Team USA Beach volleyball star Kerri Walsh Jennings knew she was five weeks pregnant when she and her teammate Misty May-Treanor competed in the London Olympics and won gold. That’s pretty amazing.
This time around, she’s competing with new partner and speaking out about motherhood in a way that irritates feminist viewers at home.
Before I had more kids, I was like, this feels trivial. I’d been playing for so long, and I was like I need balance. All my eggs are in this one basket and it’s very self-centered and self-focused. They gave me that perspective and balance I thought I was missing. It took my game and my desire and my passion for life to the next level. I am hugely indebted to my children.”
When later asked about this by a reporter, she re-emphasized her love and appreciation for her children:
— ThePostGame.com (@ThePostGame) March 22, 2016
To put a final point on it, IJR points out that she said:
“I feel like I was born to have babies and play volleyball.”
This caused one Twitter user to snarkily respond:
— Paula Dixon (@PeoplePaula) August 7, 2016
@nbc And now a package about Kerri Walsh Jennings: “I was born to have babies.” Is Donald Trump running the network now? Get it together.
— Paula Dixon (@PeoplePaula) August 7, 2016
Though most people responded positively, it did bring to mind a volleyball player whose life-choices were different.
In 2013, David French wrote about the “sad article by blogger and career advice columnist Penelope Trunk. It chronicles her two abortions — her first when she was in the midst of a professional volleyball career (it was relatively late-term) and the second when her post-volleyball career was soaring.”
When she told her mother that she was pregnant, her mother responded unequivocally. “Get an abortion.”
“I didn’t say anything. I wasn’t really thinking I had any choices. I didn’t have a job that could support a child. And I wasn’t sure if I was planning to marry my boyfriend, although we were living together. I knew that I had big ideas for my life and I hadn’t figured things out yet,” she wrote. Then she describes her mother as turning “militant.”
“You’ll destroy your career possibilities,” her mother told her.
Her friends told her to keep her options open. “You’re a smart girl. You can do anything with your life right now,” they said. “Don’t ruin it.”
So, she went to the abortion clinic, got on the table, and started screaming.
I was too scared. I felt absolutely sick that I was going to kill a baby. And, now that I know more about being a mother, I understand that hormones had already kicked in to make me want to keep the baby. We left. No abortion.
A few days later, she went back.
I scheduled another abortion. But it was past the time when Planned Parenthood will do an abortion. Now it was a very expensive one at a clinic that seemed to cater to women coming from Christian countries in South America. I knew that if I did not go through with it this time, no one would do the abortion. I was too far along.
So I did it.
I went to sleep with a baby and woke up without one. Groggy. Unsure about everything. Everything in the whole world.
She was haunted by this decision:
You never stop thinking about the baby you killed. You never stop thinking about the guy you were with when you killed the baby you made with him. You never stop wondering.
But her regrets didn’t stop her from having another abortion:
So the second time I got pregnant, I thought of killing myself. My career was soaring. I was 30 and I felt like I had everything going for me — great job, great boyfriend, and finally, for the first time ever, I had enough money to support myself. I hated that I put myself in the position of either losing all that or killing a baby.
I didn’t tell anyone I was pregnant. I knew what they’d say.
So I completely checked out emotionally. I scheduled the abortion like I was on autopilot. I told my boyfriend at the last minute and told him not to come with me.
He said forget it. He’s coming with me.
I remember staring at the wall. Telling myself to stop thinking of anything.
The doctor asked me, “Do you understand what’s going to happen?”
I said yes. That’s all I remember.
I’m not sure how high Penelope’s volleyball career went before she retired, but even one medal wouldn’t have been worth the lives of two people. Years later, she has children and realizes what Kerri Walsh Jennings already knew. You don’t have to sacrifice your children for a career.
As David wrote,
“The abortion debate is conducted on dishonest terms, with one side working mightily to confine the debate to cases of rape, incest, and desperate women facing desperate circumstances. But there’s another side of abortion — mass-scale killings for the sake of simple ambition to advance personal careers. In other words, here’s one woman’s ‘choice’ — to hire a doctor to kill her own baby for the sake of volleyball.”
Here’s to Kerri Walsh Jennings for showing the world that motherhood and professional success are not even close to being mutually exclusive.
Kerri Walsh Jennings was 5 weeks pregnant when she won her 3rd gold medal at the 2012 olympics. What’s your excuse? pic.twitter.com/b5B7owuN
— Angela Stypula (@styps) September 27, 2012