Babies and Dreams
I have been wanting to write this post for a while – I just wasn’t sure when or how, because I wanted to say exactly the right thing. Luckily, the Olympics has given me some motivation, and I do think now is the time to flex my writing muscles and write about…babies and dreams! I know Jane has done a few podcasts with moms and that there have been some mom authors on the blog. However, in this blog post, I specifically wanted to write about being a working mom and make the argument that having my son has not hindered my career dreams – contrary to the popular societal belief that babies and dreams don’t go hand-in-hand.
Upon receiving medals this year, several female Olympic athletes shared how their children have inspired them, and they believe being successful athletes and moms is possible. Dame Valerie Adams, a New Zealand shot putter, won bronze in her fifth Olympic Games and outwardly promoted that she’s a mother after winning her medal. Adams held a photo of her children with her medal and quoted, “This [success] just goes to show that female athletes who want to have a child or who dream of being a mom, it’s possible.” Then there is Kerri Walsh Jennings, the American beach volleyball player, who won an Olympic gold medal while being five weeks pregnant! (Amazing, right?) She credits her baby for giving her the motivation to win her third Olympic gold medal, stating, “I was born to have babies and play volleyball.”
Unfortunately, despite these heartfelt stories, we know only so well that many women do not believe babies and dreams can go hand-in-hand. Olympic gold medalist Sanya Richards Ross, a former Jamaican-American track and field athlete who competed internationally for the United States, publicly spoke out about the pressures female athletes endure to prevent pregnancy or end the lives of their children if they are to conceive and shared that she “literally doesn’t know another female track athlete who hasn’t had an abortion.” Time and time again, I have also heard from women that abortion seems to be a primary means to having a successful career. During my time as a Yale School of Public Health graduate student, I remember sitting in class while my professor shared how every one of her college friends had had an abortion. Earlier this year, Michelle Williams in her Golden Globe acceptance speech shared how her “right” to have an abortion enabled her to be where she is today. A recent high school valedictorian speech spoke out against Texas’s new abortion law. The graduate stated, “I have dreams and hopes and ambitions….without our input and without our consent, our control over that future has been stripped away from us.”
When I personally witness or hear anecdotes such as these in the news, I feel sick to my stomach – especially now that I have a son. I find myself asking how society has gotten to be this way where we are telling women they can’t, rather than they can. Society tells us how liberating an abortion is and that not having children allows for dreams to be achieved. Ironically, this rhetoric that we have created as a society is not one of empowerment. Rather, it’s one that tells women, “You can’t.” It’s one that tells women they are incapable of succeeding if they become a mother.
In my own life, I experienced what some might call an “unexpected” pregnancy. My husband and I laugh because we practice Natural Family Planning (NFP), the methods promoted by the Church to achieve or postpone pregnancy, and nothing is really an unexpected pregnancy. We knew the night we conceived our son that there was a very slight chance I could get pregnant. We took our chances, even though we did not feel ready at the time to become parents. The night before I took the pregnancy test, I remember feeling panicked. My mind was swirling. I was only 25. I had just started my career five months prior. However, my moment of panic didn’t last long. After I prayed and composed myself, the next morning I excitedly walked to CVS to grab a pregnancy test. I now realize my initial thoughts were a result of the “you can’t” mentality society tells women – not the “you can” mentality.
There is nothing I would rather write about at this point in my life than this – babies and dreams. I want women to know that they can succeed, even if they have an unexpected pregnancy or have big career dreams and want a family. Yes, it’s hard. Yes, there have been moments when I’ve asked myself how it’s possible to be a working mom, to juggle everything. I have been stretched beyond limits I previously thought couldn’t be stretched. But that’s the amazing thing about it. I have been stretched beyond my previous limits. I have grown. I have conquered.
And my story doesn’t end after the birth of my son! Since having my son, I accepted my dream job (at this stage in my career) as a Health Policy Analyst at a social policy research firm. Having a baby makes you realize you don’t have all the time in the world. So rather than wait longer to apply to this job, I went for it! I also have become a super efficient, productive employee (as daycare only goes from 8 am to 5 pm). There is actually a saying in the workforce that if you want something done, give it to a working mom! Most importantly, I have grown in my relationship with our Lord leaps and bounds and come to realize what’s truly important in life – relationships and family.
To wrap up this blog post, I want you to think about God’s will for your life. To really, really think about it. You can even turn this time into prayer. Before I had Joseph, I was almost in a craze about “my career” and how I wanted to achieve X, Y, and Z. Now, with God’s grace, I try to put relationships first and trust in God’s plan for my life more than ever. I also am incredibly empowered as a working mama and know that I can.
I encourage you all to not let society weigh you down. Get married when you want! Have kids when you want! Let’s focus on changing the conversation to one that actually empowers women.
“She is clothed with strength and dignity and she laughs without fear of the future.” ~ Proverbs 31:25
“Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill His promises to her.” ~ Luke 1:45
“God is within her; she will not fall.” ~ Psalm 46:5
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Raquel was born in Indiana and lived in the Midwest for 22 years. She is an alumna of Saint Louis University, and after getting married the summer after undergrad, journeyed out of the Midwest to pursue a Master of Public Health (MPH) at Yale University. She now lives in DC with her husband Quintin, son Joseph, and dalmatian Lilo and works as a Member Insights Associate for a healthcare company.