Posted on May 30, 2023, in: Uncategorized
Having A Baby

Review by Helen Edwards

I will start this review with a trigger warning. The proceeds from this, Lou Cox’s hilarious and devastating show, are being donated to The Grand Appeal, the official Bristol Children’s Hospital charity. Whilst the audience laughed loudly at the very funny and clever one liners we also cried our sincerest tears for Lou, for her and partner Jason’s baby girl, Hattie, and for the mistakes that were made during her delivery….

When I sat down a kind person to my right, noting that I was on my own started chatting to me. She explained that Lou is her daughter’s teacher at Stagecoach Performing Arts and that she is brilliant. My seat neighbour then told me the ending of the play. She did this to protect me. I spent moments during the show, in between laughs, wondering if knowing was a good thing. My conclusion has been that thank goodness I did; I had made a huge assumption from the title of the play that it would be a chuckle-a-minute nodding in recognition kind of thing. But it was so much more.

With knowledge of what was to come, my laughter was a notch quieter but it still erupted unchecked. It just had a different dimension; one of pure admiration that the woman in front of me had found the strength and courage to write, devise and perform this show within a year of her baby’s death.

The stage was simple, a sofa to the left, chair in the middle and a screen behind. It opened with Lou sat in the chair, black leggings on and a pair of pants around her ankles. She proceeded to talk us through top-tips of sanitary protection placement, ensuring that the multi-padded creation would be enough to catch her first period post birth. Her wit was evident from the start; recognition-fuelled laughter came from every woman who had ever had a baby with chuckles from all else. The pace and punchiness of the jokes picked up with Lou, pants discarded now, sharing her experience of the advice that she received whilst pregnant. Judging by the raucous roars in the auditorium there were many identifying with her journey from pregnancy to birth.

Lou described the uncomfortable telling of people that ‘I’m pregnant’ as akin to shouting, ‘I’VE HAD SEX’, the first of many embarrassing personal disclosures that can accompany being an expectant mother. She then ripped through well-intentioned but unsolicited nuggets of advice that she had been given with a sharp, shrewd humour. We were taken on a tour of Lou and Jason’s comical antics at antenatal hypnotherapy classes, given a blow-by-blow account of morning sickness, told of her migration from ‘sexy’ to ‘big’ pants and the work involved in getting her private area ready for public (midwife) viewing. It was packed with funny anecdotes.

A few lines that stood out in the first half:

‘My biological clock is ticking. It’s not ticking it’s Big Ben bonging’

‘Perhaps some of us have wizards sleeves down there and the baby will fly out?’

Whilst teaching a class of year 9’s: ‘I would simply turn my back on the student’s mid-sentence to yak my guts up and turn around after like nothing had happened to complete my sentence’

And then came the reality of what happened next. The posts that Lou shared on Facebook after giving birth were shown on the screen. We saw hope turn to despair as Hattie’s life support was turned off. Hattie breathed unaided for 36 hours and Lou allowed us to be with her and Jason as they took their baby girl for a walk in the sunshine through a park off St Michael’s Hill in Bristol. This was where Hattie took her last breaths, five days after her birth, on the 19th May 2022.

The courage that Lou displayed whilst reliving this personal trauma was like nothing I’d seen on stage before. It was raw, generous and insightful. The entire audience was in tears with many, like me, crying to the point of back racking sobs. If the play was transferred to other theatres I think it could very easily become a catalyst for change. To see the people behind the labouring women in delivery suites and to view the emotional impact of avoidable newborn deaths is an eye opening and heart crushing experience.

Lou explained that the hospital where Hattie was born (not Bristol Children’s Hospital) sent a letter that included the line: “The trust would like to send their sincere apologies for the mistakes that were made”. She went on to tell us that an investigation report clarified that Hattie would still be alive if it wasn’t for these mistakes. Lou believes that accountability has been lacking and her anger towards this is evident throughout the latter part of the play. She talked of her post-birth and trauma care; which included receiving a call from a health visitor four days after Hattie’s death to ask how they were getting on with the baby and being told that she didn’t qualify for NHS-funded counselling because she was not suicidal.

Lou told me afterwards that the objective of the show was to raise money to support Bristol Children’s hospital. So far she’s raised over £21,000 for The Grand Appeal. She was recently asked by the hospital if they could buy 29 new nebulisers, out of the donations. Her face lit up as she told me this with the knowledge that other newborns will benefit from the money raised in Hattie’s memory.

Lou – the final words in your performance were ‘Hattie McConnell you are beyond special’. I’d like to add to that. I’m sure I speak for all those in the audiences over the weekend when I say: Lou Cox, you are very talented and very special. Thank you for the laughter with your brilliant comic timing and delivery, and thank you for courageously sharing your story.

Please follow this link if you can help support The Grand Appeal in memory of Hattie McConnell.


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