She is due to give birth in March and talks about her experiences as an athlete and disabled person during pregnancy.
People with disability are often told from early on that their life will have several limitations. They are made to believe that they cannot get full life experiences, especially becoming a parent. However, Mallory Weggemann, an American Paralympic swimmer, is trying to change this narrative. She is getting ready to have a child and told People Magazine, "We hit 31 weeks, which is so surreal. We're feeling good."
However, this hasn't been easy for her family. Weggemann, 33, and her husband Jay Snyder have been through a lengthy IVF process, all while coping with Snyder's male-factor infertility and Weggemann's Paralympic swimming career. She shared, "Jay was adamant that we have the conversation around male infertility. Society needed to see a couple who said, 'Actually, it's the non-disabled spouse that has the fertility struggles." Weggemann and Snyder shared the good news in August that their second egg transfer had worked and that they were expecting a baby in March after three surgeries, more than 440 injections, two stim cycles, and one failed transfer.
She said, "So often we form our perceptions of what we think is possible based on what we see emulated in the world around us." Weggemann has been defying the odds as she also swam at the 2022 US Para Swimming Nationals in December while 26 weeks pregnant. She described the experience by saying, "It was really special getting behind the starting blocks pregnant. I've loved the sport of swimming since I was a little kid, and to be able to share that in some way with Little One is something that I think I'll remember forever."
Despite her shifting body, the world-class athlete won silver in the 50m butterfly and advanced to the finals in all three of her events. It was a very gratifying day for Weggemann, who understands how essential it is for other female athletes to realize that they, too, can be mothers. She said, "For so long it felt like it was an either/or conversation in athletics. It was powerful to be able to, at that moment, continue to be a part of this conversation that's happening in sports around this desire for female athletes to have the option to continue their careers through parenthood and motherhood."
She says that she recognizes the challenge "as an athlete, your body is the very vehicle to carry out your profession." However, when carrying a child "it is also the very vehicle to bring this little life into the world." The athlete also wants to raise awareness about parenting in the disabled community. She says, "In the disabled community, we are still having conversations and fighting for equality and equity, and then you go and bring parenthood in addition to that. We in our society do not have a great representation of showcasing individuals with disabilities as parents. We don't celebrate that."
She says that there is a lack of resources for disabled parents to prove ease of access while parenting. "Even in healthcare, you go in for your ultrasound; you hope and pray you've got a good clinic that's updated with an accessible ultrasound table," she adds. Weggemann plans to keep active for the duration of her third trimester by swimming and lifting, which she thinks is important for her physical and emotional well-being. Her ultimate objective is to compete in the Paris 2024 Paralympic Games while caring for a child, but for the time being, she is focused on her March birth.
She explained, "I'm excited to meet Little One and hold them, and be together as a family, and figure out who they are, but the mechanism to actually get us to that moment is pretty big and heavy." The couple, who lives in Eagen, Minnesota, intended to wind down in February, allowing Weggemann's sisters and mother to organize a baby shower and put the finishing touches on the baby's room. She and Jay are also looking forward to enjoying their final weeks as a family of two. She said, "Yes, we are daydreaming about what it's going to be like to add Baby. What is it going to be like to see Jay hold our little one for the first time? What it's going to be like to bring them home and introduce them to (our dog) Sam? We're so excited for all of those moments."