Once you go Noa, you can’t go back. OK, so that’s not exactly an old adage, but it should be. When I first met Noa Shaw in 2013 at a SoulCycle studio in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, I was like, “Hell yaaasss.” He’s not your typical instructor. He’s older than most, covered in tats and in shape—but not in a ropy-arms kind of way. He looked as if he’d been around the block a few times. He probably knew where the bodies were buried. I liked him immediately.
On the bike, as Guns N’ Roses and Mötley Crüe blasted, I felt as though I were back in high school. At one point, Noa told us to think of something in our lives that we really wanted and to picture it happening: “Put your heads down and close your eyes. It’s the hardest move. But do it—because you’re in the dark on a bike that goes nowhere.” I found myself overcome with emotion, wiping tears from my eyes with a sweaty towel.
That wasn’t the first time I had cried in his class. When I met Noa, my husband, Vince, and I had been trying for what seemed like a million years to have a second baby (our daughter, Ever, was 4), and I was feeling desperate, heartbroken and totally depressed. Being a mom is my favorite thing on the planet, and I wanted more than anything else to have another kid.
Over the past few years, I had dived headfirst into trying to get pregnant: fertility acupuncture, chiropractors, IUIs, progesterone cream, apps with names like Maybe Baby, books with titles like Every Drunken Cheerleader...Why Not Me?, weird-smelling teas, smoothies with baby-promising ingredients, magic wish papers that you light and release into the sky, a visit to a psychic.
After four miscarriages and countless pillowcases soaked with tears, I finally went to a fertility specialist, who told me that my issue was likely age-related: I was 40, and while I had a lot of eggs in my “reserve,” their quality was not good. Many of my eggs carried genetic abnormalities; even if they were fertilized, they’d create unhealthy embryos, which meant miscarriages.
Meanwhile, it seemed like everybody with a uterus was knocked up: moms on the subway with four kids in tow, Facebook friends, celebrities who flaunted their wonderful news on magazine covers (“She’s Pregnant Again and They Weren’t Even Trying!”). Every time I saw another baby bump, I seethed.
I was feeling sorry for myself and pissed off at the universe. After a while, I decided to try hard to not want that second child. But I couldn’t do it. As much drama as it was causing in my mind and personal life (and, damn, does infertility do a number on your marriage), I couldn’t shake it. I would stop at (almost) nothing to have that second kid. My doctor tried to make me feel better. “Your body is doing the right thing by getting rid of unhealthy pregnancies,” he said. It made sense, but I was still ticked off and sad, and at a loss for what to do next.
Finding my flow
I decided to get into the best shape of my life. I started going to SoulCycle four times a week. Even if I couldn’t control what was going on with my body pregnancy-wise, I could control how hard I worked in that room. In the dark and loud studio, I could cry into my towel and no one would know. And every single time, I left feeling better. I was focusing on what I did have. I adopted Noa’s mantra: “Love, kindness, and gratitude.”
Noa was an open book. He had kicked drugs and alcohol; he used to weigh over 300 pounds. He took a SoulCycle class on a whim and, against all odds, became an instructor. His sharing his vulnerabilities made it safe to share mine. One day, I had the urge to email him to tell him how much his classes meant to me. The next session, he gave me a huge hug. At the end of class, he brought a candle over, and I made a wish.
Clearly there was something to this love, kindness and gratitude stuff. The energy in that room changed me. I started putting as much positive energy into the universe as possible. I felt happier. I learned to accept that we might be a family of three after all, and that was OK.
In December 2014, Vince and I made the Hail Mary decision to try IVF. We were going to give it one shot and one shot only—which was good, because it turned out that at the end of the IVF cycle and genetic testing, I had only one healthy embryo to implant anyway. The odds were against me, but I felt peaceful knowing we had given it everything we had.
In April 2015, I found out I was pregnant. I was so shocked that I dropped the phone and screamed.
I continued to take Noa’s class. During one sonogram, when I asked what position the baby was in, the obstetrician said, “He’s bent over, like he’s riding a bike.”
At 38 weeks pregnant, I took my final pre-baby ride. Noa told everyone how I had been coming since before my pregnancy, working my butt off. As culty as it sounds, I felt the love in that room. It was the best ride of my life.
On December 11, 2015, our healthy and gorgeous baby boy, Sonny Vincent Prato, was born. And at six weeks postpartum, I was cleared by my doctor to get back on the bike. I texted Noa: “I will be back up in your face tomorrow! CANNOT WAIT!”