The dancer returned to Dancing With the Stars seven weeks after her son, Shai, was born. Now she's pumping, planning a wedding, and championing the new-mom bod.
The love story between Peta Murgatroyd, 30, and Maksim Chmerkovskiy, 37, keeps fans rooting for the dancing pros on ABC’s Dancing With the Stars. Off the show, they were planning their wedding when they found out that Murgatroyd was expecting. "I never imagined that," she says. "We had the venue booked before I got pregnant." Murgatroyd's mom will carry Shai down the aisle in front of 380 guests at a castle on Long Island next month. Then baby Shai will join the pair on their honeymoon. "We know we're together forever," says the mom, adding that life feels blissful. "Shai is the basis of our love, and we're just so happy." Of course, a professional dancer's job, much like a mother's, is to make hard things look easy. In a late-night interview after a day of dancing, Murgatroyd gave us a candid glimpse of what her life has been like behind the scenes.
A surprise pregnancy
“Maks and I were so careful, but one night we weren’t. Days later I had this massive hot flash and I thought, ‘I better take a test.’ So I did. ‘What?! How?!’ A tear went down my cheek, because I didn’t know what to do. I was thinking, ‘Do I go to work? Do I call 100 people?’ I called Maks, who was in Vegas, and said, ‘Well, I’m pregnant.’ He thought I was kidding. When I told him I wasn’t, he said, ‘Wow, that’s good, babe’ in kind of a monotone. It was really weird! He added, ‘I’m in a car full of people. I love you so much. I’ll call you back.’ He did a few minutes later and he was absolutely thrilled and came straight home to celebrate.”
On with the show
“I had to dance through nausea, which wasn’t great. The worst thing, though, was fatigue. I’d literally fall asleep on the couch in the studio while I was supposed to be teaching Nyle [DiMarco, a model and deaf activist]. Eventually Nyle said, ‘I know your secret.’ He’d figured it out, because my boobs had grown and Maks was bringing me food every day. But Nyle and I won the season with me eight weeks' pregnant!”
Um, costume department?
“I gained about 40 pounds. My thighs got bigger. My boobs got bigger. My butt got ten times bigger. But throughout my pregnancy, I kept exercising: light weights, walking on an incline on the treadmill, and Pilates. Keeping up my core strength helped me push during the delivery.”
Drama for this mama
“Hormones mess with your emotions. During pregnancy, little things would set me off. I burst into tears because I thought the baby’s going-home outfit wasn’t the right color. Also, usually I’m obsessed with gourmet cheese. Maks came home with a bag full of it. He was being sweet, but I said, ‘I’ll puke if you make me eat that.’ Instead I went through a pasta phase, eating it with oil and salt at six in the morning.”
The main event
“I was induced at 40 weeks, because they thought Shai was going to be too big. [He was 7 pounds, 11 ounces.] My plan was to give birth naturally. But my doctor warned me that induction would hurt, so I got an epidural. Then I got pitocin, which gave me terrible shakes. Because of the epidural, I never had to feel intense contractions. Half the time Maks and I were laughing, half the time we were staring at the monitor. Sometime during the night, my water broke. I pushed for 30 minutes and he was here! Suddenly my baby was on my chest. Maks and I were in shock for the first 30 seconds. Then Maks started to cry, and then I did too. Shai looked at me, took his first breath, and just made a little noise. It was the best day of my life.”
Coming down from the high
“I still looked five months pregnant right after I gave birth. A friend who came to the hospital said, ‘Oh, you sure there’s not another one in there?’ I laughed, then went into the bathroom and cried. I’d just had this beautiful kid. I was high on life. That was a joke that I didn’t need to hear. Back home, I didn’t recognize my body. I had massive DDD boobs. It was overwhelming. So I posted a selfie on Instagram as a way to reach out to other women. I’m a dancer who is usually pretty damn fit, and I looked like a different person. Now I know you have to give yourself time.”
New (baby) steps
“At first, I had no idea what I was doing. I’d never even held a newborn before. I was nervous, and I didn’t want to make any mistakes. I tried to give Shai a bath and he was so slippery, I felt like I was going to drop him, so I had my nanny do it for weeks. She’s a godsend. She said, “You’ll do it when you’re ready.’ And eventually I did. Now his bathtime is one of my favorite times of the day.”
Milk is a team effort
“Shai latched on right away, so that was incredible. What they don’t tell you is when breast milk comes in, your boobs go rock-hard. That was super painful! I had Maks in the shower with me, massaging my boobs. My nipples were bleeding too. But now, breastfeeding is totally fine. I even look forward to pumping. I write notes on my phone, watch videos, plan my choreography. The only funny part is my left boob no longer produces anything. All the milk comes from my right boob. Everybody at work knows I’ve got one big boob. It’s hysterical.”
“When Shai was 11 days old, he got a fever and we took him to the hospital, where he stayed for two days. He had a bacterial infection. That experience made me more fearful. Our house went into lockdown. We put a Purell dispenser at every door and allowed only family to see him. No friends. Having visitors can feel overwhelming anyway. And I wanted Shai to myself for a while.”
Return to the big dance
“I got the call to come back on the show right after Shai was born. I said yes, but after I hung up, I said to Maks, ‘I don’t think I can do this.’ He reassured me. I returned with new agreements—there’d be a limit to my hours. Even so, much of the time when I go to work, I have tears in my eyes. Shai gives me this beautiful smile, and all I want to do is stay home for an extra hour. Then I think, ‘The sooner I go, the sooner I can get back.’ After work, I hurry home.”
Time to shine
“When I returned to work I still had 20 to 25 extra pounds on me. It was tough. But now, even with 10 pounds to go, I feel good. I want to show women you should be proud of where you are. Don’t always look into the future, or you’ll miss the now. That said, I’d love to have my pre-baby boobs back by my wedding day!”