Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Bellies, Sausage Fingers, and John Psathas (but not how you think)

Anxious me had a list of ways that pregnancy would completely mess with my playing and thus my self, proof that I expected the worst as the reason for the lack of photographic evidence of others performing while expecting.  Doesn't mean they didn't, but wondering about it did fuel my fears of the journey into motherhood.  (And explains why I intentionally posted videos of performances with a baby belly! Proof!!)

I figured I'd have a belly that bumped bars from time to time, fingers that would be bigger than normal, and a back that would ache.  Spoiler alert: I did. 
There was nothing to do but laugh and go with it as little boy decided to take up core real estate.

1. Bumper Belly

This one I saw coming. It took about 7 months, but it definitely happened. Goodbye, accidentals; hello, surprise muffling of bars.
But it was a great way to break awkward tension in lessons. So there's that.  

2. Bye, Bye Balance

They tell you that things like riding a bike or climbing a ladder are dangerous while pregnant due to the change in weight distribution, ergo loss of balance. They should add playing vibraphone to that list. 
They should also add putting on socks and walking down stairs to that list.

L+M Duo rehearsed John Psathas' Happy Tachyons when I was about 7.5 months pregnant. I had to play vibes and marimba at the same time and switch quickly between them. Even in passages my hands could play, the rest of me, from my tummy to my feet, couldn't get it together. I kept nearly falling over.  It was a...grounding...experience.

3. A Heavy but Absent Core

You know how tugboats drag around giant cruise ships? That's what it felt like watching my hands drag the rest of me across the marimba.  Usually I rely on my abs and back to move and support my upper body, but when your abs are stretched thin and your center is 30 pounds heavier than normal, turns out you don't go anywhere fast: behind a marimba or otherwise.

A colleague drove by me one day during a run/walk somewhere during month 6.  I saw him the next day at the university:
Him: I saw you running yesterday! Good for you!!
Me: Tugboating. You saw me tugboating yesterday. 

4. Sausage Fingers

During the last month of pregnancy my fingers were so swollen that I couldn't play any instrument for longer than 30 minutes at a time.  I wore a ring [that's usually far too big] as a gauge: once it felt tight, I knew I had to stop, lest I be cursed with astronaut hands the rest of the day. 

5. Loose Ligaments

There's a hormone called relaxin that releases in order to prepare implantation as well as relax the ligaments around your pelvis and hips to prepare for birth.  The problem is it doesn't ONLY go to those places: it goes EVERYWHERE.  For marimba hands, this meant that I had to work extra hard to get my fingers to do what I wanted them to do. Gripping the mallets was more challenging, and certain repertoire just didn't feel good to play.  

L+M pulled our first piece from a program while I was pregnant: Happy Tachyons.  It was simply too technically demanding for my super-loose fingers.  My wrists were trying to compensate, which meant I got sore super fast.  Lucky for me, M was understanding even though she was killing her part.  I plan on redeeming myself this fall!

6. Achy Back

Find a pregnant woman whose back didn't hurt, right?  

If you can get through a marimba concert pregnant with a screaming back, you can do it on any regular day!

7. Baby Brain

Before becoming a parent I giggled at the absentmindedness of those with young families. Now I get it, and I want to send them all cookie bouquets for managing to even partly have their lives put together.  
It's strange how it feels like a chunk of my brain was simply replaced.  But not with obsessive worry or facts about infant health. It was replaced with joy and extra happiness. 

It feels important to say that having a baby doesn't destroy the work you've put into your playing, but it does change it for a little while. 

Having my son helped me see that playing well matters, but doesn't have the same gravity as other things.  

He has helped me realize that everything has its place in how I view the world, with the level of my playing positioned in a way that allows me to care deeply about it without obsessively comparing myself to who I think I should be versus who I am.  

That - and the departure of sausage fingers - feels really good.

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