Fragile or Fierce –  The Great Slow Down

Fragile or Fierce – The Great Slow Down

June 4, 2024

Being an aerialist, dreamer, achiever, small business owner, artist, and generally an extremely active individual has made me intimately acquainted with the concept of DOING rather than NOT DOING.

I’m not alone in this; I’ve noticed that many aerialists share a similar lifestyle—one that’s incredibly packed! I want to delve into this concept and explore how it intersects with my aerial practice and fertility journey.

In my previous blog I talked about the fear of becoming a mother. Here I’ll talk about the first trimester and that fear more realized.

I’m currently navigating my sixth pregnancy, if you don’t know my story, no I don’t have a hoard of children. I’ve never made it to the point of having a live birth, though I’ve spent a seemingly enormous amount of time being pregnant over the past 3 years. With each of my pregnancies, I didn’t slow down, not before, during or after the losses, until now, with number six.

On learning of the loss of my first pregnancy, what was my immediate reaction? I headed straight to the studio and created a piece about it, with my husband composing the accompanying music. Our mutual art became a powerful means for both of us to navigate and process our grief. For me, moving my body has proven to be one of the most effective ways to move through and process emotions.

Aerial is my outlet, my income, and in some ways has become an integral part of my identity. And thus I approached each pregnancy much like I do most of my life, with this mantra, “how much can I fit in before . . .”

If you’ve participated in our Remote Teacher Training, you’ll be familiar with all the reference videos that are part of the course. Many of the Level 1 rope and silks videos featuring me were filmed during my first pregnancy, and Level 2 lyra and trapeze videos, including the full beats section, were filmed during my fourth pregnancy.

Each loss propelled me into a flurry of further action based response. I underwent every possible test through multiple private healthcare practitioners, seeking to unravel the mystery of what was going on. I did blood work of every kind and hormone analysis. I had a hysteroscopy of my womb and ultrasounds of my ovaries. I replaced my undergarments with organic ones, eliminated all chemicals from my home, and invested in a water purification system. I worked privately with a nutritionist, kinesiologist, pilates instructor and spent loads of money on supplements. I even took out my nose ring because I was told the metal interrupts my meridian lines. I took progesterone tablets and low dose aspirin (the NHS form of support for multiple miscarriages). I delved into books and blogs of various kinds in search of answers, only to find that all tests indicated I was 100% healthy. Nothing I did made a difference. The cause was chalked up to “a bad roll of the dice with an older body.”

The term “older body” struck a chord. My great grandmother had five children, two of whom were born when she was over 40. Babies born to women over 40 aren’t a new phenomenon solely attributable to changes in the workforce (perhaps a topic for another blog—staying on point!).

Throughout this entire journey, I consistently felt a twinge of desire to train, to make progress, and be as fit as possible before reaching the point in pregnancy where I knew I would need to ease off a bit.

As an instructor, I always emphasize to my expecting students, the importance of listening to their bodies. I advise against attempting to up-level during pregnancy or trying new skills. Instead, stick to what you know and listen to your body. Here I am in my fifth pregnancy training. To be honest, I felt perfectly fine doing so and had no signs indicating a need to slow down.

Following this loss, I sought the guidance of a Traditional Chinese Medicine Doctor. She asserted that she could balance my hormones and to my surprise also improve egg quality. This contradicted what others had told me, insisting that egg quality was fixed based on age and life decisions. What was equally refreshing was her statement, “oh, you have time.” She prescribed a three-month period of not actively trying to conceive to allow my womb to rest and heal, along with weekly acupuncture sessions and a daily intake of a rather unpleasant-tasting tea.

After the prescribed rest period, she gave the green light to resume trying. Enter baby #6. At a session when I was about six weeks pregnant, I asked her opinion about plane travel during pregnancy. I had been offered an exciting opportunity to work with Aloft Circus Arts Professional Training Program in Chicago, but I had reservations about plane travel, considering it risky in the first trimester. She matter-of-factly assured me that it would be fine, but then she picked up my backpack from the floor.

“This is too heavy!” she said. “If you are going to travel, you must not carry a heavy bag. And also, you shouldn’t lift your bag into the overhead compartment. It’s not good to reach your arms up high.”

Excuse me? I really didn’t think my bag was heavy at all, and reaching my arms up high?

I then showed her a video of what I do, which she had no idea about.

She shook her head. “No, you can’t do that.”

We’ve all heard people telling women what they can and can’t do. While I firmly believe in listening to my own body, I was also seeking her medical advice, and I thought it would be useful for her to clarify more.

“Well, can I go running?”


“Can I lift weights?”


“Can I do abs?”

“What do you mean by that?” she asked.

I showed her an example of abs on the acupuncture table.

“No, not that either.”

“What can I do?”

“You can walk. And don’t drink cold liquids, and don’t sit on the floor; it puts too much pressure on your womb. Sit in chairs only. Keep your feet and legs warm.

“For how long is that all I’m allowed to do, or rather not do these things?”

“For the first trimester at least.”

So I left with my new batch of Chinese herbs and a question. Should I follow her advice for the first trimester?

Why not?

“There is a saying: ‘If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.’”

I reached out to Aloft and, despite being in the early stages of pregnancy, shared my news as a way to explain that I’d need to make a plan to adapt my workshops and how I’d be working with the protrack students. Their response was incredibly supportive. I also informed the Professional Program Students about my situation, emphasizing that I had a sensitive passenger and that I was following strict orders from my doctor. Throughout the week, they ensured there was a chair next to me, and when I went to demonstrate something, they would ask, “Are you sure?” and patiently let me explain instead. Breaking the habit of constant activity was challenging, but having the students caring so much about me was so wonderfully supportive and encouraging.

There was a part of me that felt like a fraud for not demonstrating. Much of my instructional practice is deeply rooted in somatics, with me being kinesthetic learner myself. When a student has a question where I don’t have an immediate answer to hand, I often say, “Give me one moment,” and work my way through the skill, then say, “Ah, I see your problem.” What I really mean is, “Ah, I FEEL your problem.”

I also saw many rad aerialists in Chicago and I just wanted to play with them!

Being grounded challenged me significantly as an instructor. Reflecting on my early days in the Bay Area when I was still a fledgling instructor, I remembered watching my senior, Helene Turcotte, a 20-year veteran performer then turned instructor who NEVER demonstrated. She calmly talked her students through the movements, and her students thrived. It’s a different skill set to teach without demonstrating at all and one that, I have to admit, is not as developed yet as I think it could be, even though I’ve been teaching since 2005.

However, there were other changes and challenges unfolding within me during this time. One of these was the loss of my runner’s high. I love running because of that feeling. I’d recently started running my 5K 3-5 times a week again and was really loving it. I’d previously given it up as another tactic in my fertility journey. I’d stopped for about a year because I’d found some research that states that high intensity sport and cardio spikes cortisol which decreases progesterone – which is crucial to proper egg implantation.

During that period of not running, I had found an acceptable replacement that worked for me: Kundalini yogic breathwork. I could achieve a similar high (or close to it) without running by doing breath of fire every morning. However, breath of fire was also on the list of things to not to do while pregnant.

The absence of that energetic release began to affect my mental health in an interesting way.

Running, lifting weights, doing aerial, dancing vigorously, or practicing breath of fire all made me feel fierce. The lack of these activities left me feeling fragile.

I AM NOT FRAGILE! I would hear a voice in me shouting.

I also began to experience a looming fear of losing strength; having dreams of not being strong enough to invert. This was compounded by body dysmorphia with a dread of becoming flabby, which to me is different from having a baby bump. The days passed and I felt myself getting softer.

But then something happened . . .

I have had fairly consistent pain for maybe 12 years now. It comes and goes, sometimes it’s almost unbearable, other times just a mild discomfort. I can attribute all these pains to exact injuries over the years. They live in my right hip flexor, my hamstring insertion, my ribs, in my lower back and one of my knees.

In the quiet moments, particularly when lying awake at night, I sensed a feeling of unwinding taking place. One night, it almost felt as if the bones in my hip were moving. Now this could be attributed to relaxin surging through my body, the hormone that facilitates ligaments stretching for the pelvis to open during childbirth. But I’m not so sure. The changes were all happening exactly in my injury locations. I could feel a tension, an old tension leaving my body. All my pains are gone.

Is this what deep rest does?

Sure I’ve had spells where I was grounded due to injuries, broken bones, torn muscles, et cetera. But when I was injured in one part of my body I would just train a different part. But to stop ALL activity except for walking for three months, now that’s a different game altogether and something I have not done in my 20 years of doing aerials.

Years ago, during a serious bout of pneumonia, my mother, a nurse familiar with my tendencies, told me, “Sarah, remember, doing nothing is DOING something right now. Resting energy is healing energy. The less you do, the quicker your body will heal.”

Did it take these few months of doing nothing for my muscles to have the space to release this tension from injuries of years and years ago? And at that same time the energy I wasn’t expending on aerials was building bones, small, new ones in a little body in my womb.

So, where am I now? I’ve successfully navigated through the first trimester, and my weekly acupuncture appointments have transitioned to monthly ones, with no need for the tea anymore. My practitioner also gave me the tentative go ahead to start to explore more movement, but slowly. I’m into my third trimester now.

No one can REALLY KNOW why this one is still with us. Was it because I stopped all activity? Perhaps it’s linked to the spiritual healing work I undertook just before conceiving again. Or could it be the introduction of animal products into my diet after seven years of being a vegan? Maybe it was the acupuncture and Chinese herbs, or quite possibly it was literally just a lucky roll of the dice.

But no matter what is happening with my fertility journey and why behind it all, I can reflect on one thing. This time of rest has changed me.

I’ve shifted my attention to the benefit of this experience rather than the temporary loss of my passion. I always say that I’m in this for the long game. Expect to see me in the air when I’m pushing 80 years old. Perhaps one of the keys to the long game is switching off the DO mentality, at least from time to time. Sometimes for various reasons your body needs rest. I’ve been doing aerials for 19 years and I’ve NEVER taken a 3 month break.

NOT DOING isn’t the void, it is an opportunity for something else to come in its place. And in my case, I think it is a time of healing which will support my real aerial goal of the long game. Maybe it will mean something else too, someone coming in about 8 more weeks.

I am not fragile, I am fiercely doing the best thing for my sensitive passenger, but also for me.



Want to listen to Sarah tell the FULL unedited RAW version?

Check it out on the Expecting Aerialist podcast.