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'Life will be brilliant and shit either way': Pressure and confusion over whether or not to have children

Joanne Ryan wrote Eggsistentialism about her experience of turning 35 and trying to decide whether or not to have a child in her final fertile years.

Image: Eoghan Lyons

‘THE BIOLOGICAL CLOCK is ticking’ and ‘the pitter patter of tiny feet’ – these are just some of the phrases often heard, and hated, by couples and women who don’t have children.

And in some cases, may not actually want them.

When Joanna Ryan turned 35 she started considering whether or not to have a child in “my final fertile years”.

The writer and performer wrote the one woman show Eggsistentialism about her experience and uses comedy to tackle the serious subject.

The show has been a massive success in Ireland, Edinburgh and Cyprus and is going to Australia next year.

Ryan says that due to the topic of the play, people constantly reach out to her and reveal their own personal experiences.

When you’re making work like this, particularly autobiographical, people want to tell you their experiences all the time, that has been a constant.

“It’s so interesting, I love hearing people’s views.”

One of the common themes that comes up is the liberties people feel they can take when asking women about their plans for children.

Women tell me that all the time. People feel they can ask women about their bodies in all sorts of settings and things that men would never be asked.

Eggs Pub Shot 1 by Eoghan Lyons (1) Source: Eoghan Lyons

However, Ryan was quick to point out that the topic about trying to decide whether or not to have a child, isn’t just a women’s issue.

“It’s more generational than gender based, we are the first generation to have this choice.”

Ryan said the show had a much broader audience than expected and that while women who found themselves in a similar situation did make up a portion of the audience “it wasn’t as many as I thought it would be when I was writing it”.

I had hoped that people would find it interesting and worthwhile but you never know. Also because it’s autobiographical and I’m using my experiences for illustrative purposes, you don’t know if that’s going to be interesting for other people.

She added that even though the show is about her and her decisions, it’s also a lot to do with her mother and Ireland and our history since the inception of the state.

Asked if the show, and the conversations she has had as a result of it, have had an impact on her, Ryan said:

“A few of my friends have said how it looks as if the show has made my decision about having children for me. I’m 38 in January and now I have major international plans for the next year, year and a half.”

However, she also pointed out that touring with the show and “talking about it so much everyday made it a real live issue in our relationship again”.

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“We revisited it and we may be going in that direction.”

The play sees Ryan consult family, fertility experts, fortune tellers, daytime radio and the internet to work out whether or not to have a child but she said writing the play gave her peace.

The final message of the show is that life will be brilliant and shit and worth living either way.

Eggistentialism has been performed in Limerick and Dublin and at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival as part of Culture Ireland’s Edinburgh Showcase.

Eggsistentialism_Production_Shot_by Ken Coleman Source: Ken Coleman

It has won the Lustrum Award, a Best Storytelling Bouquet and The Melbourne Fringe Tour Ready Award which will see the show touring Australia next year.

Ryan said: “You never know how the show going to be received, so that was the final piece of the puzzle.”

It was also performed at the Buffer Fringe Festival in Nicosia, Cyprus with the support of Culture Ireland, Limerick Arts Office, Cobalt Air and the Irish Embassy in Cyprus.

Ryan says there are plans for the show to be performed in Ireland again next year and in London over the summer.

Read: Government to pay for couples to have IVF treatment>

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