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Allyson Felix is the most decorated U.S. Olympics woman track and field star. Her nine Olympic medals are a superhuman feat.
Now in her 15th season she’s sharing word of another superhuman feat. Felix gave birth to her first child, a daughter Camryn, last month via emergency Caesarean section. She and husband Kenneth are still in the NICU with her little one.
Felix, 32, shared her story, and news of her pregnancy, for the first time in a story published Thursday at ESPNW.
In it, and in Twitter mentions, she shares her anxiety over what motherhood means for her career and the harrowing moments when giving birth two months early.
Emergency C-section at 32 weeks
Felix had a rather uneventful pregnancy by her accounts in the story. At the 32-week check-up she was monitored for an hour and doctors said they didn’t like the baby’s heart rate.
Felix felt fine and when the doctor told her she needed to go to the hospital, she even asked if it could wait until after a scheduled photo shoot when she’d finally begin the announcement of her pregnancy.
I’m an athlete. I know how to take care of myself. I know how to eat right and get enough rest. And I’d been doing everything right throughout the whole pregnancy.
When I got to the hospital, I knew pretty quickly that something was very wrong.
Felix had high blood pressure and the baby’s heart rate decelerated, forcing an emergency C-section on Nov. 28. Camryn was born 3 pounds, 7 ounces and 16 inches. She was immediately taken to the NICU, where she still is being cared for three weeks later.
Felix said her daughter is doing well and will be OK.
Why just now share it?
Felix is the latest female athlete in a long line of them sharing publicly the same struggle most women have: how becoming a mother impacts a career.
Felix said she and her husband were excited when they found out she was pregnant. It felt right to do it now, she said, even though it could affect how she competes in 2019 and 2020.
There’s pressure that comes with that, such as her notion that if she had “enough willpower” she could win races while pregnant, just as Serena Williams won the Australian Open.
There’s also judgement.
“Having a child felt like I’d be risking my career and disappointing everyone who expected me to always put running first.”
Felix’s story is about an emergency birth and ensuing stay in the NICU as much as it is about women feeling torn between motherhood and career. It’s something Williams has noted and a reason many players’ unions, including the WNBA and the U.S. women’s national hockey team, are fighting for better benefits and assurances in their labor deals.
I hoped my experiences could help other women who were worried — like I’d been for so many years — of what starting a family would mean to their careers. To let them know that I too have those anxious feelings about sharing the news with my employer, and the repercussions I could possibly face.
Felix shared her story, she said, to show who she really is and why it might be an uphill battle for her to succeed at the next Olympics.
Putting running on hold
Felix raced twice in the outdoor season and performed notably slower. She was eight and nine weeks pregnant at the May events, she told espnW, and raced four months pregnant in July.
She’s the most decorated woman in Olympic track and field history with six golds and three silvers. She’s an 11-time world champion and 16-time world medalist.
She intended to race a quiet season, shut it down midway through, have her baby quietly in the time between Olympics and return for Tokyo in 2020. Though the first part has gone somewhat unplanned, she still intends to be in Tokyo.
“If I come back and I’m just not the same, if I can’t make a fifth Olympic team, I’m gonna know that I fought, that I was determined, and that I gave it my absolute all. And if it doesn’t end up the way I imagined in my head, it’ll be OK. I just have to go for it, because that’s just simply who we are now.”
Congrats to the new parents and applause for Felix to share her story.
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