This past spring, Shana Cleveland wrote about her story and experience of being pregnant on tour, as well as her tips on shredding for two.

This interview originally appeared in She Shreds Magazine Issue #18, released August 2019.

Last fall, shortly after returning from a long tour in Europe with my band La Luz, I was at a farmer’s market with my mom and my boyfriend Will. While perusing the stalls, it dawned on me that my period was due, and here I was traipsing around town in white pants like a fool. I ran for the nearest bathroom and, relieved to find no signs of blood, went about my day. Later that evening, I started to do the math and realized I was actually several days late, so I dug through my closet for a pregnancy test I bought at a dollar store in Los Angeles a few months back. 

And voila! Totally pregnant. 

While it wasn’t something we’d planned, Will and I quickly found that we were both stoked by the idea of starting a family and decided to go for it. A year earlier we had left Los Angeles, the latest in a series of cities we had inhabited together and separately, and moved to a little house down a dirt road in a small gold rush town. Since both of us spend much of our time touring, we figured it would be nice to come home to somewhere quiet and wild where the stars aren’t diminished by city lights. We both recognized immediately that our little piece of California wilderness would be the perfect place to raise a child. 

And then the questions about being pregnant on tour began.

The cool thing about pregnancy is that since so many people have done it before, there are endless resources to help navigate its many mysteries. Through countless internet searches and checking out a couple of good books, I was able to figure out what I should and shouldn’t eat, what a wide array of physical and mental changes I could expect during any given week, and how to formulate a plan for prenatal care. But what the internet and every book ever written couldn’t help me decide was what I was supposed to do about being pregnant on tour. There was a 10-day West Coast tour due to start in a few weeks with my band La Luz, and a few shorter tours in Canada, the Midwest, and Southern California scheduled during what would be my second trimester. I was also in the early stages of planning tours around the release of my solo album, Night of the Worm Moon, when I would be well into my third trimester. 

My History

My parents are both musicians, and though they rarely played outside of our little corner of southwest Michigan during my childhood, I grew up hearing stories of their travels all around America’s watering holes. My dad was living in Texas and on tour through Michigan with a Western swing band when he met my mom, a tall girl in a long skirt and a short afro who came out to dance. Over the next couple of years, my mom moved to Colorado and my dad joined a band in Tucson. They would make a point of crossing paths whenever time or my dad’s tour schedule allowed, until eventually they moved back to Michigan together. In Saginaw, my dad was in a nine-piece soul band and my mom started running sound to pull her weight on tour, adding backup vocals from her position behind the soundboard until eventually joining the band on stage as a full-fledged member. The story they’ve always told me is that when my mom got pregnant, they figured it was time to get full-time jobs and put music on the backburner. My mom drove a city bus and my dad became a maintenance man at an apartment complex—a job that, in addition to a steady income, provided free housing and healthcare. They both kept playing in bands, but once I was in the picture, their carefree days of traveling around chasing gigs were replaced by a new static lifestyle that seemed more fitting to the decorum expected of new parents.

Our Beginning

The beginning of my story with Will isn’t a whole lot different than that of my parents. We met on tour and ran into each other at different points through our separate travels before deciding to move in with each other and spend as much time together as we possibly could within the constrictions of our separate meandering paths. Unlike my parents, neither of us can imagine quitting life on the road in favor of the relative stability of a full-time job. So it blew my mind when I first started telling friends I was pregnant and a common response was, “What’s going to happen to your band?” or “Are you still going to tour?” Or, most maddeningly, “Are you still going to do music stuff?” Why would I suddenly change the whole course of my life and give up on doing what I love? Would they ask these kinds of questions to a man? 

When I was offered a tour that would end around my 35th week (pregnancy typically lasts 40 weeks), I searched for advice from other musicians who have been pregnant on tour. I was surprised when I couldn’t find very much. It goes without saying that each pregnancy is different, and if you’re suffering from complications, staying close to home and your regular doctor might make the most sense.

But in the interest of demystifying the experience for anyone out there who is pregnant or considering the idea and wants to keep touring, I decided to put together a little guide of some simple things that helped me stay comfortable through the unique challenges of being pregnant on tour.

Tips for Being Pregnant on Tour

Keeping up with all of the dietary restrictions and nutritional requirements of pregnancy is tricky enough at home, and so doing it right on the road felt extra challenging. And then there’s all those long stretches of the freeway where the only option is fast food. 

  • Avoid overeating. Scarfing down too much in one sitting can cause heartburn and generally make you feel like an over-inflated balloon for hours on end. This becomes particularly true in the second and third trimesters, when your stomach and intestines are all squished and pushed aside to make room for the baby, and your digestion slows way down. 
  • Have some healthy snacks around at all times. This is a good way to avoid overdoing it when meal time comes. Keep a small cooler stocked with things like baby carrots, string cheese, and yogurt. Nuts, fruit, and PB&J supplies are easy unrefrigerated options. 
  • Another dollar store find that really came in handy was a little plastic pill divider. If your prenatal vitamins are more than one-a-day, these can be really helpful for keeping track of what you’ve taken.
  • Oatmeal is a magic food for pregnancy. It’s healthy and full of fiber, which will help stave off the constipation that commonly results from pregnancy hormones and all the pressure your growing uterus puts on your intestines. Below is a recipe from a doctor friend that I altered a bit to suit my taste, and whipped up a big batch to take on tour. It’s great because you can just throw some in a mug and add hot water, which you can usually find next to the coffee machines at any gas station.

Good sleep will be of extra importance because your immune system is weaker while you’re pregnant. I found it helpful to take a quick rest in the car or backstage some days, especially during the first and third trimesters.

  • Get in a little exercise each day. This will help you to sleep soundly between all those inevitable journeys feeling around a strange room in the dark, trying to find the bathroom. Have a few quick stretches in your arsenal that you can easily do right before bed or in the morning since these may be the only times during the day when you’re likely to be in a clean, comfortable spot. I also fell into a routine of going for a walk everyday after sound check. Some days were easy, and on others I felt like I was dragging my giant gut around, but I always felt pretty good afterward. 
  • Bring along earplugs and an eye mask. Even if you’re in one of those green rooms that seems to be located right between two equally blaring stages, creating a heinous cocktail of unignorable noise, you might still be able to still get in a little nap before your set.
  • A pregnancy pillow can be really helpful. I had pretty bad hip pain through my pregnancy, but when a friend gave me their fancy hand-me-down pillow, it was pretty miraculous. It made sleeping so much easier and more comfortable that when I forgot my pillow at a hotel in Canada, I ran out and bought a new one the next day. If you don’t want to throw down for one of the big body pillows, tucking a couple of small pillows between your legs may be enough to do the trick. 
  • I’m not sure when it began, but at some point during my pregnancy I became the dreaded tour snorer. If this happens to you, just blame it on pregnancy hormones causing the mucus membranes in your nose to swell—and threaten to go into greater detail if anyone’s got anymore complaints.

The one bit of advice my doctor gave me about touring was to make sure to stop to walk around and stretch my legs every hour or two. You might not have to think about this at all since you’ll likely have to pee constantly, but just in case, and because you should be doing this anyway, drink tons of water during the drives. When pregnant, you’re at a higher risk for developing blood clots if you sit around for too long, so you’ll want to plan on a little extra time for each drive to allow for some awkward pacing around truck stops and rest areas at every opportunity. 

I hope some of these tips prove helpful if you decide to continue touring during any part of your pregnancy. In the end, no one else can tell you how to go about this journey. Listen to your body and trust what feels best for you. I realize that sounds a little woo-woo, but what better time to relax and trust your body than when it’s actually in the process of creating life? Also, there’s no shame in asking for help when it comes to loading gear. Only do what feels comfortable to you.

Amidst all the uncertainty, as my body morphed around this new human, I was comforted by my inclination that navigating the extreme highs and lows of life as a touring musician is excellent preparation for parenthood. I’ve broken down in the desert, suffered debilitating illness halfway across the globe, been laughed off stage after baring my soul for a handful of drunk strangers as the opener for a crust-punk puppetshow, and who knows, I could be woefully unprepared for the challenges of motherhood. But I’ve got one thing going for me: I’m ready for anything and I’m totally unafraid. That’s a mindset I would be proud to teach my son. 

My Favorite Resources

For more information about touring parents, and to hear more from Shana Cleveland, check out the She Shreds article Touring Parents Balance A Career, Negotiate Environments And Rely on Community.