My conversation with Elana could not have come at a more perfect time. For the first time in four years I’m not pregnant or breastfeeding, and I finally feel ready to get back into shape. Plus… I’m working towards a big goal. I’m a bit scared to say it outloud to all of you because then it will be real, but I’m going to run the Boston Marathon next year. But my abs are split, and I’m carrying an extra 20 pounds. It’s like my body forgot that I’m the same person who’s run Boston two times before. It feels like I’ve never run in my life! I know pregnancy changes our bodies, but everything just feels so different. I’m a stranger in my own body. And here comes Elana: an Olympic athlete and world champion who bounced back from a delivery that landed her son in the NICU to compete at the highest level less than a year later. While it may seem like a fairytale now, it definitely didn’t along the way, and she shares all of her doubts and how hard it is to juggle her training, her son, and everything in between.
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For professional athletes, there is never a “good time” to have a child. Elana Meyers Taylor, an Olympic bobsledder, weighed the decision with her husband. The thought of taking significant time off from training and competition for pregnancy and postpartum recovery was daunting, even potentially career ending. But Elana always wanted to be a mom. Though she struggled to get pregnant, fertility treatment wasn’t an option because hormones were illegal by drug testing regulations. After 2 years, Elana got pregnant. Elana’s pregnancy was relatively uneventful, by her standards anyway – as she juggled training and routine doctors appointments. Elana was induced at 36 weeks and after 8 days in the NICU, Nico was diagnosed with Down Syndrome. Elana and her family didn’t skip a beat. Less than 12 months later, Elana returned to the track and Nico was at the bottom waiting for her after her race.
You have shattered some glass ceilings in your bobsledding career. Tell us about being the first woman to drive a four man sled in a men’s event.
Men have traditionally had two disciplines in bobsled- the two man and the four man discipline. So in 1939 a woman named Katherine Dewey drove a four man sled and she won the US team trials and after that point all of a sudden women were banned from driving four man slides. It took all the way until 2014 for us to get them to overturn this ruling. We had the opportunity and I took it upon myself to just start driving four man sleds and to have two opportunities to race like the men and fortunately within my first year I was able to make the US team.
That’s such a groundbreaking moment for the sport! Were people supportive? Did you face any resistance?
So how you make bobsled teams is kind of like The Bachelor. You have to go up to ask people- hey, will you push for me? When I first started driving four man, I was already a silver medalist driver in a two person sled at this point, but I could not get any of the guys to ride with me.
Fortunately, my husband is a bobsledder as well. He was taking the season off, but I called him up and said- Look, I can’t get anyone on my team and I need some help. So after he decided to come up and help push me, other guys decided they would join. But every time I raced, I would get smart aleck comments. They just didn’t want women in the four man event and they still don’t. We fought for gender equity and instead of giving women the four man discipline, they created a new discipline, which is the monobob- just one person in a sled. So we did get gender equity in terms of medal opportunities, but not in terms of number of women bobsledders who can medal.
As a professional athlete, how do you decide when in your career is a good time to have kids?
Well first you have to look at your budget. I mean, I think that’s true for any parent. We asked ourselves, can we really afford to do this? But I always wanted to be a mom. As much as I wanted to be an Olympian, I always knew I wanted to be a mom just as much. I knew I wasn’t getting any younger. I felt like the window for me to have children on my own was closing because I had doctors tell me I would have fertility issues. I figured we needed to start trying. I was at a point in my career that had an Olympic bronze medal and two silver medals so it felt like the right time to try and start a family. Financially, I won some prize money from the Olympics and I’d saved it all with the intention of trying to have a baby and continue competing. So there’s a lot of different factors that went into it. One of those factors was making sure that even if I couldn’t recover to the extent that I could be an elite athlete anymore, that I would be okay with that. And I was.
Can you share a little bit about your pregnancy journey and the birth of your adorable son?
It took us about two years to get pregnant. My doctors said we wouldn’t be able to conceive naturally and they wanted to put me on hormones, but I wasn’t able to take hormones because they’re banned drugs. Even if it’s estrogen or progesterone, natural hormones are banned. Women have been banned before and at the end of the day, they’re just trying to get pregnant. So we just started trying. Lo and behold, after 2 years, we got pregnant.
The pregnancy itself was okay. I was way bigger than I should have been with extra fluid because I had polyhydramnios, but I kept training and I kept working out in spite of being nauseous like crazy. Actually the childbirth was the most rough. My son stopped having as much movement so they decided to induce me at 36 weeks. It took two days and he wasn’t budging. He didn’t want to come out. We ended up having a c-section. He spent 8 days in the NICU and they gave us the diagnosis of Down Syndrome. But he’s a really happy guy. It doesn’t matter to us. It wouldn’t have mattered to us if we had gotten the diagnosis in utero because he’s our special guy and we love them.
What was that moment like when you did your first competitive race and Nico was waiting for you at the bottom?
It was amazing. I was having problems with my back at the time. So when we got down to the bottom after a race, I needed help taking the sled off the track. My husband Nick was holding Nico at the bottom and we switched off. I picked up Nico and he took care of the sled for me. So it was really cool to just come down and I have that face smiling at me. He didn’t know what was going on but there’s so much different activity and he was just loving it all. It was just a really great moment.
Co-founder & COO
Bridget is mom to two little boys, Hudson and Brooks, and a champion of working moms everywhere. NeighborSchools itself was borne out of Bridget’s challenge to find high-quality yet affordable child care, and the realization that so many parents struggle with these same issues every day.