There’s a special reason why I haven’t posted anything for a long while. His name is Zander, my beautiful first born, who joined the world on July 13 of this year. Before his arrival, a colleague asked me to write a blog on how pregnancy affected my playing and teaching. Apart from spending (wasting?) my spare time daydreaming and nesting, I was superstitious about publicly discussing my hard won pregnancy, as there are many risks an older mum faces. Now that he has arrived, healthy and well, it feels timely to share a few of these experiences.
I loved being pregnant, particularly after the reassurance at the 12 week scan that little Zander had kicked all of those scary developmental markers out of the ballpark. I loved observing the weird and wonderful changes to my blossoming body, and following the progress of my little dot with an app that compared his size to various seeds, fruits and vegetables each week. That’s not to say it was always easy. There were times when I had to abandon a grocery shopping expedition as a wave of fatigue overcame me. A few times I paid for my items, and left half of them behind at the checkout in my rush home to dive into bed for a nap.
Somewhere in my first trimester I performed the Ravel piano trio alongside the Faure C minor piano quartet. In the dress rehearsal the day before, my fatigue was so great that the little black dots merged and swam around on the page, which was alarming, and I played terribly. The next day I confess to stretching my caffeine quota for the performance, with rations of very dark chocolate and an extra cup of tea to get me through. Thankfully, from the first day of my second trimester until Zander’s birth, I was fortunate to (mostly) have my usual high energy levels, coordinating a national Taubman Workshop at the University of Queensland with John Bloomfield, regularly working out at the gym until I was advised to stop at 32 weeks, and even teaching a few hours the day before Zander was born.
As my belly started to swell, some of my students started to express curiosity as to how my torso adjustment would change when playing across the body. I also found this fascinating to explore as the weeks went on and my “shape shifting” became more pronounced. Playing with the left hand in the treble register seemed far in these later stages of pregnancy, and I would sometimes choose a redistribution that I probably wouldn’t have otherwise. But when I thought more and really applied my Taubman training, often I didn’t need to move nearly as much as I thought (or as much as my students were) and I could find a place to feel completely comfortable, albeit in a slightly different place to normal. As bending over became painful, there was no easy solution to my annoying habit of dropping pencils during a lesson, apart from asking the student to pick them up for me!
Moving into the third trimester, I began to doubt some of my fingering choices for students in passages across the body, as I guessed that what felt good for me with my current shape may not apply to others. This was highlighted in a lesson with John Bloomfield, in which I couldn’t make a fingering he suggested feel good. Knowing John’s consistently elegant and clever fingering, I knew what the problem was. With his trademark diplomacy and gentleness, he suggested trying his fingering solution in a few months, that is, after my pregnancy. It was hilarious.
I was also fascinated by my growing baby’s response to music. Whenever I played or taught, Zander routinely slept. In my last performances of the pregnancy at around 28 weeks, he even snoozed through a thunderous finale of elbow clusters, only waking up as we bowed in the curtain calls. The one memorable exception to his slumber was when I demonstrated the wrong torso position for a certain passage to a student. It felt terrible, and he protested vigorously, adding to the discomfort. Obviously both of us felt uncomfortable, which backed up my argument!
Six weeks after birth, this pattern has continued. Zander has slept through numerous rehearsals and also the Muses Trio performance at the Women in the Creative Arts Conference in Canberra. It was so special to look up after each piece and see my little bub at the back with my Mum, sharing the performance of the program that accompanied his development in utero. Sometimes when nothing else will comfort him, I play a little, and he immediately calms. Hopefully this will continue for the next few years at least!
And so a new era begins. There are undoubtedly many challenges to be faced, but if the last six weeks are any indication, these are balanced out by incredibly beautiful moments and so much love. Welcome to the world my gorgeous little Zander xx