Hot Take: Happy Mother’s Day

On this hot take, Jessica, Amira, Shireen, and Brenda talk about mom athletes, mothering and sports, and “Being Serena,” the new documentary on HBO about Serena’s pregnancy, labor, and first months of parenting.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms and everyone who mothers.


Jessica: Hello and welcome to this special Mother’s Day hot tape for Burn It All Down. I’m Jessica Luther. The short bit you are about to hear was recorded on Sunday morning, May 13th and was supposed to be part of episode 54 dropping on Tuesday May 15th, but it is so timely for today, we decided to put it out early as a standalone. Enjoy and happy Mother’s Day from Burn It All Down.

Let me say to all the moms and everyone who mothers, Happy Mother’s Day. In the United States and Canada and probably a bunch of other places right now as we are recording this on Sunday morning, it is Mother’s Day. I am a mother. I am joined here by three other mothers and we are in the middle of the national women’s soccer league. We’re about to start the WNBA, two weeks where we get to see lots of mom athletes which is such a cool thing these days.

On HBO recently, there’s the show, Being Serena that is following Serena Williams through her pregnancy, birth and getting back on the court. It’s a very powerful documentary series and she’s so vulnerable as a mom in that space. It’s really wild on some level to watch it. Amira, I know that you have been tuning in to Being Serena. What are your thoughts today on Mother’s Day about mom athletes?

Amira: First of all, like mothering is hiding from your kids while you try to record a podcast.

Jessica: Amen. Amen. Thank you television.

Amira: Something that we’ve all done. Exactly. iPads for the win. Being Serena, I recommend everybody watch if they have time. Find your friend with a HBO subscription if you don’t have. Share passwords, be friendly. It’s such a powerful documentary. She’s so open and vulnerable and she picks it up the first episode, immediately wrestling with finding out she’s pregnant right before, where were they? Australian Open? I never remember.

Jessica: She was literally in Melbourne, Australia when she took the pregnancy test.

Amira: Exactly. You get access to home videos and her memories and her talking about it. It’s going to touch on things that are familiar if you’ve read some interviews with her about her complications after delivery and it touches on the high mortality rate for black maternal health numbers but also smaller things. The way that she interacts with her mother, the way that she interacts with her family, the how her and Alexis, what is his name? Alexis? …

Jessica: Alexis, yeah.

Amira: Are navigating their relationship as new parents, are navigating being in an interracial relationship. Just what it means to them to be thinking, “Am I going to come back from this?” and the fear of, “Is this the end of my career? And what will it take to continue to have a tennis career as I have a baby? Will I want to? Will my body let me?” I think that it captures a lot of what working moms deal with, with these kind of new chapters in your life. It’s just happening with one of the biggest superstars in the sporting world. It’s fascinating.

Jessica: One of the most interesting … There’s so much in it that’s fascinating and interesting, but when she first gets home from the hospital and she’s had this really scary postpartum few days. She’s carrying the baby in and she’s talking about how she’s supposed to be one of the strongest people in the world and you could just hear in her voice that she doesn’t feel like one of the strongest people in the world. She talks a lot about her body and how hard she’s worked it as an athlete and how that’s prepared her for all of this and then it doesn’t, right? Then her making sense of all that. It’s really interesting in this particular moment to be watching it because she’s once again pulled out of a tournament that she was supposed to play this week or somewhere very recent. It appears that she is having trouble getting back to the point where she’s ready to step on the court. It really is an amazing diary about what it means to be a mom athlete, even the very best.


Brenda: I’m always surprised by how little actually research is done on pregnancy and postpartum athletic performance in terms of elite athletes. I guess because they’re just hasn’t been that many? There haven’t been that many so it’s probably difficult to research but every time we have these discussions I go searching for some kind of articles to read and to think about and there’s just a lot of people complaining that there isn’t much research out there. It’s interesting. It’ll be interesting as more and more women are not told by the medical profession to stay in or cloister themselves or stop exercising. I think we’ll see a whole kind of new athlete mom that juggles all those things and battles all those things. Not everyone will do it and that’s totally fine, but it’ll be fascinating to see if more women do.

Jessica: Shireen

Shireen: I’ve always been really fascinated by women who are in the sports’ realm, either coaching as well or athletes. I remember, I was at Duke recently in the beginning of April and I remember hearing an anecdote about Carla Overbeck who was on a panel and she actually competed super high levels for the national team and she had a son. The way the anecdote was being described is that she had put her baby in the baby bag so he wouldn’t tip over. Now I think he’s late teens but this was back when we didn’t necessarily have all the stuff that is available now equipment wise. Just sort of, she would go look at her baby and then go literally in the mind switch into being really competitive and dedicated, and then going back at the same time and being like, “Is my kid okay?”

I agree with Brenda, I think psychologically and physically it’s a really big thing. I haven’t seen the Being Serena yet. I just cry at the trailers. I just want to one up what … not one up sorry … I want to emphasize what Amira said about sharing passwords because that would be great. If any of you want to DM me your password so I can watch this?

Jessica: Have it.

Shireen: It’s something that I am so moved by because I’ve been very fortunate. I’ve had four births that were uncomplicated. I did have a pre-mature baby, my first one. I can’t imagine getting back onto the pitch, but we hear about athletes like Caroline Ouellette, the goal tender for the Les Canadiennes and the CWHL was back on the ice. She has a baby with Julie Chu who we love and she was back on the ice 10 weeks after. That’s really soon.

Jessica: That’s amazing.

Shireen: Not only the physical recovery required, where midwives and doulas and OBs have said delivering babies is like a trauma on your body, but they’re back right away, but what does physiologically as well. I nursed and I can’t imagine being on the pitch when I’m lactating like mad.

Jessica: My dear. My boobs hurt just thinking about that.

Shireen: That happened to me once. I was playing and I nursed my kids for a long time and I did, I got the ball in the chest because that’s how I receive the ball sometimes and I did, I started lactating. I was like, “This is really bizarre.” Everyone was like, “Oh, we got you.” Everyone understood, but it was funny and it was embarrassing and awkward but that’s okay, it’s just part of the thing.

There’s so many things about that, that I think about honestly, one is definitely awe. When Serena won the Australian Open, when I was pregnant and I tied my shoes, I thought I was accomplished. She won the Australian Open. So much love to all those mothers out there and whatever that means on Mother’s Day too. I’m just going to get sappy for a second and including mothers who have lost babies, those who’ve lost mothers, strained relationships, those who have chosen not to be mothers and those who are yearning to be mothers. I got that off of a beautiful meme by Richie Harcourt shared on Facebook, sorry it’s by an artist called Maria Andrew. I wanted to show that because in this, there’s lots of stories of athletes that are moms and we don’t know what their relationship is like. We just send them lots of love today.

Jessica: Okay. Thank you all and Happy Mother’s Day.

Shelby Weldon