Saturday, November 19, 2016

Moms Don't Coach

One of the things that we talk about at the WI Track Coaches Clinic every year, is how there are so few female coaches out there compared to male coaches.  I'm in my 7th year of coaching, and I can probably tell you why there are not as many female coaches out there (as opposed to male).  I've seen young female coaches who start coaching out of college, but then (in general) as soon as they have kids, they are done coaching.  I have heard it over and over as the reason why many women I know (that I would have loved to have as assistants), won't coach.  Dads coach.  Moms don't
I had my first kid 6 days before the track season started in 2013.  I was assistant coach at Wausau East.  My fellow coaches were supportive about it.  I drove separate to nearby meets.  I brought her to practice with me most days.  I nursed before and after practice in the coach's room.  She came to nearby meets and the student-athletes were supportive and liked having her there but never treated her as a distraction, or me as less of a coach.
Shortly after that first season with a newborn ended, we moved, and I have experienced, what feels like constant battles in defense of myself as a mom who coaches.  I had my 2nd kid after the 4th day of track practice in 2015.  I was now the sole assistant coach to my husband.  I missed the next day of practice since he wasn't discharged yet, but I was there on Monday.  And every practice after that. Because that is the crazy dedication I have to the kids I coach
Things I have learned… despite the fact that WI law states that women can breastfeed in public places and cannot be asked to stop, move, or cover up (I’m never NOT covered if I ever breastfeed around people), apparently this does not apply to coaches, even when their newborn is less than a week old.  Pumping is reality for breastfeeding moms, and during the track season it means that you then have to drive separately to meets in order to pump on the way, you’ll have to take a break during the meet to pump, and then pump immediately again on the way home (in the case of a newborn at least).  For the volleyball season it means that you travel to tournaments with your pump and must find a private space to use that locks, has an outlet, and doesn’t have windows.  This often means a cold, uncomfortable, and sometimes dirty, bathroom.   
Children are not allowed in the weight room.  At all.  Even if you are supervising them and they are not running around.  Yes, I understand the safety aspect of this.  No, I do not get paid anything for working with athletes in the off-season in the weight room, but thanks for letting me know that I can put them in daycare at my own expense.  This past volleyball season I was reprimanded for having my eldest next to me on the bench during a game.  She wasn’t disruptive, hardly talked, and sat very well.  If there is a complaint, it should be that I failed in my coaching somehow, not that I had my well-behaved kid next to me.  Never did she keep me from my role as a coach. 
Whenever the kids have been at track practices or meets in the past, I have not compromised my role as a coach.  I’ll be honest; I think I’m a damn good coach too.  But it doesn’t seem to matter; because what’s noticed is that I have kids.  Does it matter that our volleyball program finally has consistency after me being their 4th coach in 4 years, and every year since I’ve taken over the program we have improved our conference standing and/or conference record?  Does it matter that under my coaching, our track program has seen numerous school records fall?  Does it matter that I coached a sophomore girl all the way to the podium at the State meet?  Does it matter that we are chasing down a State Championship, and even a State Record?  Does it matter that a freshman distance runner missed out on State by only 2 spots and is hungrier than ever to get there as a sophomore, and claim School Records as his own as well?  Does it matter that I had a first-year senior break the school record multiple times and miss out on State by one miss?  Do you think any of the athletes would say that I was less of a coach because I was a mom too?
Coaching Daisy at the 2016 State Track & Field Meet 
Now I’m pregnant with our third child.  Conveniently, my due date also coincides with the first day of track practice.  And all my past failings of being a mom and coach are being drudged back up in anticipation of future failings.  I thought I was a 30-year coach.  I’ve had a long-term mindset from the beginning, and suddenly I went home after a meeting, on the verge of turning in my resignation.  Defeated.  That’s what society does to moms who coach.  They make it as tough as possible, offer no real support, and make them feel like their kids are an unwanted nuisance and the mom is lesser of a coach and person because of it.
Statistically, Moms are less likely to take on roles that take them away from time with their kids.  There are mothers out there who would make excellent coaches and positive role models for our student-athletes, but they do not feel like they belong in these coaching positions.  So when you see a mom taking time away from her kids in order to coach your kids?  Please support her.  Because there are plenty of people who don’t, but she’s doing it because she’s passionate about what she’s doing, and she’s trying so hard to do her very best.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Baby Health Scares

            If you are a parent, you know that the worry starts long before the baby is born.  Those that have had miscarriages deal with an even higher level of stress and concern.  With all 3 of my pregnancies, we have had our own set of worries to deal with.  These have been things I’ve rarely shared in the past.
            I had my ultrasound with Baya, and everything appeared to be good.  I got a call from my doctor that night, who said that it looked good, but there was one concern.  Baya had a calcium deposit on her heart.  By itself, that means absolutely nothing.  It is not a heart concern at all, but rather it is a single “marker.”  We could have another ultrasound done to see if there were any other markers.  One marker means nothing, but if there are multiple markers, it COULD mean Down’s Syndrome.  Even if there was another marker found in another ultrasound, we still wouldn’t know for certain without getting an amnio done, which has an uncomfortably high risk of miscarriage, which we weren’t willing to take.  We didn’t do any more ultrasounds, but spent the next 4 months worrying about the possibilities.  After the chaos of delivery had subsided, and we were left alone as a family of 3, it finally hit me that we had a healthy baby.  I cried.
            At 11 weeks along with Myles, I went in to hear the heartbeat.  A week later, I would have my final race of the season, but we were seeing extended family on both sides after that appointment, and we thought about sharing our news with everyone in person.  The doctor couldn’t find the heartbeat at the appointment.  “It could just be too early.” But it could also be that I was miscarrying.  We suffered through the next two weeks until we heard the heartbeat loud and clear at 13 weeks along.
            For this baby, I don’t even know how to start.  Let’s just say that there was serious debate about not going to Cozumel for the World Championships.  Not because I would be racing during second trimester at 16 weeks, but because Mexico has reported cases of the Zika virus.  A general statement that the CDC released was that they advised pregnant women not to travel to areas with known Zika cases, as there is a link with Zika to microcephaly, where the development of the baby is affected.  I’ve expressed what Worlds has meant to me, and thinking about giving that up, and ending on the disappointing note that was Nationals was devastating.  There was loss of sleep and lots of crying; a lot of self-torture and questioning of selfishness and loss of personal identity, choice, and freedom that comes with being a mom.  Along with hours of research about the virus, prevention, risks, and places of outbreak, I also called my doctor’s office.  This wasn’t some vacation that would just make me lose out on a lot of money.  This was the World Championships that I planned as my finale.
            The reported cases in Mexico were broken down by the different states, and the state of Quintana Roo (which Cozumel is a part of), was on the low end for total cases since the beginning of the year.  Our thought was that Cozumel itself was most likely even lower than the rest of the state as well, since it is surrounded by open water, which also means wind.  The further inland you go, the more bugs you tend to get.  There is also a lot unknown about the virus.  If I got the virus, would it automatically affect the baby?  They didn’t know.  The affects could also range from extremely mild to very severe.  Certainly the entire country of Brazil hadn’t just stopped having babies either.  Not every mosquito, or even all of a particular type, would be infected either.  We did a lot of research on the level of risk associated with traveling to Cozumel.
            My doctor said they just advise taking preventative measures while I was there.  I was super diligent in putting on bug spray repetitively throughout the day and evening.  Nevertheless, I still had about a handful of bug bites by time the trip was over.  Neither Andy nor I had any symptoms upon return, but a fairly high percentage of people never have symptoms.  Since we didn’t have symptoms, but I was pregnant, I could get tested after being back for a few weeks.  The test took more than a week to come in with results.  The same day I was tested, I had my ultrasound.  I constantly looked at the head – did it look normal in size?  Was my baby developing properly?  This ultrasound didn’t have the same excitement as the others, and instead had a lot more fear and apprehension with it.  The baby measured in the normal range.  Nothing would feel okay though until we finally got the test results back.
Eventually the call came.  My test was negative.  I was safe.  You don’t always realize you’ve been holding your breath until you finally let it out.  With every kick and movement, and even every bit of nausea from heartburn, there is a thankful cry to God.  We’re going to be ok.