“It was painful both emotionally and physically,” the Little Women: L.A. star and mother of two tells PEOPLE of starting on the ABC reality competition last fall just three weeks after having a cesarean section. “I worried about missing time with my kids, but I also ended up with three hernias and [ripped stomach muscles.] I had to have surgery after the season was over.”
“Peta is a superstar and looked better pregnant than I do without a baby in my belly, so I’m sure she’s bounced back fast,” prefaces Jolé. “But your stamina is not what it was before your pregnancy. Your body is not the same after carrying a child for nine months and it’s still adjusting to not having that baby in there anymore.”
“One of the hardest parts for me was wanting to keep going in rehearsal but having to stop to pump,” continues Jolé, who is mom to daughter Penny, 1, and son Grayson Vincent, 7 months, with husband Joe Gnoffo. “[Pro dancer Sasha Farber] and I would want to keep going, but I would set a timer for every two hours and when it went off, I had to go pump. I’d try and push it but that wouldn’t go well. So I’d remind Peta to make sure to pump!”
While other contestants would spend hours at home rehearsing their routines in addition to the allotted time they got with their partners, Jolé says her motherhood duties meant getting creative when it came to preparing for the competition.
RELATED VIDEO: Terra Jolé Says Her Kids Inspired Her to Compete on DWTS
“I’d be breast feeding and watching a video of our dance over and over so I could figure it out and put it in my head until it became second nature,” she says.
Jolé, whose final weeks on DWTS will play out on the new season of Little Women: L.A. (premiering Tuesday), says the only way she was able to juggle her work commitments and motherhood duties was with her “incredibly supportive” husband and network of family and friends.
“Even with a team, it was a lot to juggle. I don’t know how Peta and Maks are going to do it while both of them are on the show,” says Jolé. “But if anyone can do it, they can. They’re such incredible people and dancers. I can only imagine they’re also great parents, as well.”
Season 24 of Dancing with the Stars is slated to premiere March 20 on ABC, and season 6 of Little Women: L.A. premieres Tuesday at 9 p.m. ET on Lifetime.