The Brazilian woman who is closer to the Olympic classification in athletics is also a mother who sleeps little, trains poorly and needs to intersperse her professional activities with her breastfeeding routine. Mother of a (almost) 11-month-old boy, Erica Sena tells, in this first-person account, how the adventure of seeking an Olympic spot in Europe with a child in tow has been.
Anyone who is an athlete knows that there are days when the bell rings before the alarm clock. When that happens, it is doping control that is knocking on the door, for a surprise scrutiny. A year and a half ago, however, the little surprise came only after the test: a bleed. I went to my gynecologist and that day I found out that my life was going to change forever.
Today, waking up to an alarm clock is surprising. Every day, or rather, every night, Kylian is the one who gets me out of bed, a top-heeled baby, half Brazilian, half Ecuadorian, who on Sunday (12), my first Mother’s Day, will complete 11 months of life. .
When I found out I was pregnant, I immediately informed the COB (Brazilian Olympic Committee) and the CBAt (Brazilian Athletics Confederation), who only asked me if I intended to compete againr. I replied yes, and they said that then nothing changes, and they would continue to support me as always, which in fact happened.
In my dreams, the Kylian would continue to sleep well at night, like she did for the first four months, and now that she’s in the food introduction phase, she’d rotate her breasts with formula, and I could go to training and competitions rested. Those who are mothers and fathers know: we create expectations for them to be frustrated. Well then: the Kylian wakes up all night, wants to stay on the breast all the time and has not accepted the formula.
Ever since I started competing again, I’m always feeling insecure in competitions, because my training sessions are a mountain-russian. I do not have a mesocycle of good workouts. It’s always a really good one followed by a really bad one. Or a good one, then a so-so and a horrible workout.
When he sleeps well, I train supergood. But, when he wakes up a million times a night, it’s those workouts that no cI can do nothing, you know? I wish I was training harder if I was resting better, which I’m not.
In the beginning I was sad, it demanded a lot from me. I didn’t sleep, the night was badI couldn’t do the training like I had to, I cried, I was sad, a thousand nonsense came to mind. I thought about stopping, I asked myself ‘why am I doing this?’.
But then I said: ‘I’m doing it all wrong. I don’t have to take care of myself now, the priority is him, the rest is bonus’. If I sleep, rest well, that’s good. sand not, I do as I please. It’s what’s working for me right now.
The truth is that it is very difficult to reconcile the life of a mother and an athlete. There are many sleepless nights, without being able to rest, without recovering for the next day. But it’s also true that I love living all of this. It’s hard, it’s tough, but it’s amazing!
The athlete became a mother
When I found out I was pregnant it was a mixture of happiness and worry. Happiness because I always dreamed of being a mother, but I thought: now what about my career as an athlete? I was 36 years old, and I still had (and still have) the goal of becoming a world and Olympic medalist in athletic walking. I was ranked fourth at the 2017 and 2019 Worlds, and seventh at Rio-2016.
I live in Ecuador, with my husband and trainer Andrés Chocho, who is also an athlete. Together we decided that I would go back to competing without rushing, without being charged, with the clear objective being the Olympic Games in Paris, when I will be 39 years old.
I had a smooth pregnancy, except for the scare of bleeding early on, which made me discover I was pregnant, and the pain in my feet towards the end. As I’m skinny and gained 15 kilos, my feet hurt a lot with the overweight. And I depend on my feet to work.
When I was pregnant, I had many fears. By a decision of mine and my husband, we chose to preserve ourselves and not publicly announce the pregnancy. I really wanted to go out counting to the four corners, but I was left apprehensive, afraid, and I preferred to live this moment for me. When I felt more comfortable, I decided to speak, already in the eighth month. gave some weeks, and the baby was born.
The COB and the confederation never stopped supporting it, and my concern was with the Ministry of Citizenship (now the Ministry of Sports). As Bolsa Pódio considers the result achieved and the expectation of future results, I could be without a scholarship in 2022, for not training, and in 2023, for not having had results in 2022. [NR: o caso foi denunciado pelo Olhar Olímpico, leia aqui]. Thank God they held a meeting and decided they were going to keep my bag.
Now mothers will no longer need to worry about this, since the Chamber of Deputies approved that the scholarship of those who get pregnant is maintained. I was very happy to know that in some way I could contribute so that future mothers can be calm and enjoy this moment, knowing that you will come back and you will receive your benefit, that you will not be harmed by having a child.
Back to training
During the pregnancy, I kept training, I trained until the last day before Kylian was born. They were quiet workouts, since I couldn’t do much. As the birth was a cesarean section, I felt a lot of pain during the recovery, and I stopped worrying about training. Only when he was two months old did I start to leave the house.
During my puerperium, I didn’t even think about going back to marching, there were so many fears… I had to stay practically alone at home with the newborn baby, since my husband had to travel to compete in the World Championships. I tried to concentrate as much as possible on the baby, on how to change the diaper, how to take care of the navel, I had a lot of things to think about. The only thing I didn’t think about was going back to training.
When I got back on track, I thought it would be easier to qualify for the Worlds in the 35km race, that I felt more comfortable, marching at a pace that I could handle longer. In the 20km, the index is very strong, below 1h30min.
But, to qualify, I would have to take a sequence of competitions, all in Europe, and it would be complicated to go back and forth with a little baby. So I, him, my husband and my sister came to stay for almost three months. She helps me so I can train a little better. That’s two more arms to hold him. Without my sister, my life would be impossible.
We tried to include formula in his diet, to make it easier, but this little man did not accept it. It would be a little easier, because I wouldn’t have to pump milk, but that wasn’t the case. It is milk pump, milk freeze, milk defrost, milk warmer. Express milk, freeze milk… In the beginning, I used an electric pump that you get attached to, expressing milk. Afterwards, I bought a portable one, which charges with the USB, and you can even express milk marching if you want.
There is also the issue of his food, which cannot have salt, cannot have sugar. Thankfully, the people here at the CT in Portugal, in Rio Maior, are super nice people, and are making their food. This helps me enormously.
When there’s competition, my sister sleeps with him the two nights before, so I can get more rest. But if the test is in the afternoon, it complicates me. As he didn’t breastfeed all night, I wake up with my breast very full, and I have to be expressing milk straight away. When the test is in the morning, just express the milk and go compete.
Since we arrived in Europe, I’ve competed three times. The first was in Dudince, Slovakia, in the 35 kilometer race. I was placed fifth, with 2h47min59s, a time that is index for the Budapest World Championship.
Then I competed twice in the 20 kilometers. I was second in Poland, and sixth here in Rio Maior, Portugal, taking an hour and a half. More exactly 1h29min48s, 28 seconds from the index for the Paris Olympics, which is very strong. Since the Tokyo Games, almost two years ago, only 24 athletes have made it, the majority being Chinese (six) and Russian (five).
I’ve seen several stories about women who improve their sports performance after having a baby, due to hormonal changes. I haven’t improved my results yet, but in every competition I’ve left feeling I could have done better. Every time I controlled the pace, and I know I could have done much harder, which will happen little by little.
When Kylian is a year old, maybe he can rest a little more at night, I can sleep better, and this will reflect on the results. For now, I don’t have any goals this year, but I can’t help admitting that, after these competitions, I’m always wanting more.
I will still compete one more time before returning to Ecuador, in three weeks, in La Coruña in Spain, and, as I got good scores in Poland and Portugal, another good result puts me very close to the Olympics in terms of ranking. of points. But, suddenly, an index does not come out, right? To guarantee the vacancy and give greater security. It would be a great birthday present for Kylian — and, of course, for the first-time mom.
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