Ann Gentry walks through the newest branch of her Los Angeles-based restaurant Real Food Daily, as she's done for the six years since she founded the business. Except on this spring day the nine-months-pregnant Gentry has a little trouble maneuvering between the tables, her belly heavy, hips curved. The fact that she now appears like some pagan fertility goddess belies the years of pain and challenges she faced to get this way.
"I struggled to get pregnant," says the 43-year-old Gentry. "I had two pregnancies prior to this one. The first, six summers ago, was unintended and ended in miscarriage, but nonetheless, left me feeling that pregnancy was something I could do any time I desired." Then there was surgery for endometriosis, a painful inflammation of the uterus lining, followed by an ectopic pregnancy.
Yet amidst this she managed to birth two restaurants. From a macrobiotic catering venture she ran out of her own kitchen, she grew the business into Los Angeles's premier gourmet vegan eatery. But success came with a price tag, she says. "To do these restaurants took everything I had. I have always been a strong person, but after getting the business to the point where it could walk and talk on its own, I was whipped. I didn't have much left."
With the restaurants up and running and the past difficulties behind them, Gentry and her husband, Rob Jacobs, once again turned their attention to trying for a family. "Then, of course, it became a challenge," she says, remembering trips to fertility specialists.
Gentry also turned inward for answers; therapy helped to knock down mental roadblocks. A yoga practitioner for more than 20 years, she began Pilates work to rediscover "how to use my body intelligently. I felt in yoga I had fallen into the ego trap of showing off."
And then it happened: The proverbial rabbit died. "The success of this pregnancy came through deep emotional work I did to uncover all my anxieties and beliefs as to why I couldn't be a mother. Unconsciously I bought into fears my mother had, to things my family had taught me, to what society was saying: 'You're in your 40s, forget it, give it up.'"
Although in the first trimester Gentry didn't do any exercise—"I was walking on pins and needles," she recalls—by the fourth month she wanted to get into a routine. A Sikh friend suggested a prenatal yoga course taught by Kundalini Yoga instructor Gurmukh Kaur Khalsa, but others weren't so sure about it. "I heard from hard-core yogis who said, 'Oh, you won't like Gurmukh's class. It's not strenuous enough for you.' So I went to a couple of other prenatal classes, but they just did not do it for me. There was no community, no connection."
But when she kicked her shoes off and walked into Gurmukh's class, crowded with pregnant women laughing and sharing stories, that's exactly what Gentry found. Here was a room full of women who echoed what she had worked so hard to do: "Conscious parenting. It starts long before the baby is born," says Gentry.
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