Producing An Album While On Maternity Leave

For some reason, I had the bright idea to produce my first official Christmas album featuring my husband singing while I was pregnant with our first child. It honestly probably had something to do with all of the people asking me if my career was over or if I would ever come back to it. Being too damn stubborn for my own good and slightly spiteful at times, I wanted to have a product to show that my career wasn’t over because I have a baby and I happen to be female. Now, I had a fairly difficult pregnancy. I actually had to leave a project in my second trimester partially due to how sick I was. Needless to say — I didn’t finish the album while I was pregnant.

My daughter was born on September 28th. This meant I had just under three months from the time my daughter was born to Christmas. In order to ship hard copies of the Christmas album to people in time for Christmas, I knew I needed to send the albums by December 10. I planned to have 6–7 songs on the album. So — I had 73 days to arrange 6–7 songs, have James record them, mock them up between the two of us, have James mix and master them, make CDs, and ship them. While James worked and I took care of a very sweet, smart newborn baby.

For those of you unfamiliar with producing albums, this isn’t very much time. Again, I’m incredibly stubborn, so I decided to try anyways to get this album done.

In the middle of November, I decided to call in some help. In 2019, James and I made a short album with our friend Kyle. We decided to ask Kyle if we could use two of the arrangements from that album. One was Kyle’s arrangement of “O Holy Night”. Kyle played piano for this, and the voice was also recorded. All that we had to do was touch up the mix. We also asked to use an arrangement of “Veni Veni Emmanuel” that James and Kyle wrote together. The two of them had already recorded themselves singing the chant. All that had to be done was a change in the reverb to make it match the rest of the album. I also asked Kyle to write and mock-up an arrangement of “It Came Upon A Midnight Clear” for this year’s album. He’s an amazing composer and musician in general, so I knew it would meet my standards for the album.

If you’re keeping track, this took care of 2 songs completely and 1 song partially. James wrote most of “There’s A Song In the Air” and I finished the arrangement. 4 songs, now. I wrote the first 4 verses of “Good King Wenceslas” and gave it to James to finish the last verse. 5 songs. I arranged all of “Still Nacht” and “We Three Kings”. 7 songs. All of the songs on the album were now written.

Before we had Saoirse, James and I helped each other record. Because babies are loud and can’t be asked to be quiet while an adult is recording, one of us has to keep her entertained in a different room. James had to be the one singing, so I had Saoirse.

Because Saoirse is exclusively breastfed and I’m the primary one taking care of her, I had to work around her schedule while recovering myself. Even though I was able to deliver her vaginally, I’m still not fully recovered 10 weeks later. (If you’re reading this and thinking “But aren’t women fully recovered at 6 weeks postpartum?” you would be wrong, my friend. That’s just when the cervix is typically closed and women are cleared for sex and exercise again.)

In order to give you an idea of what it’s like to produce an album right after growing and pushing out an entire human being, here’s Saoirse’s schedule for December 7:

A Day With a 10-week-old Baby

12am — Saoirse is nursing. She’s been cluster-feeding for a couple of hours now. I’ve been writing this article off and on for the last hour, when her eyes were closed and she didn’t need my undivided attention.

12:15am — Saoirse let go of the boob and fell asleep. I’m going to need to hold her for a few minutes and try to get her to release some burps so she’s comfortable.

12:49am — After letting out some gas, Saoirse fell into a deep enough sleep that I could set her down in her bassinet. Now I’m eating a snack so I can take my vitamins and go to bed.

1:57am — After: doing some laundry, taking prenatal vitamins and Prenatal DHA, eating a snack, getting myself ready for bed, and having some quiet time reading news articles (I’m an introvert — it’s how I stay sane) I went to bed.

5am — I wake up and wake Saoirse up because it’s been too long since the last time she ate.

5:15–5:45am — Saoirse nurses

6am — James changes Saoirse’s diaper and walks her around to help get her burps out.

6–6:43am — Saoirse eats. My left breast has a very forceful letdown, so she’s choking and sputtering as she eats. James walks her around and she has lots of gurgly burps.

6:43–7am — Saoirse sleeps on me and wakes up for another diaper change.

7–7:15am — Saoirse eats.

7:15–7:50am — Saoirse sleeps on me.

7:50am — I set Saoirse down in her bassinet, pee, and drink some water. Then a lay back down to fall asleep.

9:15am — James’s work alarms start going off, waking me up and making Saoirse fitful in her sleep.

9:50am — James leaves for work.

10:15am — I start falling back asleep because Saoirse has settled back in.

11–11:30am — Saoirse wakes up hungry and nurses.

11:30am-12:15pm — Saoirse sleeps on mamma to get gas out.

12:15pm — I try to set her down and she wakes up immediately, offended

12:20–12:25pm — I change Saoirse’s diaper.

12:25–12:49pm — My mom holds Saoirse so I can pee, then make and eat my breakfast.

12:49–1:05pm — Saoirse got so excited playing with her Nana that she gave herself the hiccups. I walked her around for a few minutes to help her calm her hiccups enough to eat, then gave her a boob. This is the one with forceful letdown problems, so there was a lot of coughing, sputtering, and scratching until my breast calmed down enough that she could nurse easily.

1:05–1:19pm — snuggles on mommy to burp and fall asleep

1:19pm — asleep but still cuddles on momma for burping purposes and to fall into a deep sleep

1:44pm — Set Saoirse in the bassinet for a nap so I could get dressed for the day (I don’t care if I work from home with a baby — I hate being in pajamas all day) run to the bathroom, and do some quick laundry.

1:55pm — Saoirse woke up with gas. My mom held and burped her so I could finish folding laundry and putting it on hangers. I’ll put it away later.

2:15pm — I change Saoirse’s diaper.

2:17–2:23pm — Saoirse snack with her pulling herself off to play a lot.

2:24–2:30pm- Nana is playing with her to help her get her poop out while I rummage around for her Vitamin D drops

2:30pm — Saoirse came back to me for Vitamin D drops.

2:33pm- Back to Nana for playtime so I could put up laundry

2:37pm — Playtime with Auntie Samantha.

2:41pm — Back to Momma

2:50pm — Diaper change. Dadda got home during her change, so she cuddled on him for a bit.

2:53pm — Back to Mamma, Dadda is eating lunch

3:03pm — Dadda finished his lunch and is changing a diaper. He’s trying to teach her how to say “Mamma” and is singing to her.

3:04–3:19pm — Saoirse nursed until she fell asleep

3:19–3:46pm — Cuddling and burps on mamma. James laid down for a nap

3:46pm — Set Saoirse down in her bassinet so I could make my lunch, pee, eat my lunch, help my sister with something, wake James up to get We Three Kings recorded, and call Sweetwater.

5:02pm — Switched headphones with James (his bleed so he needs mine to record) and sat down to mock-up “Stille Nacht” while Saoirse naps a little

5:49pm — Saoirse woke up

5:50pm — Diaper Change

5:52pm — Playtime with Nana and puppies

5:58pm — Back to Mamma — she’s hungry

6:00–6:10pm — Nursing

6:10–6:23pm — Saoirse spat out the boob, let a decent amount of spare milk on me, and started giggling. I held her up so she could burp a few times.

6:23–6:50pm — James took a break, changed her diaper twice, and he and Auntie Samantha played with her while I made tea for me and James and helped my mom grab things from around the kitchen for the soup for dinner.

6:50–7:06pm -Nursing. James drank his tea and went back to recording. I’ll reheat my tea later to drink it.

7:06–7:36pm — Snuggles and burps with Mamma. I responded to some emails when she fell asleep.

7:37pm — Set Saoirse down for a nap

7:38pm — Well. That lasted a long time. She’s in my lap, pooping, while she watches one of her aunties do a dance workout.

7:41pm — Diaper change

7:43pm — playtime with Nana so I can wash the poop off my hand and eat a small snack

8:01–8:22pm — Saoirse is nursing while trying to play with her Auntie Caitlyn.

8:15pm — James is done recording

8:28pm — Diaper change by James

8:30–8:50pm — James is reading to Saoirse so I can have just a few minutes of quiet time before dinner

8:50pm — Dinner. This is the first time she’s sat in her high chair without crying.

9:03pm — Saoirse pooped. James is changing her diaper.

9:10–9:18pm — Saoirse is nursing.

9:18- 9:25pm — James is walking Saoirse around while I eat a yogurt.

9:36–9:58pm — Saoirse nursed and fell asleep.

9:58pm — Auntie Caitlyn is holding Saoirse because I don’t feel well. (Postpartum hormones are fun. I’ve had a headache most of the day, too.)

10:30pm — Saoirse woke up

10:36–10:58pm — Nursing

11pm — James changes diaper

11:06–11:28pm — Nursing

11:29–11:45pm — James is walking Saoirse around because she needs to burp and she’s too sleepy to let them out normally. He also changed her diaper. This allowed me to work on “Stille Nacht” a little.

11:45pm-The Next Day — I have Saoirse again because she’s hungry and tired so she’s cluster feeding. She also has the hiccups.

So, that’s it. That’s 24 hours in the life of producing and being one of the creatives on an album while 10 weeks postpartum. It’s a lot trying to work while being the primary caregiver for a tiny human, even one as easy and placid as Saoirse. Next time you find out one of your freelancer friends is pregnant, don’t ask them if they’re going to give up their career or if they’ll ever come back to their career. Just check in on them before and after the baby is born and be understanding if they take a bit to get back to you. It’s a lot, and it’s isolating. It feels like you’re never going to be able to be full-time in your career again, which sucks especially if you tend to be very ambitious and a bit of a work-o-holic like me. Because we’re staying with my parents right now, I have the privilege of handing Saoirse to somebody when I need to pee or when I’ve been up for several hours and haven’t been able to eat yet. Most Stay-at-home parents don’t have that option right now.

By the end of the day I only managed to set up the session for “Stille Nacht” and mock up 60 measures of the left hand of the piano part. I didn’t touch the opera I’m writing, and I didn’t practice any of the three instruments I needed to.

Oh, and I forgot about my tea.

Update: Because I don’t believe in crunch, I didn’t release the album until December 18th. Luckily USPS is amazing and there was still time for the preorders to get there by Christmas.

If you’d like to follow us order order music head over to our Bandcamp.

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Stephanie is a Composer, Conductor, Soprano, and Activist currently living in Los Angeles, CA. Follow her on Twitter @StephSWilkinson.

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Stephanie Streseman Wilkinson

Stephanie Streseman Wilkinson

Stephanie is a Composer, Conductor, Soprano, and Activist currently living in Los Angeles, CA. Follow her on Twitter @StephSWilkinson.

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