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Bellydance & Postpartum - How Bellydance Helped Me Find Myself Again

by Lisa Jean McNeil In my early 20’s I had a pretty good beat on who I was. What made me ME. I was deep into bellydance and being creative and teaching. I was comfortable in my skin. But holy moly cow! Having my first baby changed all that. We had just moved halfway across the country. I didn’t have a strong friend base and didn’t have any family nearby. To top it off, my beautiful little baby had colic. He cried more than he didn’t. He didn’t sleep. Feeding him was a struggle. I already struggled with depression before getting pregnant, and boy! Did postpartum kick my butt! I felt like I was drowning, barely surviving.

For almost 6 months I didn’t sleep through the night. I stopped dancing. I stopped practicing yoga. There was nothing creative going on, just trying to make it through each day. I did eventually reach out and get professional help and started to crawl out of that hole. By that point, though, I had gotten so used to just surviving that I didn’t remember who I was before I became a mom. My body was totally different, and I wasn’t happy with it and I knew that I needed to do something to find myself again. Bellydance was the obvious choice. It was something that I had loved for years. I missed it. I started by just making a little time to dance a few days a week during nap time. It was so bizarre how different the moves felt on my new body. My hips and rib cage had expanded to make room for a baby, my organs had all been shuffled around and then resettled, and of course things had stretched and not quite gone back. Not to mention that I hadn’t done anything remotely like dancing in ages. I started with just drilling basics. The progress was slow. Everything felt different. Everything looked different. It was hard to come to peace with. By treating each basic move as new and really analyzing it and trying to fine tune it, I gradually learned how my new body moved. I began to even love it again. Yeah, it moved different, but the reason why was 100% worth it.

As my dance practice grew and I started to take classes and eventually teach again I had learned something else. Grace. My days weren’t entirely my own anymore. I had a little one that needed, and deserved, my attention. Some days I didn’t get to practice at all. Some days it was just dancing to kid music in the living room with my son. I had to learn to accept that practicing for me looked different now. Allowing myself the grace to accept these changes wasn’t easy. I would get frustrated and think about giving up on dance again, but I knew that the dancing was keeping me grounded and connected to myself. Over the next years, I had two more children. They’re currently 10, 6, and 3. The arrival of each baby started the cycle over again. But each time, I dealt with the postpartum better and was able to mentally and emotionally bounce back faster. My body has changed so much since having children, but it’s taught me to have compassion for myself. My day-to-day life has changed so much, but it’s taught me to have grace in embracing what I have and accepting the challenges I face. In learning to give myself this compassion, grace, and understanding, I’ve learned that these are lessons I want to share with other moms.

We go through so many changes and face so many pressures. Dance allowed me time and space to get to know my body again and reignite my creativity. It helped pull me out of a dark place. It gave me an oasis to just be me and take care of myself. It’s inspired me to share this with those around me and build a community where we can all offer each other compassion, grace, and love.

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