This blog is a long overdue follow-up with principal dancer Sara Webb, who gave birth to her son Joshua in November 2007. In this entry she writes about returning to the world of dance after such an important personal milestone.
A good friend of mine who was a soloist for many years with Houston Ballet told me, after her first child was born, that dancing Swan Lake was harder than giving birth. Seeing as Swan Lake is definitely one of the hardest ballets to perform, I found myself eagerly looking forward to this “easy” challenge. After 13 hours of labor and a C-section, though, I found myself envying my friend for her breezy experience. I also gained a new outlook on Swan Lake. It doesn’t seem so bad anymore.
If I had to relate being a mom to dance, I would say it is that rare thing dancers experience only a couple of times in their careers…a perfect performance. While you never forget those few perfect moments on stage, the curtain eventually comes down. What I like best about being a mom is that this performance never ends.
I decided before Joshua was born that I wanted to return to the stage. After 10 years of dancing professionally, I wasn’t quite ready to hang up my pointe shoes. Knowing myself, I knew I had to set that goal before I met Josh. Otherwise I would have never been able to come back. As hard as it was to leave him at seven weeks old to return to the studio, I had to finish my dream.
Getting back into “dancer shape” took a lot of hard work and patience. Standing up straight was my first challenge. You wouldn’t think of that as a very difficult task, but, after having a C-section and with seven layers of stitches keeping my abdomen together, it was! I started walking around my neighborhood, Joshua in tow, every day. After two weeks, and having a little more bounce in my stride, I went to the gym. I tried to do some crunches and pilates moves – unbeknownst to my doctor who would have killed me—without much success. Yes, I was crazy! But by week four I was feeling stronger (thanks to Amy Elle at Houston Gyrotonics for helping me find my core again).
The first time I went to class, I had to remind myself every time I looked in the mirror that I just had a baby. I was so excited to be dancing again, though, and surprised at how easily my body remembered how to do it. My first performance back was Balanchine’s Serenade, in which I danced the role of the Russian Girl. It was a great ballet to come back to.
I always get nervous before a show, but I was especially nervous for my first performance back. However, just as Joshua calmed me when I was dancing with him in my belly, he continues to calm me now. And even when a show isn’t perfect, I get to come home to a son who thinks I am (at least until he is a teenager).
Juggling a dancer schedule and a mom schedule keeps me insanely busy. It is a good busy though. While I always wish for more time with my family, I am enjoying dancing. Before I had Josh, I struggled with being “burned out.” After taking some time to be away from it, though, I realized why my eight-year-old self had this dream in the first place. I love to dance.
It is true that you are a stronger dancer after having a baby. Not only because childbirth makes you physically stronger, but also because it changes your perspective. You realize how short a dancer’s career can be, so you learn to make the most of the time you have to be one.