How to cope when you're expecting"Sometimes people ask why I did the show but it actually would have been harder for me not to"
A Walthamstow comedian has created a humorous film about discovering her unborn child might die, featuring an appearance from the ashes of her dead dog.
goo:ga follows Hannah Ballou, 41, from week 20 of her pregnancy, when she received the shocking news, to just before birth and is available to watch online until 11th June.
It tells the story of learning her unborn son had an ultra-rare heart condition called arteriovenous malformation, meaning his heart was not growing correctly, and how she coped with humour.
Hannah told the Echo she wrote the film while pregnant and had two sets of filming dates, one three weeks later, in case “something dramatic happened” to give her time to re-write.
She said: “Sometimes people ask why I did the show but it actually would have been harder for me not to. I’ve been making art for so long that I knew no matter what happened I would have to deal with it artistically.”
The film is a direct follow-up to a live show she created in 2016, also titled goo:ga, about her first pregnancy, which she performed while eight months pregnant.
The first goo:ga featured an appearance from Hannah’s dog, who she said “would bring the house down” and was “way funnier than [she] could ever hope to be” but who died in April just before she became pregnant with her second child.
She said: “Part of doing this show was to have fun with the fact that it’s impossible to repeat old work, especially if it’s autobiographical because your life has moved on.
“This pregnancy turned out to be very different from my first, which was very care-free, and on top of that no one was in the theatre because of the pandemic and my co-star is in an urn.
“At first we trick the viewer using a laugh track but the minute I find out something is wrong, the camera goes behind me and you see the theatre is empty.”
Though the film, which Hannah describes as a “sort of ‘you’ll laugh, you’ll cry’ deal”, ends on an uncertain note, in the end her son’s birth “could not have gone better”.
She said: “They whisked him off to Great Ormond Street Hospital and inserted a device to repair his heart. Because his heart was stretched out, there was a danger he could develop a blood clot so we had to give him two anticoagulant injections a day.
“The cardiologist said he would probably have to have open heart surgery later but, exactly a year after we first found out anything was wrong, they did a scan and said actually his heart had remodelled amazingly.
“He’s a total medical marvel. They’re writing lots of research papers about him because it’s such a rare condition and his heart essentially healed itself.”
goo:ga is being shown as part of Camden People’s Theatre’s Calm Down Dear Festival, a showcase of feminist art in its ninth year.
Tickets are pay-what-you-can or free for those on maternity leave, which Hannah said was “important” to her.
Find out more or book your tickets here.