Belly Dancing Through Pregnancy

    "That’s what birth is, it's improv." —Jamie Rose Lyle Photo by Adobe Stock/sdubrov Three weeks before the estimated due date of her first child, Jamie Rose Lyle’s water broke and slow contractions began. She wasn’t worried about a thing. ”I knew I didn’t need medical interventions, I needed to give my body time.” she said. She spent the time laboring and listening to music. “Reggae was what I was grooving to.” said Jamie, “that song ‘Everything’s Gonna Be Alright was playing when my water broke.”

    After 24 hours of labor at home, Jamie was one centimeter dilated. She went to the hospital and was given antibiotics and pitocin for the next five hours, then spinal anesthesia. “By the time we had medical intervention, it was welcome.” said Jamie. Finally, 44 hours after her membranes ruptured, and a half an hour of pushing, Jamie pulled out her baby boy.

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    Fast forward nine months and Jamie has started belly dancing. While she had prior experience with ballet, modern and ballroom dance, she had fallen in love with an improv style of belly dance, and has even earned herself a spot in a local troupe. When Carol Vance, the troupe’s director called to invite Jamie to dance with them, Jamie let Carol know that she and her husband has just started trying to get pregnant again.

    “Fabulous!” was Carol’s response. “Right from the start,” Jamie said, “I found support for dancing while pregnant.”

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    With the challenges that often come with first trimester pregnancy, I asked Jamie if she ever wanted to stop dancing during that time. “No, I didn’t want to stop, not at all,” she said, “When I was dancing, I would feel fine.” So, for three and a half hours each Tuesday night, Jamie dances with her troupe and gets relief from her nausea and exhaustion.

    Jamie likes that the troupe consists of four generations of women, most who have given birth themselves. She said she loves, “being around all those tummies that have had babies.” She also acknowledges that belly dance has its roots in childbirth and she often thinks of how other mothers, both current and through the ages are joining her in her experience, “right now and in time,” she said, referring to pregnancy, birth and midnight nursing.

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    Jamie also feels strong and more comfortable because of belly dance. Throughout our conversation she listed the ways her body feels as a result of dance; "I really feel like the dancing helps me feel strong, my stomach muscles are holding up my belly, I literally feel like my back is so supported, I can walk more comfortably and everything because of belly dance, my hips aren’t tight, if I could just keep my muscles doing this, it feels really good, it's the kind of movement my body needs right now."

    And according to Jamie, she can do things with her body that she couldn’t do in her first pregnancy. For example, she can get into the traditional birth squat now, “and I for sure was not doing belly rolls when I was pregnant with (Jackson),” she said. Out of a vocabulary of 300 dance moves, Jamie said there are only two that aren’t comfortable, “just knowing that I can do those positions fully helps my confidence.”

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    Finally, in contrast to her first labor, where Jamie said she knew she had to try hard to relax, her goal is not to try so hard this time. She anticipates the improv nature of belly dancing to be one of the best preparations of childbirth and that it will help her with this. “Before when I danced, it was always choreographed, but belly dancing is improv style which will be a huge help in birth." She said that all her belly dance performances have been while she has been pregnant and she has to decide which moves to do in live time. Just like dance, she said, “I just have to trust my body and not think too much and let myself go. That’s what birth is, it's improv.”

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