Slingfessionals: Pregnancy as a Professional Athlete
Every woman is asked the question (or asks the question of herself) at some point in her life:
"Are you having kids?"
I have always known I wanted babies—just not very many. I grew up in a home with two other siblings and that seemed to be a magical number for our family. There was always one kid to boss the other two around and always one to get picked on and excluded from the other two. I was a middle child and indeed have suffered from middle child syndrome my entire life, but, I loved having two siblings (my youngest & third sibling came much later in life) to grow up with and I wouldn’t have traded it for anything.
I’ve told myself for years that 30 was the magic age for childbearing. When I was in my early 20's I had no idea if I would even get married--that too seemed like a distant reality (I have been happily married for just over a year now). I am also now approaching 30 and the topic seems to be a revolving conversation amongst our friends and family.
If I'm being honest here, I'm terrified. I know I'm not alone in this feeling. I'm not so much terrified for the being pregnant part. I'm terrified for how my life will change. It makes me feel selfish when I think about the time I won't have and all the things I won't be able to do because someone else will be dependent on me. I watch my husband at family gatherings play with the young boys and his face lights up. He wants so badly to be a father (and he will be a great one)...how can I rob him of that joy any longer? There is no pressure from him, nor is anyone telling me that I have to be pregnant by a certain time. The timeline is internal for me. The more I build my dance career and travel the more pressing all of these thoughts become.
Being a professional performer & instructor, my job is my body. This makes the idea of being pregnant two-fold. On the one hand, I feel as though my body is strong and will be able to handle pregnancy well (to the best of its ability--I'm not assuming I know at all what it is like to grow a human inside of my vessel). On the other hand, it causes other anxieties & thoughts such as: Will I be as strong post-pregnancy? Will I be able to teach dance still (and possibly still travel)? Will my body bounce back? Again, I know I'm not alone in these thoughts and have had numerous friends share these emotions with me and they don't dance as a profession. Giving up space inside of your own body to create another human life is such a beautiful and wonderful thing, but until you experience it there are so many unknown variables. My family always considered me the worry-wart (perhaps a residual trait of my aforementioned middle-child syndrome?) so this feels like a somewhat normal part of the journey and process.
There’s also the part of my brain that says, “if you start having kids, you will fall behind in the aerial world and become irrelevant.” To even write this down publicly is embarrassing enough, however, it’s very helpful to read the words instead of just think them. When I think about all of the things in life that give me the greatest joy and pleasure, it’s not traveling the world, it’s not getting 1,000 likes on an Instagram post, it’s not even teaching. The thing that gives me greatest joy is to feel like I’m creating a legacy. A legacy shared with my husband that will survive long after we are gone from this world. Maybe that’s in the things we accomplish together or in the humans that we raise. Either way, I’m starting to realize that the “simplest” moments of life are the most important and most treasured, not the “greatest” accomplishments.
People tell me, more often then they probably should, not to have kids. A former friend once tried to tell me that I would basically amount to nothing and that I would just work a 9-5 job and “pop out babies for my man” (as if this was some kind of curse). The beautiful thing about this is: it’s not up to anyone else to decide what my success is (or what it looks like) or if/when I start a family.
I had been planning on writing this blog post for awhile and then the Universe reminded me of a few powerhouse mommies that I knew I had to talk about. One of my closest friends, Jess, is pregnant with her first child. Watching her experience pregnancy from the very beginning has been so magical (for her) but also for me. I have first-hand, witnessed the immense joy in her and Austin's life just by knowing there's a tiny human growing inside of her. She and her husband are full-time YouTubers and own Men Try Videos. They also have a vlog channel where Jess has been sharing tons of pregnancy videos.
Then there is Allison Sipes (@alliegatoruf on Instagram). She is not a woman I know personally, only through the pole/aerial community, but I was totally inspired following her pole-pregnancy this past year. She has a rock solid pole dancing career & was still dancing through her third trimester. Seeing professional dancers & movers, like Allison, who keep “doing life” in the midst of so many emotional and physical changes is both inspiring and astonishing!
Last but not least are my friends Mary Ellen Wolfe & Tyce Nielsen (Duo Transcend). Mary & Tyce are an incredibly hard-working and talented husband-wife aerial/skating duo. Of course, being Cirque Du Soleil artists, it’s hard to even compare them to “normal people” because, let’s be honest, they are actually superheroes. When Mary Ellen got pregnant I had no doubt in my mind that she would have a six pack in less than a month postpartum (I think it actually ended up being something crazy like 10 days!). Besides their beyond human strength, they are extremely down-to-earth and family-oriented. Starting a family has never held them back or stifled their pursuit of happiness. I have always looked up to them as both remarkable humans and as successful artists.
Highlighting these beautiful people around me that are successful in their own right and fearlessly bringing life to earth is inspiring to me. It gives me encouragement that life after kids doesn't mean life has to end (as we know it). That I can still pursue my passions and dreams, although things like time and energy will just be a bit more compromised! I initially wrote this blog post to open up the dialogue about pregnancy as an athlete. To talk about the fears and stigmas surrounding pregnancy that every woman subconsciously or consciously is bombarded with daily. As I kept writing, my fear grew less and less because I realize I am in good company (as are you, reader).
Regardless of what the world tells you is important follow your dreams relentlessly & fearlessly, whatever that may be.
What are your thoughts and fears regarding this topic? I'd like to know in the comments below!