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My Experience as a Pregnant Conductor (and the Sympathies and Support I Receive)

Guest Writer: ALYSON FEWLESS (composer published by Two Bridges Music Press)

We've done it; we are three weeks away from our performance and the pieces are coming together. All of the pitches are learned and the final touches are being addressed. These community chorus members have put in a lot of work, as have I, into these pieces that are challenging their ranges, intonation, timbre, and blending. But we've all made progress and they are almost ready for performance. I've also been working on something personal: family planning.

Yep! I'm pregnant!

During my first pregnancy, I experienced morning sickness nearly all day (which is why it's medically referred to as Nausea and Vomiting during Pregnancy [NVP]) to the point where I lost 13 pounds in my first trimester. Luckily, I had several hours of reprieve each day and was able to fulfill my duties as a part-time conductor for the community chorus. While I anticipated a similar experience with this current pregnancy, I was not expecting it to be WORSE. I got to the point where I didn't have enough energy to give my all during rehearsals and I was only getting worse. After a trip to the Emergency Department and a diagnosis of Hyperemesis Gravidarum (severe nausea and vomiting during pregnancy), I finally had to address the very real possibility of me being unable to conduct our concert which was now only 4 rehearsals away. I felt this request was so difficult to ask of another conductor, to study 12 pieces to the point of being able to perform them in 10 days, but I knew that if I conducted the chorus in my state of physical capabilities, it would not yield the best concert that my chorus could do. So, the decision was this: guarantee a mediocre concert with me only able to give 70% of my energy and potentially needing to exit mid-song to... well, you know; or chance a better concert with a capable substitute conductor. I discussed with the Board of Directors my dilemma and the decision I was leaning toward and everyone was so behind my decision: They wanted what was best for me, my baby, and for them. Then I moved forward with finding a substitute, and with the input of my accompanist, we easily found someone willing and capable of taking on this task. Even our Conducting Intern, who was only supposed to conduct one song for the concert, accepted the task of two additional songs to lighten the load of our substitute.

I think what I didn't realize is how much my community chorus members and Board of Directors cared for me as a person and not just their conductor. They want to ensure the best performance they can do, of course, but nearly every person has said how they want to do what is best for me and my baby. I've witnessed and experienced firsthand the support that community members offer for the musical and logistical side of a community chorus, but now I've experienced the personal help and connection that these community members have for me and each other.

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