"I'm doing this for them and I'm doing this for myself," Jolé tells PEOPLE exclusively

By Aili Nahas
October 13, 2016 09:55 AM

Terra Jolé is the first-ever little person to compete on Dancing with the Stars — and while it hasn’t been easy, knowing she’s setting an example for her children is what’s keeping her going.

“I’m doing this for them and I’m doing this for myself,” Jolé, 36, tells PEOPLE exclusively in this week’s issue. “I want to prove everyone wrong. I have something to prove and that’s what it feels like I’m here to do.”

The Little Women: L.A. star, who is married to actor Joe Gnoffo, is mother to 19-month old daughter Penelope, who has achondroplasia, and welcomed her second child, a boy named Grayson D’Artagnan in August. Jolé doesn’t yet know if Grayson has a form of dwarfism.

Jolé joined the ABC dance competition just three weeks after giving birth to Grayson via C-section.

“It’s crazy,” she admits. “I didn’t have any hesitations about wanting to do DWTS but I wanted to make sure that I was checked out by a doctor. I made sure before I said yes that I got his approval. He was very blunt — he said: ‘You’re not going to die, but you’re going to be in so much pain.’ ”

Credit: Courtesy Elena Gant

But Jolé is fighting through it because she wants to show the world that a little person can compete and partner-dance with an average-height partner, just like any other competitor.

“I feel like people can be enlightened about little people and feeling like you can do anything in this life,” she says. “If I can have a C-section and perform three weeks after, I feel like any average-sized person can accomplish these goals in their lives.”

For exclusive photos and much more from the Little Women, pick up the new issue of PEOPLE, on stands Friday.

Credit: Larsen & Talbert

Jolé has been honest about the challenges she faces on the show and says one of the biggest struggles is being away from her kids.

“Being away from my children is the worst,” she says. “I have no words to describe it. I see them when they’re sleeping in the morning and I see them sleeping at night and it feels like they’re not going to know me when they get older! But I know this journey won’t last forever and I keep reminding myself of that.”

And when the kids do wake up, it’s just as heartwarming as you might imagine.

“Penelope recognizes me when I come home and gets excited and wants to be held and says my name and that is everything,” gushes Jolé. “It’s so awesome. I just want to freeze-frame those moments.”

Ultimately, Jolé admits her DWTS journey is “totally overwhelming but so rewarding at the same time.”

“Just being asked to be on the show feels like I have already won,” she adds.

Dancing with the Stars airs Mondays and Tuesdays (8 p.m. ET) on ABC, and Little Women: L.A. airs Wednesdays (8 p.m. ET) on Lifetime.