Practicing and Pregnancy

I loved pregnancy. I didn’t love the nausea for 20 weeks, but otherwise, I loved everything else. The idea of growing another human being…wow, I found it so special and immensely rewarding. I always kept track of my baby’s growth and development through the American Pregnancy Association’s website and looked forward to scheduled ultrasounds with unbridled joy! The anticipation was exhilarating. I loved it. I still have a recording, stuffed in a cute bear, of my third child’s fetal heartbeat that my obstetrician gave me half-way through my pregnancy, which my kids are not allowed to touch.

Practicing is different at each stage of pregnancy.

First trimester

You’re exhausted and your hormones are out-of-control. You feel normal and amazing one second, and the next second you are ready to set your block ablaze in fury. It’s crazy. I’ve sobbed uncontrollably because I didn’t like the curtains I just purchased when I hung them; I’ve eaten ice cream like it’s going out of style; I’ve wanted to separate then run back telling my husband he’s the best in the world; and pregnancy brain?! Why did no one tell me about pregnancy brain?! I used to be able to keep entire calendars in my head, and now I can barely remember my name! It’s nuts!

Practicing is a little crazy during this time as well. Usually, I could just practice through some of the nonsense, but other times, I just had to take a break. You know it’s time to take a break when negative and non-constructive thinking seems to pervade your otherwise beautiful music-making. The key is to take it easy. You’re going to hear me say this several times, but your body is trying to grow a baby. That’s hard work! Be easy on your body and give it the energy that it needs. Yes, you need to prepare for your upcoming recital, concert, etc., but you need to let your body work for you, too. It’s going to be easy to overdo it. Don’t.

Nausea. Yuck. I heard it described by one of my husband’s co-workers at Urmston Grammer School as it being like you’re sea-sick, constantly, and you aren’t allowed off the boat. That about sums it up. The “morning sickness” starts around 6-8 weeks gestation, and usually lets up around 16 weeks. For me, it lasted until 20-21 weeks with all three pregnancies. Gah! One of the hardest things to do, but what you must try to do, is to eat through it. Take tiny bites if you must, but you need to eat in order to maintain your strength and to nourish you and your growing baby. It’s rough, but try. Most women find the nausea worse in the morning when their hormones are at their highest. This will mean that practicing might need to wait until the afternoon. I’m a morning person and feel like I must practice in the morning to feel “accomplished” for that day, but honestly, you have to listen to your body and be flexible. It will be a much easier and pleasant experience to just wait to practice when your body calms down a little. Then sit (or stand if you aren’t too tired) and practice while you still feel OK.

Mints and ginger are great for helping with nausea. Ginger tea: use the side of your knife to mash about a thumb size of peeled fresh ginger (plus, it’s a great way to let out any frustration!) and boil that with 2 cups of filtered water to desired strength (2-4 minutes). Add some agave nectar and sip with delight! I always carried individually wrapped peppermints in my purse so I could pop them in my mouth the second I could feel any nausea coming on. It really does help. Practice away!

Second trimester

This is the best part of pregnancy, at least for me. Your hormones have stabilized (for now!), and you have that amazing “mother’s glow” where your skin and hair look fabulous. You feel fabulous, and everyone around you should tell you that because you are fabulous! You have quite a “baby bump” going; your nausea has let up, and you feel great. This is the time to make the most of your pregnancy-practicing. In most cases, with healthy pregnancies, you should nearly be able to practice like you could before you became pregnancy. You will feel a little tired at times. Fine. Rest. Better yet, take a nap! You’re growing a baby! Then eat; practice some more; and rest again. Use this time to work and sleep, because third trimester is coming.

Third Trimester

Wow, where did that energy go? (Oh yeah, I’m growing a baby.) You feel like you can’t possibly get off the couch, let alone go practice and play a gig! You feel like you’re waddling, and near the very end of your pregnancy you feel like you’re sitting on your baby’s head every time you want to sit down. Weird. And forget about lung capacity. Your beautiful, nearly developed baby has taken over your body and cut your breath in half (at least) and doubled or tripled your trips to the bathroom. Don’t worry, though, you’re almost there! How exciting!!! I know I’m crazy, but I loved this as well. Hey, at least you haven’t felt so sick in a while, right?! Plus, you’ll get to meet your new, tiny person very soon. It’s an amazing feeling.

Practicing during this time has become tricky again. You can’t get in a full breath, so your phrases aren’t quite what they used to be, and you’re exhausted once more. You will have to make your practice sessions a little shorter and more frequent to compensate for this lack of energy. As for your phrases, now is the time to explore creative and musical ways of sneaking in more breaths. It’s a fun challenge, and you can do it. I had an audition for my current job at 33 weeks gestation with baby number 2 (I gave birth at 37 weeks!). I waddled my huge self onto that stage and played the audition of my life. I told myself, “I’m going to play L’AprΓ¨s-midi with two (count ’em, TWO) breaths, and they’re going to LIKE it!” Guess what? They did! The rest of the audition wasn’t nearly so challenging with the breathing, thankfully. I won the job and am here to tell you that you can play magnificently in late pregnancy too. It’s about finding creative places to breathe and keeping the support going as best you can….then go take a nap.

Every pregnancy is different. It’s important to remember this. Sometimes near the end of your third trimester is impossible, and you’ll just be forced to take time off. My third pregnancy was much harder than my first two pregnancies. I practiced and performed with ease up until the week I gave birth with my first two pregnancies. No sweat. However, with my third pregnancy, I remember struggling a lot to play my last concert with Columbus (I think I was only about 32 weeks gestation at that concert. Remember, I won my audition at 33 weeks with my second baby and was still playing fine until I gave birth.) I had trouble concentrating, even reading notes! Ridiculous. I remember being quite frustrated with myself during rehearsal, and obviously that wasn’t helping either. I had to stop playing flute altogether after that concert because I would seriously just blow one note and be winded and exhausted. It was awful for me. It was clear that I had to stop, and I slipped into a little depression (baby blues)because I felt like I was losing part of my identity. I just physically couldn’t play. I remember crying a lot. Thankfully, I’m a relentlessly optimistic person and knew I could get through this eventually, and I did.  I’m always surprised by how different each pregnancy is, but the key to making it through them is to be flexible and optimistic: practice when you can, eat, and sleep, (simple, right?) and never lose the confidence of knowing that you can pick your flute up again postpartum and play. Your new baby will love it! Trust me!

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(c) 2014 Donna M. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.

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