Nancy Harris tried to take in what the doctor was saying to her.
"If you want to have children, you'd better do it soon, because you don't want to be one of those women who has left it too late," he said. "Like I was a breeding mare," she adds.
"And I thought to myself, I know how to be alone and how to write, but what happens if I have a child and I can't do those things and I find out that I hate it? Is all that resentment going to come out on the child? Our whole civilisation would fall if our parents told us that they regretted having us. My mother once told me and my sister, I love you but you're not my greatest achievements. And I thought she was dead right: a child is not a creation."
Creation and procreation jostling in her mind, Harris hurriedly left the doctor's surgery. "Now I might say to him 'that's inappropriate' but back then I worried a lot was I going to miss my chance - would I meet someone in the fertility window? I always felt unsure."
These ambiguities about motherhood fed into the play that Harris was writing: Our New Girl. It centres around an Irish nanny who arrives in the meticulously maintained home of a well-to-do English woman and her husband, who is away on business. The nanny and the audience become voyeurs - "inappropriate presences" Harris calls them - to an unfolding tableau of domestic tensions and bottled resentments. The play was, in part, inspired by the Henry James novella The Turn of the Screw, which deals with a governess's stint looking after two children in a country mansion, which, she becomes convinced, is haunted.
"Going into a house is a very personal thing," Harris explains. "I thought what if, instead of a ghost, the secret is something very human, but unpalatable? That's why I made (the mother at the heart of the play) this upper-middle-class woman in a shiny kitchen - so that there would be no excuse and you couldn't blame anything else for how she feels about being a mother."
The staging of the play at the Gate represents something of a homecoming for Harris. First performed in 2012, Our New Girl has already toured as far afield as Chicago and Finland. It won rave reviews in London - The Guardian called it "an unsettling psychological drama" - and Off-Broadway in New York. Seeing it now on an Irish stage is satisfying, she says, not least because when she was cutting her teeth as a playwright it did not feel like Dublin was a city where young writers were getting a fair shake.
"When I was starting out playwriting wasn't in fashion," she recalls. "It felt like something for an older generation at that time."
The older generation weighed heavily in other ways too. Harris grew up in Dublin, the child of two writers - former Sunday Independent editor Anne Harris and columnist and screenwriter Eoghan Harris - and she says their enormous reputations were something she grappled with.
"It's probably a universal truth that the children of writers can often lack confidence, for the very fact they've lived their lives in the shadow of their parents," she says. "Navigating other people's projections about your parents - whether good or bad - can be distorting when it comes to forging your own path."
As a student, feeling she was "drowning in reading" doing drama studies and classical civilisation, she began studying playwriting at Trinity College. "All you had to do was write a one-act play and I thought, how hard could it be? It was a lightbulb moment. It seemed to come quickly and easily to me. It was never as easy again after that, however - it did become at times more torturous."
She moved to Birmingham, where she studied playwriting, and from there went to London. "That was much tougher," she recalls. "I got run over by a taxi after about a month. I broke my ankle. I had to keep the day job and rent someone's spare room. If I had turned around at that point I would have never gone back. I was obsessed by that point. It took seven years in London before I had a play produced."
And yet she went on to become one of our most respected young playwrights. Her first original full-length play, No Romance, won her the Stewart Parker Award and was staged at the Abbey. Its follow-up, Our New Girl, saw her long-listed for an Evening Standard Most Promising Playwright Award in 2013. After that she wrote "community plays, plays for kids, original plays that didn't go on".
"We hear all the stories of overnight successes," she says. "They don't tell you about the people who had their first play at 40. I was never disheartened but there were times when it was tough."
There was a five-year period where she found it difficult to get a play produced.
"I never completely gave up - thank god, but I came very close", she says. "It was Selina Cartmell asking me to do The Red Shoes at the Gate that was the turning point." The 2017 production - described in the Irish Times as 'a freestyle approach to a dark and charming fairytale' - set her on her way again.
She met her husband-to-be, Kwasi Agyei-Owusu in London. "I just knew he was the one because I'd never met anyone like him before," she says. "He's a good antidote to the dark side. He's a chemist, he's scientific, he's grounded and he has made me look at things in a different way. I'll make some sweeping argument and he'll ask, where's your evidence?"
On viewing Harris's adaptation of Tolstoy's The Kreutzer Sonata, Kwasi remarked, 'Where did that come from - that darkness and that rage? I don't know that side of you.'
"He thinks I have a morbid curiosity with dark themes, serial killers, that sort of thing," Harris laughs when I mention the quote.
Kwasi is from Ghana and, while she says they haven't generally dealt with racist comments from others, there was one incident which left them both shaken.
"We were on a bus and a man started shouting horrific racial and sexual slurs at us because we were a mixed race couple. We didn't know if he was going to pull a knife. Nobody on the bus said or did anything. It took a few days for us to process it. He [Kwasi] said that in 20 years in London that was the first time something like that had happened to him. You couldn't say for sure it was because of Brexit, but it did happen then."
Kwasi proposed to her on a trip to Ghana, where she met her future in-laws for the first time. "He did it quite gently. He had been planning to do it on a rope bridge and if he had done that I would probably have started crying as I'm terrified of heights."
She found the country "fascinating and sad in its history of colonialism and slavery. His family was lovely. We spent a week in his house and then travelled up the coast. The traffic is insane, you spend hours getting around."
Their wedding is in July and instead of sending out invitations, Kwasi suggested they use a website. "And it asks you for your story, your memories of how you met. It offered us fake memories, written as though it was us. It said 'we met kayaking in San Diego and the instructor said, any couple who can survive a day in a kayak can survive anything'.
"And I looked at it and thought: our memories aren't good enough, we've just been at home watching Netflix."
She pauses. "It's like the motherhood thing: there's always a reason to feel not good enough."
Our New Girl's success in London and New York will make it one of the hottest tickets in town when it opens here at the end of the month. But its writer will still feel the tension come opening night.
"There are always nerves. Of course you do steal little glances at people to see their reactions; sometimes those can tell you more than reviews. I'm really proud of this production and all the work that's gone into it." You might even call it her greatest achievement.
Our New Girl by Nancy Harris runs from February 27 to March 21 at the Gate Theatre Dublin. Tickets are from €25 and available from www.gate theatre.ie/ or phone (01) 874 4045