I’ve been involved with surf life-saving for more than 20 years and for the last 15, I’ve been trying to win the gold medal at the national championships in the open women’s beach flag event.
Last year, at 30 years old, I gave birth to my first child, Mahe. I came back from having my baby and competed again, and finally fulfilled my dream, winning the event at Bay of Plenty’s Ohope Beach.
I was so proud of being a new mum and showing that you can still train hard and reach your goals. When I accepted my medal, I stood on the podium holding on to my other prize – my gorgeous son. I now have the trifecta with three gold medals in beach flags, beach sprints and the beach relay.
I desperately wanted to prove to everyone that I was able to come back to my sport with only one season off to have my baby. I wanted people to see that having a baby shouldn’t hold you back, but encourage you to pursue your dreams. Also, during the competition I was still breastfeeding, so in between races I was feeding Mahe, then racing off to compete.
I’ve also had the extra challenge of living with Type 1 diabetes. I’ve had the condition for the last 24 years.
My parents were surf life-savers and so were my grandparents. It’s in the blood.
In fact, my father is my trainer.
I also play hockey. I’m used to training really hard and I know the stamina needed to compete.
Getting pregnant was one of the toughest ordeals I’ve had to go through. I needed the mental and physical strength I gained from life-saving to help me.
During my pregnancy I vomited continuously. It got so bad that I would go outside to vomit in the paddock, because I was sick of seeing the toilet bowl.
When I had Mahe, though, it was pure joy and made all the hard work during pregnancy worth it. Mahe’s father Sam Jensen and I just adore being parents.
Once I had recovered from the birth, I got straight back into my training. I had a gold medal to win. I started powerwalking and jogging around my home in Kawakawa Bay, just outside of Auckland. I took Mahe in the pram while I was running.
When the big day arrived, I was mentally and physically prepared. I was one of the oldest competitors ... but I aced it. My whole family travelled from Auckland to support me. But my biggest inspiration was my son. I normally block out everything around me when I compete. But in this instance I could hear Mahe making noises in the crowd, and it gave me an extra boost.
Some new mothers may think training after giving birth may be hard and get down on themselves. But if you put baby in the buggy and just get some fresh air, it does make a world of difference.”
As told to Aroha Awarau.