Victoria Jaiani talks about motherhood and how she got her body back. And while the mental changes that come with motherhood are profound, so are the physical changes….especially for this renowned ballerina at The Joffrey.
Victoria Jaiani has three loves. In no particular order: ballet, her husband and the most intense and life-changing one yet…her gorgeous baby Maxim. “He is truly the love of my life,” gushes Ms. Jaiani, who joined The Joffrey Ballet in August 2003 and gave birth to her first child this past April. “Having such a little thing depending on me is a huge responsibility, and he has opened up my world in a whole different way.”
Married to fellow Joffrey dancer and childhood sweetheart Temur Suluashvili, Ms. Jaiani says baby Maxim is already taking after his active parents. “He doesn’t like to be still,” she laughs. Pausing to reflect, she says, “It’s different than I envisioned, though. It’s not necessarily harder. I just didn’t expect to worry this much! Whenever he sneezes, I’m wondering to myself, ‘Is he supposed to be sneezing?’”
Then Ms. Jaiani sighs – a sigh any working mother has sighed a million times before. It signals that, while she can’t get enough of every ounce of goodness life has given her, she still finds herself challenged by the juggling act of motherhood and the professional work she loves.
“I thought I would be in better shape, honestly,” admits Ms. Jaiani, whose love for ballet began when she was a little girl growing up in the town of Tbilisi in the Republic of Georgia. “I had an easy delivery and recovery was great: I lost weight, my belly went away quickly, I was breastfeeding and eating healthy. But I found that all of my muscle strength was gone. The muscle memory is still there, but getting my muscle strength back has been a hard process. When I left to have the baby, I was in the best shape of my career. So to come back from that mentally is tough.”
Indeed, life before baby was much different for Ms. Jaiani, especially in terms of her daily exercise. “My pre-pregnancy routine usually started around 9:15am with some Pilates exercises, and then ballet class at 9:45,” she recalls. “My work and rehearsal time then went from 11:30am to 6:30pm, with lunch sometime between. Once I got home, I’d take our dog for a nice walk and on the weekends I did my best to fit in some swimming.”
Currently preparing to take the stage yet again when The Joffrey Ballet kicks off its 20th anniversary season this October, Ms. Jaiani says that she has remained committed to getting back into shape in the healthiest of ways. Gaining 30 pounds during her pregnancy, she eased back into exercise from the moment she returned home from the hospital.
“It was hard to be still at first,” she recalls, having performed in Joffrey productions of Age of Innocence, The Nutcracker and Romeo and Juliet. “For six weeks, I was instructed to do nothing except walk. It was a huge adjustment. It was strange to not exercise. I missed the movement of my body.”
Ms. Jaiani began to increase her exercise when she went back to teaching at Joffrey. Maxim was 11 weeks old. With baby in tow, she began doing ‘little ballet movements.’ She eventually moved to a more aggressive exercise plan that included ballet classes, once-a-day workouts and power walks with her baby and dog by her side. “I didn’t want to overdo it and injure myself,” she says. “I wanted to be smart about it.”
These days, Ms. Jaiani is back to her pre-baby exercise routine with ballet classes and hours of rehearsal time. Yet, some aspects have changed a bit in an effort to fit in more time with those she loves the most. “I can’t always make time for Pilates in the morning, because that’s our favorite family time with Maxim. I am still learning as a new mom, and I’m sure as my baby continues to grow, my routine will yet again shift. But staying active is a big part of who I am.”
Participating in rehearsals for The Joffrey Ballet’s new season since July, Ms. Jaiani says she wouldn’t have been able to do any of this without the support of her husband. “I’m so lucky and blessed to have him. A couple of nights ago, I was telling him that I felt like an octopus with a million arms and legs doing 10 things at a time…but getting nothing accomplished. He reminded me that a few months ago I wasn’t even able to jump or walk around the park without falling asleep. He’s my support as I search for some sort of balance. I may be exhausted, but I think it will be worth it.”
Indeed, Ms. Jaiani says that despite every sleepless night and tired-to-the-bone day, this will all pay off in the end. “I want [Maxim] to be proud of what his mommy does,” she explains. “I want to show him to never be afraid of hard work and ambition. I want him to see that you can be in love with what you do. I want him to be a part of it all.”