Tuesday 20 March 2018

A night out with Natalie

Before I found and fell in love with baby Dani's name, one of the girl names on my list was Natalie. This was in no small part because of Canadian musician Nat.alie Mac.master. I've listened to Natalie's music for twenty years at least and own most of her albums. I saw her live for the first time in 2000, outside in the rain, and since then I've lost count of how many shows I've been to.  As I grew into young and mid-adulthood she was more and more the model of a woman who had it together (I dislike the expression "has it all" but you could say that too).  She was close enough to my age to be relate-able but enough older to be a role model and to experience life milestones just the right amount of time before I did.

There is a life parallel or two. Despite being extraordinarily good looking, popular and talented, Natalie didn't date much in her twenties or have many relationships. In interviews she usually gave the reason that she was too busy playing music (for several years she had an incredibly busy touring schedule) but she also implied a few times that it was because she took relationships very seriously and was not into casual relationships or sex. I am not extraordinarily good looking, popular or talented but also didn't date much for similar reasons, so I liked the fact she was honest about this.

Natalie married at age 30, the same age I got married. She married another talented fiddler from Ontario who, like her, was part of a strong musical tradition. After this our personal lives become rather different. Natalie and her husband didn't have kids for two or three years after marriage. And then they started having kids....a lot of kids. Baby number 6 was born in 2014 when she was 42.  She and her husband continue to play music professionally, run a farm and home school their children. And as you might expect, all the kids are learning music and  dancing. I have yet to see them all live, but I'm sure it's adorable.

My favourite quote about the right time to have children is from Natalie: "No time is a good time, so any time works." I don't recall feeling resentful of her during the years we were struggling to conceive. Natalie and her husband must have already had four or five kids by the time we started trying, so it's not like we were ever going to catch up. Besides, she's so down to earth she's not an easy person to be negative towards. After baby 6, a girl, I assumed she was done especially since the baby was born with Down Syndrome (this has not stopped her from taking up the fiddle).

Anyway. Last year Mr. Turtle and I were discussing Christmas presents and decided to continue with our recent tradition of "experience" gifts, i.e. planning a date night for each other. I browsed through the concert listings in our city and noticed Natalie was playing here March 17th, so I suggested that to Mr. Turtle for my present. Neither of us bothered to calculate that we would have a six week old infant at the time; also maybe the memory of what babies are like was a little faint.

The weeks went by and this past weekend, it was time to go out and enjoy my Christmas present! By a lucky coincidence my mother in law and her husband were visiting so we had someone to watch the girls. I was a bit anxious, but I succeeded in pumping milk the week before, and after watching Grandma successfully feed Dani more than two ounces from a bottle, I started looking forward to the night out. We also had dinner at home, so we weren't away for more than three hours including travel time.

Natalie had played a show on Friday night, and my step dance teacher went and posted effusively about it on Face.book. She added in the ensuing comment conversation:  "And she's expecting baby number seven! Amazing woman!" My response was "OMG LOL." Internet-ese is great for expressing emotion efficiently and opaquely in six letters.  Of course, I did the math. Natalie is 45.

It was an excellent show, and Mr. Turtle had bought tickets in the 4th row from the stage. This is not the ideal place for sound, but we could see all the expressions and the stepdancing. Natalie is a great showman. She walked on stage with a big grin, and rubbed her belly before launching into her first set. I could see the mischievous look she gave the audience while doing it, and it was awesome, I can't deny it. Nevertheless, I was glad I was warned. Knowing that I was going to see a pregnant woman performing on stage meant I could take it in and then move on to listening the the music, whooping and hollering, tapping my feet, and pondering such matters as how exactly she had attached her electronics to her back and how she was keeping her pants up.

After a couple of sets, Natalie patted her belly and said "I guess I should explain this...." She said she and her husband had not set out to have seven kids, but, life happens (paraphrasing). She told the audience "I'm 45" and joked about being "AMA": "Advanced maternal age." "Age is just a number!" and "We are looking forward to meeting this sweetheart." I genuinely liked her bold comments. Maybe (probably?) I would have felt differently if we hadn't been able to have our children. I may even have felt differently if I didn't know she was pregnant walking in. I don't know. But I can see how she could be judged for having a lot of children, or having children into her 40s. Even I am inclined to judge a bit for having another baby after one is born with Down's, because it's something I'm afraid of and would like to avoid. But at the same time....It was life affirming to see her on stage, joyful, and not remotely apologetic for her choices. I like that she is child positive. I like the fact she was open about her age. It's a pet peeve of mine that women are supposed to lie about or conceal our ages.

Although it is funny timing, coming just as I am sorting out my feelings about whether or not I am done having children.  But I think the lesson to draw from this experience is not that people should have more or less children, but that life is better when you do your best to open your heart up to whatever opportunities present themselves.

As for Dani, she did just fine. She ended up refusing to take the bottle, but she only fussed a bit and then dozed off in her car seat (which was the only place grandparents could put her down). I fed her and moved her to her bassinet with a lot less trouble than I sometimes have (her fussiest time is often before bed, and it can drag on for an hour or two).

Life is good.


  1. Awww, glad you were able to have a great night out, & that Dani survived just fine! First Canadian Place, a big office tower in downtown Toronto, often had/has lunchtime concerts with some pretty good musicians who are playing concerts locally -- sort of a promotional things for them too. I've seen Blue Rodeo (!), Murray McLauchlan, Shirley Eikhard, Burton Cummings, Michael Burgess, Colin James, Maureen Forrester, Molly Johnson and Men of the Deeps there, to name a few -- and I saw Natalie McMaster there a few years back. Amazing musician, & she seemed very down-to-earth too.

    1. Nice! Yes, I’m never disappointed in her shows. What a great idea to have lunch concerts, love it! Probably a great chance for touring bands to practice a bit,

  2. Woo, milestone -- night away from Dani, with successful bottlefeeding in the books! I am SO GLAD you got a warning. There are triggers galore in there, but I'm glad that you could whoop and holler and stomp your feet and enjoy the music and the atmosphere. What a wonderful gift!

    1. Thanks! Yes I am glad I had a bit of time to process too. It no doubt helped me focus on the positive aspects. And it gives me hope that I’m moving past the infertility stage where I wouldn’t see past the pregnant belly. Although holy crap, 7th kid at 45. Its hard not to feel a sense of inferiority but I have to to remind myself she is an extraordinary person. Some people you can admire but don’t want to try to compete with lol!