People always tell me my job is so glamorous, sometimes it is. Today it is. More often than not it is lot of waiting, usually in the freezing cold. Travelling the length and breadth of the country and creeping into the house (and out of it) at ridiculous hours. “I deserve days like this,” I told myself.
I was sitting in the rooftop pool at the Ace hotel in LA watching “Honey I shrunk the kids” on a big projector screen thinking, “I really am living the dream”. I was hosting a football show for ESPN and here I was with my producer relaxing after the show, watching the sun go down in a hotel that was far too cool for me, surrounded by twenty-somethings with blue hair, piercings and barely there slashed swimsuits. I was in my element, snapping happily for Instagram and pretending for one moment that I was as edgy and cool as the people I was surrounded by.
My producer ordered us cocktails and as I began to sip something didn’t seem right, it tasted weird and I really didn’t fancy it. A few days later I was interviewing Frank Lampard at New York City’s training ground and I began to feel really sick and dizzy. I was rushed to a hospital just outside NY and put on a drip, they confirmed I was pregnant and so began a tough 9 months that saw me too sick to get out of bed some days.
Of course I should have been delighted (and I was) but one of the first things that ran through my mind was how old my baby would be at the 2018 World Cup. I’d missed 2014 in Brazil as I was still breastfeeding my first child and although I absolutely love being a mum and don’t regret a thing, I’m acutely aware that I’m at the peak of my presenting career and after years of hard graft I’m finally experienced enough to be doing what I do at a World Cup and I did not want to miss another.
The answer is she’ll be 14 months. Do I go? Should I go? Will I be judged for going? Will I be judged for not going? These are all the questions mothers face. I’m not suggesting men don’t go thorough a similar process, it’s a tough decision to leave your family for 5 weeks and I’ve spoken to plenty of men who are feeling torn. I equally feel for all the mums whose husbands are away for long stretches and so a lot of the childcare falls on them, it’s tough. Thankfully I have a lot of support around me and I decided I should go.
So here I am in a hotel in Moscow prepping for the opening day of the tournament. I’m likely to see some incredible things, perhaps a moment of magic from Messi, or a nervy penalty shoot-out, but I can’t help but think of the things I will miss. My baby’s first step is the biggie. Every day in the last month leading up to the tournament I’ve been walking around with her, willing her to take those steps, but it never happened.
She is still not walking and I well up when I think I left behind a crawling bundle of chubby joy and I’ll return to a slimmed down walking “child” who comes running up to me at the airport shouting “mamma”.
The first thing I should say is I have no regrets. It’s everything I hoped it would be and more, and the tournament hasn’t even started.
What a time it is to be a woman in football (wif), we even have our own emoji on twitter thanks to the incredible work done by WIF. I’ll admit I was slightly uncomfortable about the whole WIF thing in the beginning. I am here on merit and hard work and I don’t want to be a ticked box, I love my job and I’ve never felt it’s relevant that I’m a woman. However I realised that’ s not what WIF is about. It has managed to unite, educate and promote and it’s something that will be felt in generations to come.
I’ve always felt a little bit alone in the press box, the writers are in a group, the commentators are in another and I was always on my own, learning my lines, scribbling down team news and standing in front of a camera. Suddenly I’m starting to feel we have a group. WIF has given me the confidence to reach out to other women and hear their stories and I feel a real bond that I’ve never had before.
Finally I don’t want to hide the fact that I’m a mum, it’s a big part of who I am and I’m not scared to say it. I’m aware I’m not alone in this, there are mothers and fathers leaving their kids all the time, that’s life, but that’s exactly why I want to talk about it. No one spoke to me about it and so it came as a complete shock to me, all of this.
I will be blogging about it as part of a pledge I made for WIF and I really hope I can help inspire other girls to follow their dreams and TRY to have it all (whatever that means). I will also be contacting my school to see if I can talk to young girls about making future decisions highlighting the challenges of motherhood, something that was never available to me.
Not every woman wants to, or is able to be a mother, so this blog isn’t exclusive to mums, there are certainly challenges us women face whether we are mums or not. I have been chatting to loads of girls here in Russia and I hope I can share many of their stories.