While all women have to make significant adjustments to their lives to become mothers, having a career as a dancer comes with it’s own set of unique challenges. The moment I found out I was pregnant I was instantly filled with joy and excitement. I had always wanted to be a mother, but didn’t know when it would be the “right time”.
Although unplanned, I welcomed the changes that the spontaneity of life can bring, but soon after my worries and doubts began to set in. My mind became flooded with concerns of how pregnancy would affect my body aesthetically and physically. The very tool I used everyday was about to go through some major changes while creating another person. As dancers we thrive on being in control of our bodies. How would I continue to dance and take class with no family around and little resources to pay for sitters? How would the dance community react towards me? Would the fact that I have a child make people assume that I was unavailable for work? These were all questions that continuously devoured my thoughts. Not knowing what was going to happen was extremely unsettling at first, but over those 42 weeks I learned a lot of lessons on patience and how to relinquish control where I had none.
Becoming a mother has been the most incredible experience of my life. In many ways sacrifices made are much like those we give up for dance: all the pain and hard work dosen’t even compare to the overflowing joy and passion it brings. I feel that the work ethic and adaptability it takes to be a dancer made my transition into motherhood easier and made me excited for the challenge and opportunity of accepting this new identity. However it was still a challenge to reconcile my new identity as a mother while maintaining the only one I had previously known- dancer. During the first year- when your child literally relies on you for everything- my mother identity overwhelmingly trumped my self as a dancer. Though this is as it should be, it doesn’t mean it was at all an easy emotional transition. Trying to figure out who you are, figuring out how to find your worth not only in your dance ability but also in your mothering ability. And let me just say there is no audience clapping and giving standing ovations while you wake up every 2 hours a night for 6 months, change 5-10 diapers a day…so finding worth in this new role had to come from deeper within. Smaller gestures of encouragement were now found in seeing my healthy baby grow and develop daily, acknowledging her little achievements that only a mother would notice.
Anticipating getting back into rehearsal, I was excited yet nervous that I had “lost it”. Insecure about my place in the company, my first couple rehearsals back were awkward and unenjoyable due to all the pressure I was putting on myself to start out exactly where I had left off, a year and a baby later. Not to mention my split focus when needing to bring Selah to rehearsals: worrying if she was distracting others, trying to be present while picking up choreography while knowing that it was time for a feeding or diaper change. Trying to be interesting and creative when given a choreographic task while not having slept in months; it all took a lot of adjusting to and quite honestly was mentally exhausting. One of the best gifts that helped quiet my spirit was an email I received from Samar and Zoe after rehearsal that said, “just so you know, it is still 100% ok that you bring Selah to rehearsals” followed by a sincere e-mail that ended all my doubts and questions. It was from that next rehearsal that I began to enjoy moving again, feeling comfortable in my skin again and giving the dancers more credit as the understanding, supportive people that they are.
Through trial and error, I finally feel that I have figured out how to multitask with Selah and rehearsal. Giving her a bottle to keep her happy during company class, changing her diaper in our 10 min water break, letting her play in her playpen while we generate material and finally putting her down for a nap while we rehearse. Recently celebrating her first birthday, I feel that my brain has finally fully accepted that my life as a mother survives on 24 hour multitasking and is no longer fighting it, but finding pride in it’s ability to do so.
I enjoy sharing rehearsal with her and the lightness she brings to the room. Seeing her stare intently as we improv, sometimes giggling at our movement and knowing that everyone in the room cares for her makes me feel like one of the most blessed dancers out there. I know it’s cheesy but it has been said that life is not about getting through the storms, it’s about learning to dance in the rain. Life with Selah has not been dry, but she certainly turns every storm into a sun shower. —Sabrina