After I left my fourth Olympic Games in Sochi empty handed, I still felt the deep desire to chase after that elusive Olympic medal one more time. But I was also 31 years old and my husband and I were eager to start our family. So, it was time to make a choice: continue my career for four more years, or retire from sport and start a family. Thankfully, we decided on a third option: I would continue competing, but take a year away from racing to have a baby and then come back in time for the 2018 Olympics. My husband Jeff and I were incredibly fortunate to welcome our son Breck into the world in April 2016.
The only way I knew I could return to racing was having my family with me every step of the way. That meant packing up the three of us and hitting the road together for the four-month stint that is the World Cup season, mostly in Europe. We anticipated that such a journey with an infant would be a new challenge for us. But we were excited for the adventure and just jumped in without thinking too much about it!
Our first challenge was finding people to help take care of Breck during the races. On the weekends, I would be racing and Jeff would continue his job as part of the World Cup staff, so we needed an extra pair of hands. We considered looking for a European based nanny but when both sets of our parents offered to come help, we lined up a rotating schedule of grandparents and a gracious friend in Sweden. This saved us big on cost and they were people we knew we could immediately trust.
The next challenge was trying to predict all the gear we would need. Just seven months into our new roles as parents, it was tricky planning ahead for four months! I scoured travel websites and asked friends for their tips. We knew we would have to strike a balance between taking what we would need while also traveling as minimal and light as possible. A couple things we figured would be important were a sturdy outdoor stroller (good in the snow) and a travel crib so that our little guy would at least have a familiar place to sleep each night in the many locations we would visit. At the last minute, I decided to pack some bigger clothes for Breck to grow into.
One area I didn’t totally have planned out was the logistics of always having an extra person with us (taking care of Breck) and what it would be like transporting an infant on planes, trains and buses. I thought I would just be putting the baby on my lap while following the same routine I’d done over the past decade. A few times we arranged our own transportation, separate from my team, just knowing how much stuff we would have with us. I wanted to try to still be a part of the team as much as possible but also not be disruptive to the team.
Over first winter turned out to be quite a fun adventure. Now that we’ve done it once, it’s fun to look back on where we were a year ago getting ready for our first family foray on the World Cup. I’m glad we weren’t overly stressed about what we were doing and went in with an open mind. Through our first year we learned a lot. The best part was, we got to be together every day. Next time, I will share some of the things we did well and all the things we learned along the way.
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