Allyson Felix Says Self-Care Saved Her After a Traumatic Birth

The seven-time gold medalist adds to a growing list of Black celebrities who've had traumatic birth experiences and says #softlife is essential for Black birthing people.

Allyson Felix is a seven-time gold medalist in track and field. It goes without saying that she knows how to win, she understands how to train, and how to endure. But she had to learn how to become flexible and lean into self-care as a mom. Despite years of rigorous physical training, Felix says she wasn't prepared for the demands of childbirth or motherhood.

"Being a mom is so hard. I don't think anything can truly prepare you for it," she says.

Felix had a traumatic birth experience which included delivering her daughter prematurely at 32 weeks through an emergency C-section. “After going through that experience my eyes were completely opened,” says Felix. At the time, she didn’t understand the weight of Black maternal mortality rates.  “The risks for Black moms just to give birth are huge.” 

Once Felix gave birth, she felt proud to have overcome the experience thanks to the love and support of her husband and family. But she also felt a strong sense of responsibility to prepare her daughter for a world where she would inherently face challenges.

“Being a mom is a privilege, but it's also a huge responsibility as well,” she says. “We want to make sure she always feels confident, prepared, loved, and ready to take on a world that can be really hard,” she says.  

In her transition into motherhood, Felix also had to learn how to release some of the pressure to be perfect, accepting that she can only do her best. She also says learning from her friends, mentors, and her own mom. 

”I’ve had to lean on my support system and my village to help me through.”  She adds that her mother and her grandmother did a good job of making her feel loved, supported, and capable and she wants to incorporate that aspect into her own mothering journey. “They did a really good job of making me feel strong.”

But Felix admits she comes from a family of hard workers who didn’t always model how to prioritize rest and she has a demanding schedule as a mom, women’s health advocate, and founder of Saysh, a company that focuses on footwear for female athletes. The importance of self-care is something she's learning on her own. “I’ve had to become real intentional about rest and taking good care of myself so I can pour into others,” she says. ”I’m leaning in to help more. I’m learning to understand that time is so valuable and precious."

For Felix, this also means prioritizing time with her four-year-old daughter, starting her day with her gratitude journal, or doing breathwork instead of household tasks. She wants to make sure she models this kind of self-care for her daughter. “We want her to see that we work hard but we also make time to take care of ourselves and do what makes us happy.”

Still, one message Felix would like to leave with other mothers, particularly Black mothers, is that you “don’t have to give up your personal goals and dreams.” She says despite whatever challenges giving birth or pursuing a career comes with, she wants birthing parents to know they can do it.  “You can make it to the other side, and when you do, it will be well worth it.”

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