Georgia Gould: Mom-Watts
Written By: Jen Agan
In pregnancy, women are shape-shifters; their bellies waxing like the moon. After delivery, they hold another kind of magic: mom-watts.
Despite the evidence, some still view pregnancy, motherhood and competitive athletics as an unrealistic combination.
Experts say that antiquated view has been disapproved.
Being a mother and an elite athlete is no small feat. Many elite female athletes are discovering that they don't have to cut their careers short to start families and that they can continue to compete. These women view themselves no differently from those who return to the office after maternity leave - although every athlete and woman is different and will respond differently to training after childbirth.
Garnering accolades and a passionate following - Georgia Gould is discovering a new way of life, and I think it suits her very well. Georgia has represented Team USA at seven World Championships, two Olympic Games - Beijing 2008 and Olympic bronze medal at the London 2012, and two continental championships. Georgia has multiple US national championships and a series of wins and is an outspoken advocate for women in cycling. Let that all sink in and allow yourself to swoon. Georgia opens up about moving back east, her new role in motherhood and rediscovering the beauty in - rediscovering.
Georgia and I hop on a call one evening midweek. Having spent the day working and Georgia with her now 11-month-old daughter Quinn, both of us are happy to sit, get comfortable and settle in. The tone of her voice is soothing and easy to talk with. I quickly ease into our conversation as if I was talking with a girlfriend. Kindred is the vibe I'd put into this evening. Georgia and I have not spent real time together for a long time, but there's a deep knowing between us. We talk about our role as mothers, our proximity in age, and how we are comfortable with slowing it down. We are both mothers and recognize the bond about the strength of mothers and grandmothers and the many levels to our survival. You just simply dive right into your new promotion. For the first six months after I delivered my son a wave fell over my body like fog cascading down a mountain. The magic that happens between the common chaos of sleepless nights creeping into morning and the in-between feedings. The joy that can be found in both beauty and mess. It is between the cups of reheated coffee we find out more about ourselves as we offer completely who we are and this is exactly what Georgia is discovering.
"For one thing, since I don’t have all day to train, I’ve gotten more efficient on my rides. I also notice that I really appreciate the time I do get to train- even if it’s crappy weather or I’m just doing a boring out-and-back run on the road. Simply getting out for an hour or 90 minutes works wonders for my mood, and feels good physically. I have no doubt that it makes me a better mom too."
Spending summers in the Catskill Mountains in NY with her brothers and lots of cousins. Georgia spent her days swimming, camping, building forts, and fishing. Early memories of riding her bike began with her father teaching her to ride by holding on the back of her bike. Young and fearless Georgia recalls memories of her making her dad promise to not let go of the back of her bike. The first taste of freedom she recalls was her making it all the way down the block looking over her shoulder at her dad in the distance. The realization of him no longer holding her sent a wave of panic and she recalls promptly crashing. She has not forgotten this and informs me she reminds him of this as well. Now a mother this memory plays a different tune. Teaching our children self-reliance, confidence and one day letting go.
I begin to direct our conversation toward the future and racing. I flat out ask Georgia if she has retired.
The answer - no.
Good, I silently think to myself because we need you. We need your wisdom, silent strength and your continued advocacy in the women's field. We need our younger generation of riders to toe to the line with our older sisters. They need not forget how hard they have worked ensuring that women continue to take to the line.
So what are your goals I ask?
"I’m not sure yet we are in the process of moving from Colorado to Vermont so it has been a little crazy and chaotic. I haven’t been able to ride as much as I want to."
Georgia's tone becomes more energetic as she describes packing her home with Quinn and her husband Dusty from Colorado and moving back east, back home. Born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland she idolized her older cousins. Recalling the days of summer shenanigans and her stories of her cousins it becomes evident just how much her cousins mean to her.
"Leaving Colorado wasn't easy, I have many friends and the riding is simply amazing. It just came down to Quinn and our families. My cousins have young children now and to have an opportunity for Quinn to grow up with her cousins was something I couldn't pass up."
I'm nodding over the phone in agreement as my mind becomes flooded with memories of growing up with my cousins. She is absolutely right - if you have ever been close to your cousins then you can relate.
"I am looking forward to racing more this year. It’s kind of like starting over at the beginning, but I don’t mind that."
"It’s hard for me to have the same expectations because I know what it takes to be at the front of those races, and I definitely haven’t been able to do that. But I really enjoyed racing some cyclocross this fall- it literally didn’t matter at all how I did, and that was a nice change as opposed to when I was racing full-time, and always kind of keeping tabs on how I was riding, even when it technically didn’t matter.
One late summer day in September, Georgia pinned on a number for the first time in 13 months - only three months after she delivered Quinn. She finished 8th. She describes the hurt and how fun it was to be back out pushing the limit, tasting the anaerobic metallic taste, and how it had been awhile since she felt the challenge of racing and pushing herself hard. Lining up next to other women and feeling that cyclocross fever, she insists it doesn't matter how she finishes. The best part now is having her trusty sidekick - Quinn by her side after the race.
I'm listening to this woman tell me her stories about her life and I can't help but feel deep emotion. Like watching a movie with a superhero - I really want Georgia to win.
"I guess the thing I’m struggling with now is the what next. If I had worked as hard and been as successful in any other job, I would be in a great position now. Instead, I am trying to figure out what I want to do. I would love for cycling to still be my job, but I don’t think that’s really an option. I honestly don't know. It’s kind of disappointing to feel like I have to just walk away and start over at something else. If I was smart, I would have been planning for this moment all along, but...I’m not really that kind of planner."
A slight beat and silence follow and I can feel that Georgia is thinking, reflecting and I let her sit in this quiet place.
I let at least a minute sink in. The silence was not uncomfortable. Far from it. If anything it was a silent exhale of confident comfort in re-examining life and our choices.
Georgia proceeds back to our conversation and informs me that she is optimistic. That she will figure something out. For now, she is perfectly content to have the opportunity to spend her days with her tiny sidekick.
It becomes clear Georgia is on her terms and she is comfortable with it. She appreciates that everything is different now.
"Don’t waste your energy worrying about things you can’t control. Sounds obvious, but I still have to really be conscious about it. Get faster. Focus on cyclocross racing. Yes, of course, I want that. Cyclocross fever is real. But, you know it's different now. I'm okay with that. I'm more than okay. Quinn is so amazing! I'm very lucky to have an opportunity to be able to stay home with her. I don't want to miss that. I don't want to miss things because I'm out on these long epic rides with a tight training regimen. I'll train, I'll race - but it's not my life. My life is my family plus racing if I can, and if I want. I like this balance. I like it a lot."
I'm nodding again as I understand completely.
Motherhood is a kaleidoscope of spectrums of many things - I am not just a mother, not just an employee, not just a wife or a girlfriend but a fluid spectrum encompassing all of these attributes.
As our conversation winds down - we can't say goodbye, we keep chatting - like girlfriends appreciating each other with validation.
After the call I sit for a moment. I smile over my cup of tea feeling good. I understand Georgia and I'm cheering for her as a mother - as a racer and as a woman.