New Idea - - Celeb Newsflash - By Paul Ewart Pho­tog­ra­phy: Michelle Holden

She made her name rep­re­sent­ing her coun­try at three Olympic Games.

But while Jana Pittman has scored big on the track, she has learnt that there are some hur­dles in her per­sonal life that she just can’t jump.

“I wanted the tra­di­tional mar­riage with five kids,” the 35-year-old tells New Idea in an ex­clu­sive in­ter­view. “It’s al­ways what I dreamt of – and it’s what my friends got – but it just didn’t play out that way for me, un­for­tu­nately.”

She mar­ried Bri­tish ath­lete Chris Rawl­in­son the week af­ter she com­peted in the 2006 Com­mon­wealth Games, but the pair be­gan pro­ceed­ings for their first di­vorce three years later. How­ever, af­ter it was fi­nalised in 2010 they re­united, mar­ried again, and re­lo­cated to the UK be­fore call­ing it quits for good one year later. Jana re­turned home with their son, Cor­nelis.

“I didn’t want to put my fam­ily through an­other di­vorce by mar­ry­ing too quickly,” she ex­plains. “And I had fad­ing fer­til­ity, which is where my IVF jour­ney started. So, pre­ma­turely, I had to make a de­ci­sion about hav­ing kids. It was re­ally now or never for me and I didn’t want it to be a never.” Mak­ing the de­ci­sion to get preg­nant alone, she con­ceived Emily via IVF and an anony­mous sperm donor. Last year she used the same donor to con­ceive her third child, Jemima. Luck­ily, her de­ci­sion to build a fam­ily solo was one that her own fam­ily ral­lied around.

“They were great,” she says. “When I told my mum she was com­pletely on­side and very sup­port­ive. For years and years “fam­ily” has been the tra­di­tional model of man gets mar­ried to wife and has chil­dren. It’s what we’ve grown up with. But not ev­ery­one can have that life.”

Ac­knowl­edg­ing that she’s “lucky” to live in an age and a so­ci­ety that’s more ac­cept­ing to un­con­ven­tional par­ent­ing mod­els, Jana praises her fam­ily for pro­vid­ing a sup­port net­work that’s in­valu­able.

“It’s not easy,” she says of child rear­ing. “But hav­ing chil­dren in a cou­ple isn’t easy. I have two friends who are mar­ried who don’t have any fam­ily and I think they have it even harder than I do. I lit­er­ally live a few doors down from my par­ents and my brother – he has a strong role in the lives of my kids. So I’m not do­ing this alone, de­spite the fact that I’m sin­gle.”

In April last year the world­cham­pion hur­dler made head­lines across the coun­try af­ter she took to Face­book to an­nounce plans to marry for the third time. Hav­ing met IT con­sul­tant Ra­jiv just a few months ear­lier – shortly af­ter the birth of her third child – Jana called him her “soul­mate” in the ju­bi­lant post. But while the for­mer ath­lete thought she had found her hap­pily every af­ter, she now re­veals that the “whirl­wind” ro­mance has come to an abrupt end.

“Un­for­tu­nately that re­la­tion­ship didn’t con­tinue,” she says sadly. “I’m back to that square-one phase but, you know, it is what it is. I feel like I’m quite suc­cess­ful in some ar­eas in my life, but that’s not one I’m able to con­quer. I’m so time-poor with such a huge ca­reer and three beau­ti­ful chil­dren – who I spend

every free mo­ment with – that there’s not a lot of room for some­one else and they of­ten feel left out and then they leave.

“I hear the same line time and time again: ‘I’m re­ally sorry, but I don’t want to be fourth in your life.’ And then I’m like: ‘Okay, see you later!’ I think if you haven’t met the love of your life it’s not nec­es­sar­ily a bad thing, and you still have op­tions. You just have to ac­cept the hand you’ve been dealt and make the most of what you do have.”

Ac­cep­tance of fail­ure has been a hard les­son for the high achiever, and just as her love-life has been far from plain sail­ing, one as­pect of moth­er­hood in par­tic­u­lar proved to be prob­lem­atic for the re­source­ful Jana: breast­feed­ing.

“You think it will come nat­u­rally,” she ad­mits. “So when you give birth to a baby and you can’t feed her it’s heart­break­ing.

“With my son I had mas­ti­tis – which is an in­fec­tion in the breasts – and I got that four times. I was train­ing for the World Cham­pi­onships at the time so it was just too hard and I gave up. Months later I had huge re­gret and thought I hadn’t worked hard enough … I just felt like a fail­ure. With my sec­ond baby, Emily, I was de­ter­mined that it would be dif­fer­ent. I worked re­ally hard but had the mas­ti­tis again.”

At her wits’ end, help fi­nally came af­ter a help­ful mid­wife sug­gested Qiara – an all-nat­u­ral breast­feed­ing pro­bi­otic iso­lated from healthy hu­man breast milk.

“It helped me to get rid of the mas­ti­tis and I was able to breast­feed Emily for five months, which was a mir­a­cle con­sid­er­ing the strug­gles I’d had be­fore,” she ex­plains. “But it was def­i­nitely one of the hard­est things I’ve ever done. I think the big­gest mes­sage I’m try­ing to get out there is how dif­fi­cult it is and that it isn’t for ev­ery­one, and to not beat your­self up about it, which so many women do. It’s like a mar­riage – if it doesn’t work, then it’s hard.”

Hav­ing left pro­fes­sional sports to be­come a doc­tor, Jana is about to start her fi­nal year of stud­ies with an end goal of be­com­ing an ob­ste­tri­ciang­y­nae­col­o­gist .“I love women’ s health and em­pow­er­ing women,” she says. “And I find preg­nancy and in­fer­til­ity fas­ci­nat­ing. Yes, there are peo­ple who have ques­tioned me, ask­ing, “How are you go­ing to jug­gle three kids with a med­i­cal ca­reer?” That’s some­thing I’m still try­ing to fig­ure out, but I know that my chil­dren will al­ways come first. Moth­er­hood is my new Olympics, for sure … but just like ath­let­ics the re­wards are so great at the end.”

But for women do­ing it tough, Jana’s big­gest piece of ad­vice is per­haps also her sim­plest: “You’ve got to give your­self a break,” she says mat­ter-of-factly. “I’ve had far more fail­ures in my life than I’ve ever had suc­cesses and I have been shat­tered every time some­thing went wrong. My mar­riage failed – shat­ter­ing; the first time I gave up try­ing to breast­feed – shat­ter­ing; los­ing the Olympics – shat­ter­ing. There’s al­ways pain, but we need to learn not to block it and to deal with it and then move on.”

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