Thursday, September 22, 2016

I forgot to be a woman

I'm a pole dancer. But I was a mom first.

I'm Holly Merlot, of course that's not my real name but that's neither here nor there and a topic for another day.

I got into pole dancing about four years ago after having my daughter, we will call her Hazel. Hazel isn't her real name, however, it was on our short list of names for her before she was born. Hazel is a name that I absolutely love, but she's no Hazel. She's a little spit fire, with drama in her mind, passion in her soul and the most independent and strong willed attitude I've ever seen....besides my strong willed nature of course.

Hazel changed my entire world when she entered it. She entered my world October 2011, sometime around the Cardinals World Series win. My then boyfriend and I went to game 6, THE game 6 of the 2011 World Series, of course she wasn't born until July 2012. I found out I was pregnant with her on November 17, the day before my boyfriend proposed to me in the most ridiculous way possible. Nobody believes us, but it's a true story. I cried. I cried because I didn't think I was ready to be a mother. I was scared to be a mother. I had a wedding to plan. What would my family think? What would his family think? None of it mattered though, we got married and had a baby.

Before Hazel, I was in the best shape of my life up until that point. I was running almost every day, I could run three miles without stopping, that was a huge accomplishment for me. I had lost all my college weight, I looked great and more importantly, I felt great. When Hazel came along, everything changed. I gained a ton of weight, I was almost 200lbs when I gave birth to her, that was a 60lb weight gain. Even though I had worked out my entire pregnancy, I just packed on the pounds. Naturally, this led to some self-esteem issues. I felt like a whale. I looked awful. It's true what they say about being pregnant with a girl, they steal the mother's beauty. And boy oh boy did she steal it!

July rolls around and Hazel is stubborn....not unlike her mother. And late.....not unlike her father. I was induced. Twenty-seven hours later, Hazel was born via c-section. C-sections are miserable. Imagine having a watermelon yanked out of a slit in your belly while your guts sit on a table and you're awake the entire time. That should give you a good visual.

Of course I loved Hazel when she was born which was a huge relief to me (another day, another blog). However, I was left with an extraction point in my body that hurt anytime I sneezed or laughed or coughed or moved or breathed. Fast forward to a few weeks and I was finally cleared to exercise again. I was desperately waiting for my pre-baby body to come back, lose all the weight and look good again. My pre-baby body never came back no matter how hard I pushed myself. My hips stayed wide set, I lost all the weight but I couldn't fit in my size 5 jeans anymore. I had a baby. Why did I think I needed to get my "pre-baby body" back? Because everywhere I looked I saw tips and tricks and ways and reasons to get my old figure back so I could look good for society and my husband and because that's the only way I could possibly feel good about myself. Right? Right? No. Wrong. But I didn't have that mind set back then, so I kept pushing myself when I should have focused on nursing my baby and healing. At the end of the day, I still felt disgusting. I was dealing with post-partum depression, trying to acclimate to the huge changes that had just occurred in my life and trying to take care of this little human, all on four or five hours of sleep at a time. It was awful. I finally broke down and told my husband I needed to get out of the house, away from my life, find out who am I in this new role and feel good about myself again. So that's what I did.

I found a deal for six classes at a local fitness boutique. The classes looked fun, flirty, sexy, which was what I needed. So I decided to take a chair dance class that had about 10 minutes of pole lessons at the end of the class. I remember trying to learn the chair routine, it was hard but the teacher was great and it was so much fun. My first swing on the pole was comical, I had no clue what I was doing and it was hard. But I fell in love. I came home that night from chair and pole class and told my husband how fun it was and that I wanted to go back to do it again. I had gotten time out of the house, surrounded myself with other women that were nice to me and complimented me and lifted me up. More importantly, I felt good after. I felt like I was a human again instead of a robot milk machine who's batteries were nearly run out.

Those first few months, hell the first year of motherhood is so hard. It's so, so hard. I loved Hazel with all my heart but I didn't even know who I was anymore. I was just living for this other human and I had forgotten to be a woman. It wasn't until that first chair and pole class that I remembered how to be a woman again. But I needed it. I needed to remember who I was and rediscover myself. I can't be a good wife and a good mother and a good friend and a good daughter and on and on if I'm not good to myself. How can I love my family if I don't love myself too?

I'm still a pole dancer but I'm always a mother first. That will never change. I just have to remember that in order to be a good mother, I need to keep that pole dancer in me, alive.

Holly Merlot is the owner and operator of Dahlia
located in Weldon Spring, Mo. 

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