Allyson Felix – Miracle Pregnancy, Career And Controversy With Nike

“I’m an athlete. I take great care of my body and was in great health. I had a birthing plan… was at one of the best hospitals in the country. There was no way anything could go wrong, right?” – Allyson Felix. Allyson Michelle Felix, born on November 18, 1985, in Los Angeles California, is a retired American track and field star. Allyson, in fact, is the most decorated track and field Olympian in history. She started track in High School and she excelled from the very beginning.

Her first Olympics was 2004, Athens, where she competed in the 200- meter race at just eighteen years old. She got second behind Jamaica’s Veronica Campbell- Brown. In all, Allyson has won eleven medals across five Olympic Games (seven gold, three silver and one bronze).

Despite all this success, Allyson wanted to be a mother. Over twenty years ago Allyson met her now husband Kenneth Ferguson whom they now share a child with, Camryn. At first, she and her husband kept the pregnancy a secret not wanting to disappoint her fans. In reality, she actually wanted to share the news with everyone however, she feared that her fans, despite loving her, would not understand and would want to see her focus on her career.

Allyson Felix

Athletics and Pregnancy

Having a child as an athlete has its own complications not only physically but it affects your marketability and performance. Sports requires a level of commitment, and you often must sacrifice other aspects of your life to succeed. This sacrifice that must be made, largely has to do with family. You see, females have a window of fertility. As the woman’s body ages, it has fewer follicles. That simply means that you have fewer opportunities to create healthy, strong eggs for fertilization. This window of fertility overlaps with an athlete’s peak period in terms of their performance.

Often women who are athletes have to make that difficult decision to continue to train in order to succeed in their athletic career and after retirement start a family. By doing this, motherhood is definitely put on the back burner, or they can choose to become a mother while perfecting their craft which is extremely difficult because their body have to be heavily involved in both. Also, in track and field, the culture that surrounds pregnancy is to keep silent about it because you need to keep your existing contracts and to secure even more. However, Allyson decided to put her dreams first and start that family. She was even four months pregnant and competing. In Poland June 2018, Allyson ran unusually slow for the 400 meters. She ran 51 seconds one week and 52 seconds in France the following week. Her coach and family were concerned. She had to let the cat out of the bag that she was pregnant.

Allyson Felix

Dangers of Pregnancy

There is a traditional African saying that goes like this ‘A pregnant woman has one foot in the grave’. Although we are bringing life into the world, as women we cannot escape that we put our bodies at real risks. Maternal deaths are real. Every day in 2017, approximately 810 women died from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth- (WHO, 19th September, 2019). Let that sink in.

Allyson learnt that she had pre-eclampsia at 32 weeks pregnant and it was severe. Pre-eclampsia is a condition classified by high blood pressure. During a prenatal visit, checks that were done showed that she had elevated levels of protein in her urine, and she had elevated blood pressure. Being an exceptional athlete, she was surprised to know that she can have such a condition. Think about it, a decorated athlete, whom I am sure trained extremely hard, had a problem in pregnancy.

The doctor kept her at the hospital to monitor her. All of this resulted in Allyson Felix being forced to do an emergency C-section to save her life and the life of her unborn child 32 weeks.  Like any one of us would do, she started to call family asking them to fly in. She wanted them around her at this time but both herself and the doctor knew that to save both of their lives, they would have to act fast.

Allyson Felix

Athletics After Birth

Camryn, Allyson’s daughter was born with a weight of three pounds and seven ounces. She had to spend a month in the neonatal intensive care unit.

What many people don’t know and what Allyson later found out, is that in the United States alone, black women are five times more likely to die from pregnancy related cardiomyopathy and blood pressure disorders than white women.

Nike, was Allyson’s sponsor at the time, and she came out against them. They paid her seventy percent less than what she had been earning despite all the accomplishments that she made. What made it more difficult was the Nike representatives that she was dealing with; they were all men. Her fight with Nike gained widespread attention because she penned a written piece in the New York times accusing her long-time sponsor of refusing to guarantee salary protections for female athletes. After wanting to start a family and her contract with the sponsor ending in 2017, she decided to negotiate a new contract. This did not go well. Eventually, after the public controversy, Nike brand announced a new maternity policy, which guarantees an athlete’s pay with bonuses for eighteen months surrounding their pregnancy.

Allyson Felix

Allyson Advocates for Women

Allyson is now an advocate for maternal health. She has spoken on several platforms where she encourages women, especially black women, to speak up for themselves in the doctor’s office. Prior to pregnancy, she initially felt that she was invincible to pregnancy related health issues and now she is making it her duty to make sure others will not have to go through the things that she went through. 

She loves to educate women and has since joined several heath platforms to do so. Allyson is a part of CDC hear her campaign, Better starts for all, and pampers. All of this help to raise awareness and to educate women.

Today, Allyson is the proud mother of Camryn. They’re both doing well. Camryn is three years old as of now and she is Allyson’s top priority. All the sacrifices were worth it in the end.

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