The Balance Point(e) has been very quiet in recent times. I wrote about this recently here. What started as a break over summer holidays to really just relax and enjoy some family time turned into a not entirely unexpected sojourn from writing here on the blog. But it was also a huge departure from my everyday life until this point.
You see the year 2015 started very differently to any other year, but in the most heart-warming, wonderful and exciting way.
I’m beyond excited to announce that in September, there will be a teeny tiny new addition – a Balance Point(e) baby!
I very happily discovered I was pregnant on my first day back at The Australian Ballet. I stood there at the barre on day one thinking wow, this is a very different way to start the year. While we were learning repertoire for the next months, most of my thoughts revolved around an impossibly tiny hybrid of my husband and I growing day by day. I didn’t even notice the usual aches and pains from starting back at full time ballet because of my little distraction. What everyone thought was holiday glow was most likely early pregnancy glow!
The Early Weeks
My husband and I were absolutely thrilled but naturally we wanted to keep this little secret to ourselves until the 12 week mark, when we had been given the medical all clear and felt more confident share our news.
As it does, life intervened again when at 7 weeks pregnant during a Swan Lake rehearsal I sprained my left ankle in spectacular fashion. It was spectacular in pain and the alien like lump that appeared immediately on my ankle bone, causing everyone to quickly decide that this one needed an X-ray ASAP.
I was lying on the floor, in a lot of pain, very nauseous and feeling very faint but even still there was a huge sense of relief that in some ways I wouldn’t have to keep up the charade of maintaining my usual vigorous dancing schedule.
My body didn’t want to fight anything at this incredibly precious and hugely sensitive time. My body was definitely diverting energy and attention to where it was most needed – the baby! I was already nauseous (like clockwork right on the 6 week mark!) and extremely tired, not to mention concerned that my colleagues would begin to guess my secret.
I had focused on working extra hard at the Ballet to ensure no one was aware of me being preoccupied. Then at night, I would fall asleep on the couch when I got home and still sleep 11 hours through the night, far more than even my hardest performance seasons. While some women cut back or go off coffee, if I didn’t have a coffee in the morning I am not sure I would have even got out of bed at all!
Keeping a Secret
I know my body too well and I knew it needed to take some time out in the critical first 12 weeks of pregnancy in a quiet manner. For someone who’s career is played out day by day in front of an audience, patrons, ballet staff or colleagues, it was just too public an arena for me at that sensitive time.
Intuitively, I needed to be slightly out of the picture to let my body adjust to these huge changes. While it certainly wasn’t planned, it didn’t surprise me when I sprained my ankle – my ankle sprains of which there have been several are always at critical times physically, mentally but especially emotionally.
As usual, the level of care and discretion by our Australian Ballet Medical Team was second to none. After turning up at the Radiology clinic in a wheelchair, I quietly told our Principal Physiotherapist that I was actually 7 weeks pregnant and therefore the X-ray was perhaps not a good idea. There were a few giggles and we still laugh about that day.
I ended up having an ultrasound that showed some old ligament damage (not surprisingly given my ankle sprain history!) and some potential slight bone involvement but otherwise nothing too unusual, and nothing to change our usual routine rehab following an ankle sprain.
Then came the waiting and as every expectant mother knows, time seems to stand still. Although my pregnancy was being well kept and my husband and I enjoyed talking about this teeny tiny little person inside me, despite my best efforts this did not make me immune sadly from common pregnancy woes. There really are some things just that you just can’t control.
The nausea was all day, every day. Whoever coined the phrase morning sickness was misled for it’s not a time specific event. On a good day it was just manageable, on a bad day nothing made it go away. I tried Ginger tablets, ginger tea, ginger ale, acupressure/seasickness wrist bands, Vitamin B6, eating dry crackers while still in bed in the morning, everyone’s home remedies and not much seemed to help. At least I wasn’t having to do any mad dashes from rehearsal which would have made things a little more obvious!
I still had it easy compared to some women, but the nausea was enough to want to be out of the spotlight and a white leotard for some time – in our profession sadly you can’t sit behind a desk as you wait out 12 weeks. I just couldn’t have imagined dancing Guardian Swans (one of my favourites) at the Capitol Theatre in Sydney like I was meant to be doing at the time.
Slowly but surely I made progress through my ankle rehab, without the usual course of anti-inflammatories and Nurofen wraps. I waded through the sick fog that was each day, but thankfully away from many eyes except for the my caring rehab team here at the ballet – they encouraged constructive rest when it was so obviously required!
Bye bye greens (for a little while)
Eating little and often is said to calm the pregnancy nausea, but that didn’t seem work with me. Perhaps I also am not used to the force feeding idea and I’m more of a 3 or 4 decent meals a day girl, rather than snacking all day. Pregnancy grazing just didn’t suit me.
I realised that I couldn’t fight or overcome what my body was doing and it was doing mind-boggling amazing things making this beautiful little human 24 hours a day! I supported my body as best I could with 10-11 hours sleep a night, lots of time on couch and walks in the park when I needed some fresh air. I found it difficult to drink even water but just did my best without judgement.
As such a healthy eater normally, it seemed crazy that I couldn’t even look at a vegetable or salad. Not even something as benign as lettuce. Broccoli, well even the thought of it was foul. Not even my beloved Rocket. Green things were certainly off the menu! (There is some biological reason for this apparently, that we naturally move away from bitter greens that in the past were potentially poisonous to a pregnant woman. The body is full of wisdom!)
So, I stopped opening the fridge door. I stopped cooking. I avoided cafes. I stopped feeling bad about not eating my greens. I stopped fighting what my body was actually wanting/needing and just went with it. This was a time to relinquish any sense of control.
Pass me the fries
Fries. More fries and then some.
Salty, fatty carbohydrates.
Much to mine and my family’s disbelief, I was found going through the McDonalds Drive Thru for such fries, multiple times a week – unbelievable and practically scandalous! I also discovered eating gluten free toast with coconut oil and salt sprinkled on top had a similar effect and had the benefit of some form of sustained energy and good fats. Worth a try.
Another favourite early pregnancy meal was a good Roast Chicken (especially the skin!) and some Roast Potatoes. Eating a well done Steak as per pregnancy guidelines was soon stripped from the menu but I was managing a few well-cooked eggs here and there too.
Sweet foods were certainly out of the picture too – this was not a pregnant lady crying out for someone to get her tubs of ice cream in the middle of the night. My husband offered me brownies and I couldn’t even look at them. Savoury food was where my taste buds were at.
While there was a big gaping hole in my diet that used to be fresh fruit and vegetables, my body was literally needing the very basic macronutrients to create the entire structure of a little person inside – carbohydrates for energy, protein which are the very building blocks of any tissue plus fats to build healthy cell membranes and also nourish my own hormone levels. Combined with my Pre-Natal supplement I settled in the knowledge that I was actually doing okay.
Except the bit where I couldn’t think about food, smell food, cook food, do my IIN Nutrition study which proved a challenge, or even look at Instagram for all the pictures of food! Here I am training to be a Health Coach so as I sat there with my fries feeling like an absolute hypocrite, I couldn’t even lie or pretend to post of my latest healthy balance points, instead I chose a long absence.
But my body was doing the most remarkable thing possible – creating life, and not even for second at my most nauseous did I ever feel less than grateful or wonderfully blessed for this opportunity.
Pregnancy is hardly a time of certainty. Even with the most brilliant technological advances that allow us to see amazing development in the womb through ultrasound, a plethora of blood tests and the advice and knowledge of specialist Obstetricians and midwives, there is still so much that we don’t know. So much is still left to trust and faith.
We can spend the best part of our lives out of tune with our body or with a sense of “I can control everything that happens.” Being a professional ballet dancer for over 10 years, there is almost a false sense of control over our bodies, our preparation, our performances, how we fuel our body, how we sew our pointe shoes, even superstitions about how many times you may practice a step before you go on stage. I can relate to the sense of disappointment after a show when you thought you had done everything possible in your control to make that show amazing and yet it wasn’t. It’s only natural as a performer to have these feelings.
And yet I have never felt more in tune with my body than during pregnancy. I knew that I had to trust that everything was okay, there was very little I could do except look after myself in the most fitting and natural way, and have faith that our baby was okay. The first step in being a parent is that you have no control. It helped that I was slowly starting to adjust to a less chaotic, adrenalin filled lifestyle that is being a dancer.
A change in pace
Once I had announced our exciting news within The Australian Ballet family, and everyone stopped laughing at McDonalds’ newest most loyal customer, I commenced my safe duties in the organisation and moved past the fries. My safe duties involve working on various projects within the Company and I am enjoying the change of scenery, change of pace, new faces and new challenges each day.
I am now 21 weeks, and just past the half way mark! Time isn’t standing so still, but it’s not rushing by too quickly either. I am enjoying being present in the moment that each day brings and getting organsing for our little arrival in September without getting too far ahead of ourselves.
The nausea has gone, my energy levels have evened out and I am still enjoying taking daily morning ballet class and continuing with Pilates to maintain fitness. I take walks on weekends and rush around a lot less. It has also been a lovely time to relax into my body intuitively and not have to fight the constant fatigue and pressure that comes with dancing professionally. I rest when I want to, I don’t just keep pushing. I feel like the internal dialogue is a little quieter these days and after more than a decade of performing on stage, having nights at home and weekends free is still a novelty!
My thyroid levels are the best they have ever been ( I have written about my auto-immune thyroid disease here and here) thanks to a lovely endocrinologist and a low dose of Thyroxine – thyroid function is really important in pregnancy for mother and baby. Many auto-immune diseases like Hashimoto’s improve during pregnancy, but I do feel like a lot of my thyroidy symptoms have been helped by taking medication also.
I am eating like Dana again, cooking again, vegetables are back on my plate although broccoli is still hard to manage – I still have hope! I am fascinated with what is going on inside and the little kicks and punches still stop me in my tracks. I am in awe of what the female body is capable of.
I have been catching up on my Nutrition study at IIN, particularly enjoying the timely module on Nutrition in Pregnancy and I am halfway on my way to becoming a certified Health Coach, graduating just before the baby is due. While I will be quite busy with our newborn, I look forward to officially starting my Health Coaching business in the not too distant future.
I am so happy to be able to share our beautiful baby news to my readers – finally. I can hopefully get back to posting all things health and wellbeing on the blog and on my Instagram page and occasionally update you on my pregnancy and things I notice along the way for any other expectant mums out there.
While I won’t be on stage for some time, I am preparing for undoubtedly what will be one of my biggest performances yet, becoming a mum. And I feel like I’m in exactly the right place at the right time. And extremely blessed and grateful.