Comedian Sara Pascoe on her IVF journey and motherhood at 42
By Hannah Stephenson, PA
Stand-up comedian, writer, TV panellist and The Great British Sewing Bee host Sara Pascoe, who is expecting her second baby at 42, says there are definite advantages to being an older mum.
“It depends how you frame things. There are days when you worry about your energy levels and then there are other days when I just think I’m just so lucky that it happened.”
After years of infertility, she has been honest and open about her own experience, having had two rounds of IVF since the pandemic, both of which have been successful. Her mother, she says, calls her a ‘medical miracle’. Pascoe says she feels incredibly lucky.
“I’d given up – 40 was my cut-off. I just needed to start adapting to not becoming a parent and it was my husband who really begged in terms of doing the IVF route and trying everything we could.”
Her first son, Theodore, is 18 months old and she’s expecting her second son in October.
Juggling family with work, the award-winning comedian and writer, host of The Great British Sewing Bee, presenter of Last Woman On Earth and panel-show regular, has already been on a stand-up tour this year, launched a podcast, presented Sewing Bee and managed to squeeze in writing her debut novel, Weirdo.
Her husband, comedian and actor Steen Raskopoulos, recently returned from a four-and-a-half-month stint Down Under filming the Australian remake of The Office, during which time Pascoe became the primary parent, calling on family for back-up.
“Actually, my son’s probably sick of me. He probably wants me to go out occasionally,” she quips. “It’s not something we would do again, but then you realise that’s what families have been navigating all the time with work. It’s all just a compromise.
“I’m lucky that stand-up is flexible, but in terms of filming and how the TV industry works, either you’re there for a 13-hour day or you’re not there.”
Pascoe used what little spare time she had to write the book, finding 40 minutes here and there between work and toddler commitments.
“I’ve really enjoyed it. It’s felt like a real break from the drudgery. It’s much more interesting than wiping sweet potato off the floor, isn’t it?”
Her novel sees Sophie, who works in a pub in Essex after a spell as a tour guide in London (as Pascoe did), struggling with emotional and financial debts and in a sexless relationship with boyfriend Ian.
Then in walks Chris, a man she has long had a crush on, and who at one point she followed half way around the world to Australia, such was her obsession. Now, she sees his re-emergence as fate and she exposes her true thoughts – which are both hilarious and heartbreaking – through her inner monologue.
Pascoe agrees that there are some elements of Sophie which she can relate to. She herself has had crushes, but not to that extreme.
“I used to find that work was more fun if you had a crush on someone at work, so I have had some work crushes, but I’ve never acted upon them. I would have died if they’d found out.”
The fictional Sophie’s life and emotions are chaotic, and Pascoe agrees that it’s been a pretty busy couple of years for her too, as she has tried to balance work with motherhood.
“From the outside, it looks like I’m busier than I am. Certainly, there’s a balancing of different jobs sometimes, but never all on the same day. I definitely need my peace and quiet now in the evenings.”
She is well aware how much her life, and her priorities, have changed.
“You can plan a diary around a hypothetical child, but what I hadn’t realised was that it would be so hard to leave him.
“I’d rather be with him and you can’t actually predict that. I had no idea at all that sometimes I wouldn’t want to work, especially with gigs, travelling far away from home – it feels at this point like the wrong thing to do rather than the right thing to do. That’s just a personal experience. That’s not me saying that’s what it should be for all mums, but that’s certainly what I’m struggling with.”
Her mother had a very different experience, says Pascoe, who wrote and starred in the BBC2 sitcom Out Of Her Mind.“My mum had me at 19 and I saw how that affected her life and I got a whole other lifetime of work and freedom and experiences that she didn’t get to have.“So, while there are days where I think I’m not just 42, I’m 150, I do then remind myself how fortunate I am.”
She also co-hosts Sara & Cariad’s Weirdos Book Club with comedian and author Cariad Lloyd, in which each week they discuss a book, and feature different guest authors and comedians.
Her comedy, she says, has been enriched by motherhood.
“I haven’t changed. It just feels like there’s a new area of experience where I overlap with the audience, because I’d always been a childless woman.
“As a childless woman, sometimes I would say quite bitterly childless and quite negative (things) about children or people having children. Now I’ve got this complete turnaround when I’m there moaning about my toddler.
“It’s always nice when people are laughing because they understand that they’ve been through it too. It’s enriched things.”
She says that comedy in general has changed since she first started out.
“It’s in a very self-aware way, because audiences have really changed. It’s become more inclusive and diverse, which is a really positive thing. But it doesn’t mean that it’s perfect. What’s fantastic about the live circuit is that there are lots of really funny people who are very different from each other and are funny in different ways. It keeps it vibrant.”
Pascoe grew up in Essex, but now lives in north London, and has a group of comedy pals she sees outside of work, including Aisling Bea, Roisin Conaty and Katherine Ryan, who are very supportive.
She has reframed things when it comes to looking after her mental health, she says.
“When you think it’s the end of the world, it’s (about) taking a deep breath and counting your blessings a little bit and trying not to do too much. And that’s what I think about with the work life juggle.
“Sometimes you have to say, ‘Yeah, I’m going to be a bit slower for a few years, because I’ve got young children or I’m pregnant’, and that it’s OK that you can’t do everything and that you’ll make yourself poorly if you try.”
Meanwhile, she’s already got ideas for the second novel and is raring to go. “Writing can work so well around stand-up and having a family.”
Weirdo by Sara Pascoe is published by Faber & Faber on September 14th