by Blair Goldberg
I wouldn’t call violently throwing up in an Herve Leger wrap dress glamorous or fun or the way I pictured my last performance ever as Nicola to be, but here we are. In this moment, I am ten weeks pregnant, but nobody knows yet. I have about fifteen people in the audience tonight who came to see me knowing that the show is closing soon and it could be the last time I’ll have a scheduled Nicola date (I‘m an understudy and usually in the ensemble). The finale dress is tight and I can see an obvious bump, but I’ve done my best to reinforce it with a strong layer of Spanx! I have about two more minutes before my cue for the finale, and I clean myself up, put on a smile, and walk to the stage. I knew in my heart that this would be my last Nicola performance—we are closing in four months and she has no scheduled dates off coming up. I am about two weeks away from telling everyone at work that I am pregnant with my second baby.
When I do tell everyone, they will probably have the other understudy for Nicola be the first option from here on out, and I’m completely fine with that, as the costumes are not the most comfortable or flattering when pregnant! I had taken a moment to myself earlier at the top of the show to express my gratitude to God for the incredible gift of getting to perform a lead role on Broadway over the past few years—a bucket list item for me since I was a little girl. But now, here I am at the end of the show, praying I don’t reek of vomit as I take my final Nicola bow.
Cut forward to today, I am twenty weeks pregnant, I’m still in the ensemble of Kinky Boots on Broadway, and I still understudy the role of Nicola (but now only in an emergency situation, which hasn’t happened yet, thankfully). I’ve been here for over three years now, and by the time we close in April, I’ll have done about 1,600 performances between Broadway and the First National Tour. While on the tour, I became pregnant with my daughter Lyla, who is now three-and-a-half years old. I performed pregnant with her until I was about five months, at which point I left and went back to New York City to finish the pregnancy. I had a year of maternity leave with her, at the end of which I would be able to re-join the tour if I wished. About six weeks after I gave birth to her, I was so lucky to receive a phone call offering me the very same track on Broadway, which had just opened up. The timing was remarkable, and I truly believe that Lyla was my ticket back to Broadway (I made my Broadway debut as a child performer in 1999 in Annie Get Your Gun with Bernadette Peters). I returned to work when Lyla was about eleven weeks old and have been there ever since. I knew pretty quickly after having Lyla that I wanted to have another baby down the line, but I was very conscious of timing and didn’t want to leave the same show twice. I decided we would wait until the show was closing, or at least close to closing to try for another baby.
However, the amazing thing about Kinky Boots was that it just kept going! Every time there was even a hint of a rumour that we might be closing, we didn’t and we weren’t. We were all thrilled about this, and I was happy to wait longer for baby number two. Then, about two and a half years into my run on Broadway, I really started getting the itch to grow my family. It didn’t seem like we were on the brink of closing any time soon, and I didn’t want my two children to have a huge age gap. The run of Kinky Boots up to that point had exceeded everything past my wildest dreams, so I knew in my heart that if I needed to take another maternity leave, I would be content with that decision. While my first pregnancy happened very quickly and easily, I had some real difficulty getting pregnant with my second. Many months came and went with no luck. Then, it was announced in late September by our generous producers, with six months notice, that we would be closing in April 2019.
At this point, I was almost seven months into trying to get pregnant with baby number two with still no success. Despite knowing the closing date was coming in six months, we decided to just keep trying and let the chips fall where they may in terms of timing. Two months later, in November 2018, I became pregnant. We were cautiously ecstatic and spent the holidays celebrating that our family was growing! I did the math in my head and was able to figure out that I would be only four weeks more pregnant with this baby than my first when the show was slated to close vs when I stopped working the first time. I was hopeful that this would work out timing wise, and I’m happy to say that in thanks to the wonderful support of the Kinky team, I will be closing the show with my cast mates, at which point I’ll be 25 weeks pregnant.
Doing the same show four years later with a totally different pregnancy has been really interesting and surprising in a few ways! The first trimester was pretty similar to my first—I had some pretty bad morning sickness that lasted into the night during work. I secretly and swiftly threw up backstage when I needed to, and tried to keep myself turned around when getting changed into my costumes in front of my cast mates to hide my growing belly. It has definitely been more challenging this time around, energy wise, to keep up with the show’s demands.
As I get further along in my pregnancy, it’s not so much the on stage time that is challenging me, but rather the quick changing of costumes/shoes/boots and running to cues backstage that has been tiring me out a lot quicker. I have to remind myself that I am four years older than I was with my first pregnancy, and though I am strong, I am also growing a human and that takes a lot of energy! I also simply don’t have the same time to sleep in and mull about as I did with my first pregnancy. I have to be up early in the morning to take my daughter to preschool, and I spend the entire afternoon with her after school, and that’s all before going to work. With my first pregnancy on tour, I could sleep and chill all day and really make sure I wasn’t overexerting myself. It’s just not possible with this pregnancy, and though I was prepared for it mentally, until you go through it, it’s difficult to really imagine how exhausting it is to take care of a human, grow another human, and have a full time physically demanding job all at the same time! Regardless, I wouldn’t have it any other way, and I consider myself as lucky as a jackpot lottery winner to be living my dream both professionally and personally at the same time.
My body also changed differently this time around than the first. With my first pregnancy, I think I took a longer time to really pop, but when I did it was more rapid and more pronounced. This time around, I just felt overall bloated for a longer time. I could also get away a little longer being a Nicola understudy with this pregnancy, as I am carrying very low this time, whereas with my first pregnancy, my bump was very high at an earlier time. But then, so much is the same. Those little kicks I feel during the show bring me that same joy and getting to be pregnant as a factory worker again has been so much fun to work into the show. My cast loves working it into the show as well and we all have so many laughs and fun times referencing Maggie (my character’s name) being knocked up in the factory! It’s also amazing how much the audience picks up on in the ensemble. People at the stage door, now that I’m more obviously pregnant, congratulate me all the time!
Looking back on my time at Kinky Boots, the fact that my two babies will have come into this world through this show is something I will forever be grateful for and in awe of. I could’ve been in any show these last four-and-a-half years, but the fact that my children’s first sounds in the womb were the music and lyrics to this show—one that has such a heartwarming message of acceptance and love is just incredible to me. My daughter took some of her first steps on the stage of the Hirschfeld, and I felt my son’s first kicks during the finale of Kinky Boots.
I’ve been so blessed throughout both pregnancies to have such wonderful support from my cast mates, bosses and especially our phenomenal producers, Daryl Roth and Hal Luftig, who are truly heaven sent. The fact that our show is closing is bittersweet. I will forever cherish the memories we’ve made as a company, and I know I will cry a lot of tears as we near the end. But I also know that I will leave the Hirschfeld with a profound sense of pride- I am so proud of my body, for what it has accomplished over the years. It has sustained me in an extremely vocally demanding show for four and a half years with no injuries and it has also given me my (soon to be) complete family.
I hope this story has inspired others to know that you can have both — a family and a career in the theater. It is something I think a lot of people are afraid of, but I want them to know that It is possible, and it is hard, but it is absolutely worth it.