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A Strong Support Network is Vital
It's hard to believe my first season as a “World Cup mom” is already ending, and that my son is just a couple weeks away from his first birthday! This winter has been such an adventure – full of great memories, plenty of patience and perseverance, and many lessons learned. While it's fresh in my mind and I have a few free moments (much more rare these days), I want to share some of the themes that came to define our year as a traveling family.
To be able to return to high-level athletics after having a baby, there is no doubt in my mind that the most important thing is to have a strong support network. I've been fortunate to have an amazing “team” behind me this season. It begins with my husband, Jeff, who lovingly embraced the job of “Daddy Daycare” right from the beginning, and made it possible for the three of us to travel everywhere together. My parents and Jeff's parents took turns traveling with us in Europe this winter to help take care of Breck, even going so far as to take him the night before important races so that I could get a full night's rest. My team has been incredibly accommodating – not only giving me the opportunity to come back to the World Cup fully supported, but also in helping to schlep baby gear on and off buses and in being adopted aunts and uncles to Breck.
Another thing we learned is that traveling with a tiny human requires more gear than you can imagine! Last fall as I packed up, I did my best to predict the minimum amount of gear we would need to get through four months and many growth spurts. We brought toys, a portable highchair, a travel crib and enough clothes to span seven months to one year. Some items were key, such as our Thule Chariot that carted Breck around through the snow and ice, and some items never left the bag. Turns out that Breck is just as happy to play with a paper-towel roll as he is with the many toys we brought! I was impressed with how well equipped many places in Europe were for babies. Highchairs were great for feeding Breck as he became more independent, and it turns out they're great when learning to walk as well!
With four “World Cup moms” returning to competition this season, it was encouraging to see the International Ski Federation and many of the World Cup race organizers provide support that made it easier to bring our families on the road. It was key to have on-site “baby rooms” at race venues so that while I was focused on preparing for my racing, I had peace of mind that there was a warm space for the babies and their caretakers for resting, changing diapers, feeding and playing. While many of the other “athlete moms” left their babies at home, on the few occasions that we got the babies together to play, it was fun.
The camaraderie of the World Cup moms and relationships with other parents were unforeseen perks of the season. I had always been friendly with Marit Bjoergen, Katja Visnar and Aino-kaisa Saarinen, but now we had an entirely new level of experience to share. We traded stories on development stages, baby gear and our experiences of coming back to competition after pregnancy. We owe credit to Aino-kaisa for convincing us to do sleep training with Breck mid-season, which got him sleeping through the night.
Perhaps the best lesson learned over the season was the confirmation that it's possible to have a baby and come back to high-level competition. It took some patience on my part early in the season to reacquaint myself with race-hard efforts and to give my body a little more time to normalize from the pregnancy and delivery effects. But each week that went by, I felt a little stronger, and by the start of World Championships, I was finally hitting my stride. My daily schedule was different than my pre-baby days, but I found a good balance in managing family time and logistics with my training and recovery needs. The best part was that no matter the result, I got to come back to a smiling baby, and that is more amazing and fun than I could have ever imagined. Having the family on the road was definitely challenging this winter, but thanks to all the great support from my family, my team and the World Cup family, it was a great experience.
Baby Breck...traveling with a tiny human requires more gear than you can imagine.