect from drafts”. Several local matriarchs crossed the road to stroke and talk to her belly, but communing with the bump wasn’t enough for Hannah’s mother-in-law: she wanted to see the baby. So she did what any normal grandmother-to-be would do and booked a scan that she could attend (through a friend of a friend - this is Italy).

Unfortunately the baby wasn’t completely on board with the idea. Granny G was treated to a brief glimpse of fibia, a few lovely-looking internal organs, and this image:

That’s a firm two fingers up to anyone who wants to see its face.

Hannah’s now concerned about teaching her baby some manners – surely Sandy would have something to say about such prenatal rudeness – and Fi’s started thinking about all the criticisms her own Mum might be sharing with strangers (“She’s still doing gigs! She’s paying some hippy to teach her about childbirth! The other day, she said she liked the name Ronnie!”)

Getting Scientific

A few weeks ago on the bus home, while satisfying yet another craving for salt and vinegar crisps, Fi googled “eating crisps during pregnancy” and was horrified to find a European study suggesting that consuming large amounts of crisps and chips during pregnancy could harm a baby as much as smoking. Since then, and having conducted no further research or considered any of the variables in this stand-alone study involving 186 women from Bradford, she has been petrified of the fried potato. Tuck into a bag of crisps around her and she’ll probably move room.

It seemed only fair to pass the paranoia onto Hannah, who duly shunned crisps herself, and now misses them so much she’s dreamed about eating them on two separate occasions and woken up really happy.

There are lots of things to be anxious about during pregnancy and another largely unsubstantiated medical report that Fi read about online said that stress is deeply detrimental to the baby (as bad as smoking? As bad as crisps?) It’s stressful trying not to stress. Fi’s been really going for it with candles and spotify relaxation playlists - rainforest soundscapes where it sounds like someone’s having a shower in your sitting room. But then Hannah warned her that she’d read that certain candle scents can induce labour, and the lists differ according to which American blog you look at, so it’s probably best just to stay away. Like with herbal teas. What? Fi’s been drinking herbal teas!! It’s a minefield.

In an attempt to keep her stress levels down and feel at one with all the mothers of the world (or at least the ones who live near her tube stop), Hannah braved a local pregnancy yoga class last week. The mats were laid out in a circle, for that relaxing ‘ritual sacrifice’ vibe, and as the pregnant ladies assembled, Hannah became increasingly just didn’t seem natural to have twenty groaning expectant mothers - that’s forty people if you include the offspring inside them - concentrated in such a confined space. It felt like the roof was going to lift off or something. (She googled that on the way home to see if it was possible, but there have been no reported cases thus far).

So all in all, thank God for the internet! Imagine trying to negotiate pregnancy without it. 

Ready (or not)

This is the week that Fi found out quite how little Hannah knows about growing a baby. We were about to go on stage for a gig and Hannah was distracted. She said her tummy button was feeling a bit weird - “I guess it’s just cos that’s where the baby’s attached to me”.

There is a lot to learn about and read up on when you’re with child, and so far Hannah has done nothing. Well, to be fair, she has spent a lot of time carefully researching and buying the best books to help her through - she just hasn’t scheduled in any time to read them yet. And now over two thirds of each book is irrelevant because she’s already made it through six months of her pregnancy in a haze of cluelessness. Given that the baby is due this summer, it feels like being behind with exam revision all over again.

Fi, on the other hand, doesn’t need to read any books because she can just Whatsapp her sister, who has three children and is a fountain of knowledge about all things baby. Fi’s found it a lovely way to strengthen their sisterly bond. Although Cathy has stopped replying to her almost daily questions with the enthusiasm she used to. Outsourcing all learning has left Fi with plenty of spare time to do the fun prep for having a child - thinking about what to dress it in! She’s just bought the one item so far for her summer baby: a white wool winter cardigan (hand-wash only). As her sister messaged when Fi excitedly sent her a picture: “you may regret that”. But hopefully not as much as Hannah regrets checking in front of everyone at her group prenatal appointment that the baby can definitely hear when she listens to Mozart through headphones.

We’re hoping that when it comes to giving birth, instinct takes over...because there’s no chance Hannah will have had time to get through her hypnobirth/active birth/ecstatic birth reading list by then. And Fi’s sister has already made it very clear she won’t be available to Whatsapp day and night throughout her labour.

Nobody’s Interested

There’s nothing more magical than the moment in your 12-week scan when you first get to see your baby. Sadly that moment was ruined for Hannah because of the sheer amount of “overlying bowel gas” that was “restricting the view” (as is now officially recorded in her medical notes forevermore). Between bubbles of trapped wind, she caught the odd glimpse of the baby, which seemed very, very angry. The sonographer commented that this amount of furious limb-flailing was “not typical” (also now in the notes). Fi’s looked a-ok, and she had a clear view, but she wanted more...she wanted specific reassurance that her 5.4cm-long foetus was in some way exceptional...perhaps, the best they’d ever seen? Sadly, this was something the medical professionals could not give her. So we both left frustrated, but at least Fi had a picture she could actually show to people.

Our Mums, who have seen our friendship grow through sixth form, university, drama school and the years of working together since (did somebody say ‘codependence’?) had curious reactions to the unbelievable news that we are due within three days of each other. Hannah’s Mum, ever practical, never emotional, focused on the convenience rather than the magic and said “that’s perfect” (co-ordinated maternity leave! Joint childcare! Someone to moan at who isn’t your mother!) Fi’s Mum rolled her eyes and said “oh, you two”, as if we were still teenagers and had drunk one too many Malibu & Cokes and missed the last train home.

Our agent was another sobering female influence amidst the excitement. When we called to tell her we wouldn’t be able to do Edinburgh this year (unless we want to risk birthing our firstborns on stage), she said “I wondered when you were both going to get on with it. I was thinking the other day about how old you are”. When we assured her we’d be ready to carry on touring and hit Edinburgh hard in 2018, she made a kind of howling sound and said, “For God’s sake, don’t make your sketches all about babies now - nobody’s interested!”

While no one is interested in babies, lots of people have been interested in the mechanics of our dual conception. Did we plan it? Were we together when it happened? Was it witchcraft?

The answer is no, no, and absolutely yes.

Weird? Creepy? Miraculous?

We’ve been writing and performing sketch comedy together for the past seven years. We’ve done six Edinburghs, two UK tours, our own series on BBC Radio 4 and, guys, it’s finally happening! No, not the TV series we’ve been working towards…we’re pregnant! As in both of us. At the same time. Due this August within three days of each other. Weird? Creepy? Miraculous? You decide.

We both found out separately - we got to share the special moment with the pee-sticks with the Dads (different Dads...) but because Hannah can’t keep anything to herself, she told Fi straight away. And because Fi worried it would get weird if she waited to tell Hannah until after the recommended three months, she felt obliged to tell her straight away too. Every single day Hannah struggled not to call everyone she’s ever met and tell them about this amazing coincidence. It was hard for her. Really hard. But by some miracle she managed to keep our double-whammy bombshell to herself.

Those first three months were a struggle for other reasons too. Hannah learned the hard way that morning sickness doesn’t just affect you in the morning. At her lowest point, she was sick in her mouth during a gig (don’t worry, she’s a swallower, guys). Fi was 100% symptom-free and had never felt better, but she still managed to ruin the first three months for herself with constant worry about why she felt so good.

Anyway, we made it through! Hannah is back to feeling nauseous only when she chooses to eat too much chocolate in one sitting (Easter was tough). And Fi’s worries for her unborn child are now balanced out by a new anxiety about her own health. It really is a magical time.

So we’re blogging about it.