In this article from our archive, originally published in May 2012, the American violinist Rachel Barton Pine explains how she negotiated the early months of motherhood while maintaining her busy solo career
Rachel Barton Pine gave birth to her daughter Sylvia last September and was back on the road three weeks later.
Pine restarted before baby Sylvia was a month old. ‘I played the complete Mozart concertos in a single concert. I did ask myself, “Couldn’t I just have done easy things, like the Brahms Concerto?” I mostly practised while she slept in those early weeks, and it really expedited my recovery. There’s obviously a fine line, as new mothers have to take the time to recover and not do too much. If I’d worn myself out I could have been ill. But playing music felt like such a healthy thing to do, and it was great to get back to practising. It seemed like time to reconnect with who I am. I was asked whether I was going to take any time off after having the baby, but I had to say, “Performing isn’t what I do, it’s who I am – I can’t take time off from who I am.”’
Pine had worried in her pregnancy that breastfeeding would be very hard going. ‘But it’s what’s recommended to be best for babies nutritionally, so I thought I should try it. And it’s been much more convenient than carrying bottles about for travelling – when my flight’s delayed or the luggage is lost, I know I can still feed my baby. It does take a bit of extra planning. It hasn’t stopped me from doing any of my radio interviews, outreach work or masterclasses, but I make sure I know when I’ll get a 20-minute break to nurse Sylvia.’
Taking children on tour is often a necessity in the very early days. Pine is lucky in that her husband has always toured with her, but she takes along a nanny too. ‘Air travel can be tricky. The violin is a bit like a child too – you can’t ignore it on a plane journey until you’ve put the stroller back together. Greg can watch the violin while the nanny watches the luggage and I watch the baby!’
Many soloists dread how managers and record companies will react to the news that they’re starting a family. ‘I was very, very afraid, to make that phone call and tell my new management agency that I was expecting,’ says Pine. ‘I didn’t want to give them the impression that I wasn’t serious about my career. The baby was due last September and of course that’s when all the season-opening concerts are – I had to cancel them all. But the agency couldn’t have been more understanding. They said they’d see if the orchestras could do the concerts a year later – they really made it seem no big deal.’