Tuesday, September 25, 2018

That Time I Took 211 Days Off

Part 1
By Sarah Paradis, Trombone

On January 2, 2018, my doctor told me to stop playing trombone until I was 36 weeks pregnant, which I was to reach in May 2018. Not all pregnant brass players need to stop playing their instruments, but I was a high risk pregnancy, so my doctor was taking extra precautions.

I effectively got a mandatory doctor’s order to take four months off the horn. And more than that if I’m honest, because I simply did not feel like starting to play again when I was 36 weeks pregnant, and I definitely wasn’t in a place to play for the first 4-8 weeks of my son’s life. As far as I was concerned, it didn’t sound realistic for me to be playing the horn again for seven months.

Seven months is a long time! The longest break I’ve ever taken since I started playing the trombone in 1992 was about 6 weeks after my first son was born. And the next longest break wouldn’t be longer than two weeks. Seven months is more than half a year!

Mentally, I didn’t mind too much about this break because I knew it was something I had to do for my health and especially for the health of my baby. It hurt my ego a bit because I couldn’t play with Mirari Brass Quintet, I couldn’t take any gigs, and I missed out on an audition for my local symphony. But again, my family’s health is more important than any gig, so it was clear what I had to do.

I definitely became a more creative teacher during this time. There were so many times that I knew I could show my students how to play something, if only I could play my horn. Once I picked up the horn and played it for a 6th grade student, and quickly regretted it. I lacked the control that I was used to, and it just didn’t feel good. A few times I buzzed in attempt to demonstrate, and again I kind of wished I hadn’t. Instead, I sang A LOT. And I turned to good recordings A LOT. Also, my ability to verbally describe a sound grew. I created new analogies and visualizations to use to communicate with my students. It was frustrating at times (read: every time), but in retrospect I am sure I grew as a teacher and a musician.

We welcomed our son Henry on June 1st, 2018. He was healthy and we were all very happy! However, like most babies, he didn’t sleep the way adults like to sleep, so the first 4 weeks were very rocky. “Survival” is a word that comes to mind. After that, we found a rhythm, but coming back to trombone seemed very far from a reality. To be honest, it just wasn’t high on the priority list. My sons needed me and I needed to take care of myself by resting as much as possible.

Fast forward to mid-July, when I was invited to play in Opera Idaho’s production of West Side Story in September. I took the gig and suddenly my comeback plan needed to be defined.

For once, I felt like I had a large amount of time to really come back to the horn in an intentional, meditated way. So, I decided that I was going to do it right. I was going to plan it out, follow my plan, keep a journal, and take my time.

In this blog I will detail my comeback process. I’ll talk about the books I used, the plan I followed, and I’ll include excerpts from my journal.

Part 2 will cover the first three weeks of my comeback.

Part 3 will cover the last two weeks and my re-entry into “real life” playing.

Part 4 will summarize the lessons I learned.

Thank you for joining me!

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