Continuing on with our exploration of the power in our transforming bodies through pregnancy, we bring you Mackenzie's story.
Mackenzie, the other co-founder of Elu Dance Co., is in her mid thirties and gave birth to her second child in Summer 2020. With two young girls keeping her busy, she considers her role as a mom the most rewarding.
In addition to being the founder of a dance company, where she is responsible for choreography and production, she is an avid lover of the outdoors (especially in the fall). Mackenzie also enjoys the beauty found in the small things, like gardening. She is currently growing tomatoes, herbs and flowers.
1. How would you describe the state of being pregnant?
The first time around for me it felt like an awakening because everything I was experiencing was new and different. I found myself feeling vulnerable, becoming more aware of my own fragility, and this then led me to become even more protective of this body that I was in.
2. Before you became pregnant, did you feel as though you were mentally and emotionally prepared for the transformation that was about to unfold?
Being a dancer, there was definitely a lot of consideration that went into the decision to become pregnant, especially since I was in my early thirties. I intentionally waited until then. Part of the reason for this was that I was afraid . . . what if I can’t do what I used to do before? Looking back I would say that I didn’t trust my body and what it was capable of. The truth is my dance career was already miraculous, so when the desire to have a child outweighed the initial fears, I leaned into this. I saw a path begin to form ahead of me once I began to acknowledge there were things I just wasn’t going to be able to control.
Thankfully, I was still dancing while pregnant. I actually performed at six or seven months during the first pregnancy. The second time around was a bit different since I had a toddler around and COVID-19 was rampant. But this experience rewrote my thinking fundamentally - just because I’m pregnant doesn’t mean I can’t dance or work. It’s about finding a balance between continuing on with life and finding rest when needed. For me, that looked like telling myself that I was going to eat a cinnamon roll and walk the mall while pregnant and be ok with that.
3. What were your greatest fears related to pregnancy and your body changing?
There was definitely a fear of gaining weight. Being in the pregnancy, you just feel a lot different about the weight. With the baby bump, you can mentally justify the additional wait. But afterwards, what happens? YOU have to just deal with it. What if I gain weight and don’t lose it, or my skin stretches out and doesn’t repair? My mom’s hair went gray after her pregnancy, so I wondered if that would happen to me. All of these unknown changes of the body. One day a bra will fit you again, but right now it’s ok if it doesn't.
4. How did touch play a role during your pregnancy and afterwards?
During the birth, I went from experiencing the most agonizing pain I’ve ever had to an ecstatic joy. Your body has just burst open and then this tiny warm human is brought to your chest to hold . . . it is incredible. I may not like how my breasts look on me, but I love the intimacy that comes from breastfeeding. Having this unbiased human need your body and touch it with affection is amazing. It’s very intimate and sweet. These moments have helped me reclaim my body, which has been powerful. I probably have spit up all over me on a daily basis, but our cuddles will always be special.
5. Were you aware of self care practices before, during or after the pregnancy?
I’ve struggled to define self care for myself. I’ve had to learn how to listen and give myself permission, to do simple things like sitting on the front porch and looking at the beautiful leaves as fall turns to winter. The dance studio was an anchor for me to at least help me care for my body. However, right now I don’t have that space due to COVID-19. So my body feels crappy because I’m not moving regularly. Do I deal with guilt about letting my toddler be entertained by TV so that I can exercise? I have to tell myself that I’ll feel 100% better once I exercise. Yes, my toddler can wait for me to drink my coffee. It’s okay to kindly put one of my needs in the front.
6. Looking back, are there words of advice that you would give your first pregnant self (or other pregnant women) to help navigate the transformation of the body?
Our bodies are equipped to do what they are doing. Sometimes this comes with things that we don’t enjoy, certain aspects of the process. But it all is serving a purpose. You are now a vessel for another human being. Believe in yourself, have confidence in yourself that you are equipped to do this job. Trust the process of nine months.