When I was getting ready to have Sam, I was worried about what would happen to me on the horn. I'm a freelancer and I can more or less schedule around my health, but it was hard to know when to stop taking work and when I could expect to be back to my regular self chopwise. I did some pretty deep googling and came up with nothing helpful on the subject, so this is my attempt to put some information out there about what to expect when you're a brass player and a soon to be mom.
I'm fortunate that both times I've been pregnant have been mildly uncomfortable. I haven't had a ton of morning sickness and I haven't overheated or suffered any serious conditions like gestational diabetes or preeclampsia. The first time around, I took an audition in the sixth month and made a babymoon out of it with Steve. I definitely felt some breathlessness by that point, but it was minimal. Before the third trimester, I had to change my posture and angle as I gained weight, but that was pretty much it. The real challenge for me came during the last three months, as I started to move much slower and got tired a lot faster. As the baby got bigger, breathlessness became WAY more of an issue so I found myself writing in and planning more breaths. Nausea and heartburn did come back in the last month, so I broke up my practice sessions into smaller bursts and took a lot more walks. Fresh air is great for breathing and revitalization when you're not tolerating caffeine!
I had a really tough time deciding when to stop taking work and when to commit to playing again. Fortunately for me, Sam was born in August, and things tend to slow down later in that month for me. I started to really show at about 5 months with Sam, so I told everyone that I worked and subbed for at that time. I found that most people were really happy for us, and were thrilled to help out with little stories and old toys. I really appreciated the love that people had for their kids. I also didn't feel that I was discriminated against or called less as a result, but the natural August/September ebb was definitely welcomed. At any rate, Sam was born ten days early: I subbed at a show on Friday night, and labor started literally 12 hours after it was over! I chose to stay home as long as possible, so I did my routine while I was in the very early stages of labor. I obviously left the horn home as we spent the next few days in the hospital with our new little boy. :)
Our situation was unique in that our one-bedroom apartment had some serious electrical issues that culminated while we were in the hospital, so we bounced around a couple of different places with our newborn. The horn immediately took a backseat and I missed a total of five consecutive days on the horn, including the hospital stay. I got my routine in, and I missed another day after that. From then on out, I got at least an hour in every day. Just a note on practicing, newborns have a ton of noise that they experience in the womb, and hearing sounds that they heard every day actually soothe them, like white noise from blood moving, heartbeats, and also the sounds they're accustomed to hearing every day, like brass playing. Sam slept through hours of practicing in those first three months, I was amazed at how normal I could play and how little it bothered him!
I was pretty worried about how playing would affect the small episiotomy I had, and I do have to admit that I could feel pressure when I played loud or high. I found myself using a lot more abdominal support to offset some of that pressure, but nothing ever came close to pain or any other kind of distress. I should also say that I haven't had any experience yet with a C-section, so I'm sure that kind of major surgery takes a longer period of recovery, and maybe even more time off of the instrument.
I would say that it was another two weeks until I felt like myself again on the horn. I played a job three weeks later, and the period of adjusting my posture was trickier than I was prepared for. My clothes of course fit differently and I had to fix my angle, as I play on the leg. Chopwise I felt fine, but figuring out how to sit was a surprise. I had a lot of support at home from Steve, who works from home and held Sam as I got some practicing in. I definitely did not sleep when the baby slept, but I snuck in a couple of naps a day as I swapped shifts watching Sam.
As I get ready to do this again, I'm feeling worried because May is a busy month, with June being even busier (I'm supposed to be in a bridal party ten days after her due date!). I have a few opportunities that I am planning on following through with, but nothing that other musicians are depending on me for, so I won't accidentally screw anyone over. I didn't gain as much weight and show as much this time around, so I never got to the point where I notified all the people I work with. Most of my teaching commitments were over well before it was a concern that I might have the baby in the middle of them. I am lucky to have great colleagues that understand that having a little one is a full-time job in itself, and always keep me in mind if I have to turn down a date.
Our little girl is due on May 10, but our doctors say that she'll be here as least as early as Sam was, and that she is growing faster than he did, which is common for a second baby. We were waiting for the perfect time to have a baby announcement party, but after moving and then all of the life that happens with a toddler, we didn't officially announce her birth until the ninth month! I'm doing my best to stay in shape, but I know that there's another little guy in play here, and he'll have some major needs adjusting to the new little person in our ranks. If freelancing has taught me anything, it's to be prepared for anything, be flexible, and be ready to accomplish the unthinkable at a moment's notice.
I hope this helps some soon to be moms out there! Rest assured that you'll be able to get back to where you were on your instrument pretty quickly. For me it was two weeks, but if I hadn't had to miss so much time moving from different places, it could have even been a week. Again I can't speak to those amazing women who have a C-section and witness the birth of their baby that way, and I'm sorry I am of no help there. But the nighttime feedings and the hospital stay are universal, so I hope I gleaned a little bit in those respects! Did I leave anything out? Please comment with any questions or additional points that helped you during your pregnancy, anything to help a new mom take a small load off of her mind!