I first met Danielle at the MTSU Performing Arts Club. A fellow dancer Allison Gibbs was co-choreographing a piece for the upcoming show and invited me to dance with her and Danielle. We kept meeting that way, dancing together through the years. Danielle and Allison later formed Umbra Fusion Belly dance and I decided one day to audition. We went on to perform around the south in festivals, conventions, with live bands, and of course haflas together. Things I know about Danielle: she has a large scary doll collection, she is a fierce gamer, she has mad party throwing skills, and she can spot a missed hip drop at 200 yards with her eyes closed while eating queso/chips and braiding her hair. Here is my interview with Danielle.
Was this pregnancy a pleasant surprise or planned birth?
Danielle: This pregnancy was planned. My next one wasn’t though! I’m 20 weeks pregnant right now. Fyi, after you’ve had your 1st baby it’s super easy to get pregnant again in the following months… Be warned. Lol.
Tell us your birth story?
Danielle: Well… I, honestly, had a horrible experience my 1st pregnancy with Isabella. (Thankfully, she’s been the best baby though!)
I was all about having a natural birth, and that’s what I’d always dreamed of. Didn’t happen that way… Not at all. At about 23 weeks I had a scare. I came home from teaching my beginner belly dance class, as well as several ballroom lessons prior to that, and I was having cramps. I just thought they were growing cramps or Braxton hicks. But after an hour or so… They were excruciating, and I couldn’t walk anymore.
We headed to the hospital. I was still thinking that it wasn’t anything to worry about, until the nurse told me I was having contractions 10 minutes apart. That was one of the worst experiences of my life. I was there for about 7 days while they pumped me full of magnesium sulfate and I, literally, felt like I’d been hit by a semi truck. I was poked and prodded at… But finally I was sent home with Isabella safe in my womb. Thank God. But then I was on bedrest.
Some of the most depressing months of my life followed. No more dancing… I didn’t see my friends a lot. I felt utterly alone most of the time. All I had left to do was sit around and worry and wait.
The cherry on the top was bed rest kept Isabella from being able to flip, so then I had a scheduled C-section. I was terrified. The day rolled around and it was scary, but exciting. Thinking about that needle digging around in my spine still makes me feel queasy. (And I have to get another C-section in about 4 months!) Everything ended up going smoothly. The operation room is one of the coldest rooms though, and the entire time they kept telling me to stay still, but I was shaking from being so cold. Isabella came out looking all weird with her feet sticking up in the air (happens to breech babies).
They took her away as soon as I was able to just touch her for a second. It was sad. It took me a while to be able to bond with her, which I’ve heard is normal for C-section mommies. I became depressed after my C-section, because it wasn’t the experience I had always dreamt of. It was disheartening, and I still feel a little sad about having another C-section coming up.
I’ll never get to have a natural birth, and experience being a mother who actually brings her own baby into the world. I’m working on setting up a “gentle C-section” though, so if anyone else finds themselves in my predicament… Know that a loveless, cold C-section isn’t your only option! I wish I’d known that my first time around. It could have saved me a lot of heartache.
How has she been the best baby?
Danielle: Isabella has been the best baby because she’s so well behaved. She stops when we tell her “no”, she only cries when there’s something wrong and her personality is the sweetest. It could all change at 2 though!! (Terrible twos)…
What did you do to pass the time when on bed rest?
Danielle: I think I’ve really tried to block it out of my mind.. But I remember sleeping, eating, watching dance shows and being on the Internet a lot. I was very depressed, unfortunately.
Describe the moment when you first felt bonded to your baby.
Danielle: I always liked my baby and loved holding her and being around her… But I think I finally felt like I bonded with her when I allowed myself to forget about how life used to be, and how life in the now was different but amazing.
When I accepted my new life, everything became simpler and I was able to enjoy my time with Isabella more. Sadly, it took about 5 months.
What is a gentle C-section?
Danielle: A gentle C-section is more family orientated. You can watch your baby be born, hold her, breast feed and be more apart of the birth.
With normal C-sections, sometimes your tied down and you don’t get to hold your baby until after the procedure is over. It’s nearly a 40 min separation from your baby after birth, and it can really affect the mother, child bond. As well as mess with the ease of breastfeeding and make it more difficult.
Did you choose to breast feed or bottle feed?
Danielle: I chose to breastfeed, because it’s cheaper and healthier for both the mom and baby. I only was able to breastfeed for 2 months though. Isabella’s system reacted very badly with breast milk.
It was most likely because of my metabolic disorder, PKU. I couldn’t eat meat or dairy the entire time I was pregnant. Instead my doctors gave me a broken down version of proteins.
After the birth, what was the first thing you ate to break your PKU diet?
Danielle: a hamburger and milkshake! All American.
Any funny mommy/prego/dancer stories?
Danielle: Hm. Well, maybe this bad, but when Isabella is eating in her high chair I turn on dance shows to brain wash her. Lol. She loves Dancing With The Stars and will clap after the dancers finish dancing.
How did you think having children would affect your dance?
Danielle: I kind of thought I’d just bounce back and go right back to dancing as much as I used to. Also, I had no idea how hard it would be to dance and keep my balance the bigger I got.
After I had Isabella I did get back to dancing with in 6 weeks, but it was incredibly hard. I was exhausted and my stamina was awful. I would sweat bullets, which is something that I never did before. I felt incredibly out of shape and sometimes it was tough to find someone to watch Isabella.
I found out that my idea of bouncing back and dancing as hard as I used to would never be my reality again. I’m slowly building my students back up though. I will just have to be more self conscience about my time management and not over doing it, since I’m pregnant again.
Describe the week after your baby was born.
Danielle: The week after my baby was born is a blur. I stayed at the hospital for 3 days and was on pain meds the entire time. I remember talking about dogs dancing the chacha and other crazy things. Lol.
When I got home everything moved fast, and Jeremy and I were lacking sleep in a way we’d never anticipated. Everyone will tell you how tired you’re going to be, but until you have that 1st baby -YOU HAVE NO IDEA- how tired you’re actually going to be! It’s insane.
Every time Isabella cried we’d go into “freak out” mode and we’d both be trying to dress her, change her diaper or feed her at the same time. Our knuckles would be knocking together. I’m excited to actually know what I’m doing the second time around. I bet it’s nice.
How do you manage child care?
Danielle: In the beginning Jeremy’s Mom stayed with me a lot during the day. After Jeremy went back to work, I was terrified to be alone much. I thought Isabella’s head would fall off or something!
I’m a lot calmer now and pretty much spend most of my days with just Isabella and me. When I need to teach dance lessons my Mom usually is the one who watches her. After Kyrielle, my newest baby, is born I’ll be hiring a nanny two days a week
Did you discover any tricks for helping pregnancy to be more comfortable?
A: Yea. Don’t get pregnant. Lol. Pillows come in handy. Use -all- of the pillows all of the time. Take baths regularly and just lay there. Also, don’t over eat. It’s horrible and you’ll feel like you’re going to explode.
Do you experience mommy guilt?
Danielle: Nope. I’m pretty confident in my mommying skills. The only thing that gets to me sometimes is not being able to give birth naturally. But it is what it is, and doesn’t make me any less of a mommy. Isabella still likes me all the same!
Tips for soon to be mommy dancers?
Danielle: I think the best tip I can give any dancer is to listen to your body. I’m a hardcore dancer, and I was flying through the air with my West Coast Swing dance partner. And still shimmying like there was no tomorrow. If I could do it all over again, I would have taken it easy and not danced as hard as I did before pregnancy. I feel like it could’ve saved me from pre-term labor and saved me a lot of pain. Hindsight is 20″20!
Also, when you are healing don’t expect it to be a quick thing. Getting back into dance full swing took me 8 months! I had to get used to my body all over again. It was a hard task.
How long did it take you to get back to dancing?
Danielle: I got back to dancing at 6 weeks. My csection healed quickly and I had no problems bouncing back. However, because of my time spent on bedrest, I had gained a lot of weight that I wasn’t used to. My main problem was being able to move quickly and support all of the extra weight I had gained.
My stamina was horrible, and, as I stated before, I was sweating bullets when I danced or did anything active. It felt like I was lugging around an extra person. With that said, I didn’t feel like myself dancing again until about 8 months later.
I finally started to shed off the weight. Just in time to get pregnant again!
How did having a baby change the way you danced?
Danielle: I’m not entirely sure that it’s changed the way I dance. More than anything it’s changed the way I feel about myself dancing, and made me more aware of things that hurt. When I first got back to dance I had a really low self esteem while dancing. Mainly because I didn’t like the way my body looked, and my movements weren’t as controlled and quick as they used to be.
I’m feeling more confident though, and surprisingly, my ballroom, latin and swing dancing has improved since I’ve bounced back! My technique has gotten much better, and I think I have a better connection with my body now because I’m listening to it.
What has been the best moment of motherhood?
Danielle: The best moments for me are when I get to relive my childhood. I get to do everything for the 2nd time through Isabella’s eyes. It’s made me excited about the small things again. Adulthood can take that away from you, but Isabella brought back little happinesses in my life.
What are some of your favorite moments to relive.
Danielle: Christmas is more exciting… Easter, all of the holidays. I also look forward to trips to the park and even having a picnic, because I know that Isabella is going to have so much fun. It brings some childlike-ness back inside of me and it’s wonderful.
Do you see your kids dancing or did they pick up dancing?
Danielle: I do. Isabella loves music and when ever it’s on she bounces around and “dances”. Her favorite type of music seems to be West Coast Swing music. I’m totally okay with that! It’s my favorite dance.
What’s the hardest thing about being a mommy dancer? Easiest?
Danielle: The hardest thing for me was people not taking my job seriously, just because it wasn’t a mainstream job. At first it was hard to find a reliable person to watch Isabella. My Mom had just started a brand new job, but now that her schedule has evened out, it’s much less hectic.
As a financial analyst, Jeremy, obviously, makes much more money than I do… But I needed to go back to work too. It was very rough at first. Juggling my private social dance lessons with everyone else’s schedules was stressful, and it was looking like I’d never be able to go back to work. Infants are -very- demanding, but now that Isabella is older, it’s much easier for me to leave her with someone.
The best part of being a dance mommy is the excitement you feel when your baby dances! You always have this hope that she’ll love dancing as much as you do. *fingers crossed*
How did you get started in dance?
Danielle: I’m a Belly Dance instructor, and I’ve been dancing it the longest. I’m also a Ballroom, Latin and Competitive Swing instructor.
I started Belly Dancing when I was 16. I was inspired by a performance troupe, Lubabah, performing at the Tennessee Renaissance Festival. I started taking lessons with their lead dancer, Ariel Norwood, and I’m still dancing, performing and teaching to this day! I’m the troupe founder of Umbra Fusion Bellydance, as well as the instructor for my student troupe, Umbriel.
I became interested in Ballroom, Latin and Swing dance when I began teaching Belly Dance lessons at Dance Murfreesboro. Becky Lanham and Justin Ward started training me as an instructor, and I’ve been in love ever since. West Coast Swing is my niche though. I’m a competitive West Coast Swing dancer, and much like Belly Dance, it has taken over my life. (I blame Justin Ward, my dance partner, for that!)
And, side note, I would have never met Jeremy, my fiancé, if it wasn’t for Ballroom dance! He came to me as a student, and one of his New Year resolutions was to learn how to dance.
What was your morning routine before your first child?
Danielle: Sleep off my hangover! Lol.
What was your morning routine during your pregnancy?
Danielle: During my 1st pregnancy all I did was lay around and sleep. I felt awful and depressed most of the time. My pku diet was very strict and I felt like I was starving. I have more of a handle on it this time and have not been feeling as upset. I guess I got used to starvation!
What is your morning routine as of today?
Danielle: Today my days are pretty full. I wake up, make a bottle, change a diaper and lay in bed with Isabella while she eats. Sometimes she falls back asleep and I get to sleep in, but sometimes she’s ready to play.
What would be your ideal morning routine?
Danielle: Sleeping off a hangover? Lol. Really though, I’m pretty okay with my routine. I’m looking forward to cartoons when she gets older though!
Did your dance help with childbirth?
Danielle: I wouldn’t know. I wish I did! I know it helped with my recovery! A lot of women just give up after childbirth, but I think dance kept me working toward something. Being a great dancer takes a lot of work, and it kept me happy and motivated. Also, it helped me start getting back into shape quickly.
Did you continue taking/teaching classes during your pregnancy?
Danielle: I was dancing like a superstar until my pre-term labor happened at 23 weeks, and, like I said, I don’t recommend that.
Instead, take it easy and dance hard less often. But don’t stop dancing hard! As I learned, our muscle memory is easily lost, unfortunately, and you have to start from the beginning again. It’s not fun.
Did you have to modify how you participated in dance class?
Danielle: I didn’t, but should have. The second time around I move my hips less during Latin dancing. I also keep my belly dance movements nice and easy. No back bends!
I’m trying to be much more conscious of what’s going on in my body, and I think it’s helping this time.
How are you managing your dance time now on your second pregnancy?
Danielle: I’m teaching just as much as I was before I was pregnant. Theoretically, anything your body was used to doing before you were pregnant, you should be able to keep doing.
But I really have to manage my time juggling when I can take on new students because now my time schedule works around when I have someone to watch Isabella. I’m also rehearsing with my dance partner and belly dance troupe less.
Basically, if I’m not dancing for the money right now, I’m doing it a little less. It’s sad, but something that has to be done.
Any funny dance class stories?
Danielle: Like, during pregnant? Oh god. Near the end of my 2nd trimester, before bedrest, I had to leave my students every 10 minutes to pee! And pregnancy gas. That’s all I’m saying about that one. Lol.
Did you perform during pregnancy?
Danielle: I did. I performed in our dance studio’s showcase West Coast Swing and Belly Dance. I also performed at TribalCon pregnant, twice now!
Danielle performing 5 months after her C-section
What was your favorite part of being pregnant?
Danielle: I, honestly, despise being pregnant, but it’s not easy for me. I’m on a crazy diet and had a lot of bad things happen to me last time.
But I do enjoy being catered to… Who doesn’t like that?! A lot of people will let you cut them in line at the restrooms. It’s nice, and sometimes necessary, because if you don’t cut someone they’re going to see a grown woman wet herself.
Any recommendations for mommy dancers?
Danielle: I’m not sure about “for dancers”, but talking to other women on http://www.babycenter.com has kept me sane.
What tips did you pick up to make your second time around go easier?
Danielle: I don’t think there’s anything that will make it easier, to be honest. I’m actually dreading the transition from having one baby to two. I’m also dreading the lack of sleep and crankiness from being exhausted. But I know what to expect this time, and I know that it’s not going to be the end of the world whenever my baby cries.
Knowing what to expect and how hard it’s going to be makes things… Calmer, not easier! Like I said, I’ll know what I’m doing and that will be nice. Hopefully less small heart attacks will happen!
Did you have any issues with body confidence during your pregnancy?
Danielle: Yes! When I was put on bed rest I gained an excessive amount of weight, for me, anyway. My body confidence has been horrible ever since. I was -finally- losing weight and now I’m pregnant again!
I haven’t really found a great way to cope yet. I’m still struggling, but I’ve found that wearing the right clothes can help.
How can we find you online?
Danielle Hamilton on facebook & Google. Also, http://www.dancemurfreesboro.com/