Olympian Alison Felix on Traumatic Birth, Retirement and Serena Williams

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track and field star Alison Felix She had no reason to believe that her pregnancy would not proceed smoothly. Not only was she healthy, but, as one of the fastest people on the planet, her body was in incredible physical shape.

So it came as a shock when, at 32 weeks pregnant, she was diagnosed with severe preeclampsia, a condition characterized by high blood pressure in pregnancy that is a leading cause of maternal death worldwide. In America, black pregnant people are five times Whites are more likely to die from preeclampsia than pregnant people.

“Being a professional athlete, honestly, I take my health lightly,” Felix told HuffPost in an interview promoting his new partnership with Clorox. “In my mind, I wanted to be born this beautiful natural.”

To save his and his daughter’s life, Felix had to abandon his birth plan and deliver prematurely at 32 weeks via emergency C-section.

Experience taught him how important it can be to have a lawyer in your corner. For Felix, that person was her husband, Kenneth Ferguson.

“Things were going downhill. The doctors came in, and we had to start making some decisions about what we were going to do,” she said. ,[Kenneth] That was exactly what was to be advocated. I didn’t have the ability to do those things.”

“I’d say it’s probably a year and a half until I caught a glimpse of who I was before [giving birth], And then realizing that I don’t have to be the exact same person… there are so many ways to look strong.”

– track star Alison Felix

Felix and Ferguson’s daughter Camry spent the first weeks of her life in the NICU.

“Even when we were in the NICU, and when we had just come home, I still wasn’t sure I was going to make it back. [to track and field]Felix said.

“Things that were once really simple, really easy for me, were really challenging. I’d say it’s probably a year and a half until I caught a glimpse of who I was before. And then realizing that I was fine Not being the same person I am. And looking strong in so many different ways,” she said.

Felix found that she still had the same competition, but, as a mother, her motivation had changed.

“I felt like people were telling me I couldn’t have both of these things. But that was the drive to show [Camryn] That no one can limit your life, and you can do everything you want to do,” she said.

Felix returned to competition after an eight-month delivery and won gold medals at the 2019 World Athletics Championships in Doha, Qatar, surpassing Jamaican track legend Usain Bolt’s record number of world championship golds. She has also won 11 Olympic medals in five Olympic Games.

Katherine Lotz via Getty Images

Alison Felix is ​​the most decorated US track and field athlete of all time.

Felix not only returned a champion from Doha, but he also took on a public role as an advocate for mothers and athletes.

Shaken by her own brush with death during pregnancy, she testified before Congress about the black maternal mortality rate, which is approx. three times The higher the white maternal mortality rate.

She took a very public stance against Nike, its sponsor, the publication New York Times Op-Ed In which she revealed that the company wanted to reduce her salary by 70% in the contract she was trying to negotiate after becoming a mother. In the article, she advocated for maternity protection for athletes, such as maintaining their pay even if their performance changed in the months surrounding the birth of the child.

Felix eventually signed with Athleta and also started his own footwear company, SayshoWearing his own shoe brand won two medals at the Tokyo Olympics.

The track star announced in April that she would be retiring after the July 2022 World Athletics Championships in Eugene, Oregon. She says she made the decision to feel “complete with competition.”

“I think we’re seeing so many incredible examples of women who are doing the best of their lives after becoming mothers.”

– Felix

Felix admits it will be a challenge to leave the competition after 20 years, but is excited about new endeavors such as his business and advocacy work.

Serena Williams Recent Vogue Essayin which she announced her retirement from tennis to focus on expanding her family, which resonated with Felix.

“I love how he talked about getting away from tennis, because as athletes, you know, it’s called retirement, but you’re transitioning to other things, and you don’t stop working. Well, you don’t stop your passion,” she said. Told.

Felix also appreciated how Williams spoke openly about men not having to choose between family and career in this way.

When asked what kind of support athlete moms need to navigate parenthood and competition, Felix immediately suggested childcare. He is proud to be part of an effort to bring free child care to athletes, coaches and officials at this year’s World Athletics Championships.

“I think about how challenging it was, and how expensive, when I started traveling with my daughter for competition, and flying around the world with an 8-month-old baby and going from hotel to hotel, Getting the support system to do this,” Felix said.

It was that support ability, she explained, that allowed her to return to competition in peak form.

“I think we’re seeing so many incredible examples of women who have had the best of their lives since becoming mothers,” Felix said. He said such stories should be “the norm”.

“But it requires a level of support,” she said, including the things she’s fought for, like maternity protection in contracts and child care.

Alison Felix and their 3-year-old daughter Camry with husband Kenneth Ferguson.

Hannah Peters via Getty Images

Alison Felix and their 3-year-old daughter Camry with husband Kenneth Ferguson.

Regarding work-life balance, Felix said, “There’s no balance. I try to integrate.”

“For me, it’s about deciding to attend at home,” she said, explaining that she takes time off to do things like drop her daughter into gymnastics.

When her daughter sees the choices and sacrifices made by her parents, Felix hopes Camry will be inspired to “be a fighter.”

“We will all have adversity, and she certainly will. But this is how you weather that storm,” Felix said. “I really wish he could stand up for what feels right, and be confident enough to use his voice.”

For the next generation of athletes, Felix hopes they will feel able to have children “when the time is right for them based on their own families and their own preferences.”

“I thought I had to be so accomplished before I could even think about starting a family,” Felix said. “You know, it’s a lot of work, it’s really hard. But if it’s what your heart desires, you can do both.”

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