At the London Olympics last summer, beach volleyball player Kerri Walsh Jennings and her teammate, Misty May-Treanor, set a record that may stand for decades: three straight Olympic gold medals. In the four years since the pair stood atop the podium in Beijing, Walsh Jennings, now 34, had given birth to two sons, one year apart.
As the unbeatable pair watched the U.S. flag rise to claim their third gold, Walsh Jennings had other big news brewing: She was five weeks pregnant with her third child. Here, she muses about pregnancy cravings, juggling two toddlers and an Olympic career, and her plans for the future. (Hint: She's not slowing down.)
1. Did you realize at the Olympics that you were pregnant?
I knew as well as I could know without getting it confirmed. I was late, about a couple of days, and then I got more and more late. And then I started having something happen that had only happened during my previous pregnancies: When I'd sneeze, I'd feel a ... pain in my tummy muscles. I thought, "Hey, this only happens when I'm pregnant!"
2. Boy or girl -- are you going to find out?
We found out on Christmas morning with the boys and we're going to do the same with this one. I have an appointment in two weeks for my 4D ultrasound, and we'll bring in two different ornaments, pink and blue, and have my doctor [secretly] select the right one and put it in a box. We'll wrap it up and put it away for safekeeping, and it will be the last present under the tree that we open.
(Update: Over the holidays she announced she's expecting a baby girl.)
3. How did you juggle training for international competition while riding herd on two toddler boys [Joseph Michael, born in May 2009, and Sundance Thomas, born in May 2010]?
Basically, my husband [beach volleyball player Casey Jennings] and I are a really good team. He made me really comfortable with my schedule. He made our family a priority so Misty and I could go in and win a gold medal, and that took all the pressure off. My little sister KC was our nanny on the road in London. It's always been my dream in life to be a working mom and have this amazing career. We knew the madness of it all, but we do it as a team. In 2011, they went wherever we went: all around the world, from China to Brazil to Europe. In 2012, there was a little less travel for them: They only went to Rome and London. My husband and I want to keep playing and go for the gold in Rio as well, so we'll hopefully see a lot more places as a family. That's my dream.
4.Are you approaching pregnancy any differently the third time around? Are you feeling any different?
I have felt really different. Right after I came home from London, the second it was confirmed I was pregnant I started feeling sick. I had that mild hangover feeling all day long, which I never had with the boys, and it wasn't fun. I'm 16 weeks right now and I feel so much better. My face is definitely different, too. I have acne this time around, which isn't that great for a 34-year-old. My son will say, "Ouchies, Mommy?" Motivation to work out has been hard for me this time around, but now that I've turned the corner on feeling sick it's a little better.
5. You've had two great natural childbirths. Are you planning to go natural again?
My pregnancies and deliveries have all been really wonderful and easy. The second one was almost too fast -- I didn't make it to my hospital and had to go to a closer one. Having a natural childbirth just feels right to me; it doesn't feel like I'm forcing anything. My mom had eight kids -- five of her own and she carried three for her sister -- and she loved being pregnant and everything about it. She'd tell me that labor kind of hurts but you're going to love it. I always thought she was delusional, but she was right.
6. Does the excitement of the Olympics ever "get old"?
No! Absolutely not. After London, it was just such a high and so perfect in every single way, or as close to perfect as you can get. I was thinking, "I don't know if I should do this again." Why would you go for more, when it almost feels greedy having been there so many times and having had such success? But ultimately I still feel it in me, it's just that the fire and the energy is something so special and so pure. I feel like I have so much more room to grow in the sport in every way, in every skill, physically and mentally. And I'll be doing this with a new partner, which will challenge me to grow even more.
7.Misty says she's definitely retiring this time around. How hard will that be to play with someone else?
I was going to play regardless for London, and Misty had said she was retiring then, but she changed her mind. For Rio, she's done. I'd bet my house on it. I haven't chosen a new partner yet. Nothing's set in stone, and this baby's buying me a little time. I think the bittersweetness will happen when I come back and start training with someone new, and when we make it to Rio.
8.Moms, especially working moms, almost never get time to themselves. If you had one day that was all for you, what would be your perfect "me time" day?
I would sleep in for sure. Oh man, would I sleep in! I would work out, and then I'd probably get a massage. And then I'd take a nap! I'd just be really mellow.
9.What's your go-to comfort food?
Breakfast sandwiches. I could eat them all day every day. I think I've had at least one every week since I've been pregnant, with crispy bacon and an egg over medium on toast, with tomato and avocado. That's just heaven! And I love fresh lemonade with it.
10.And your secret health vice?
Just eating the bad stuff. Anything fried. Or two huge cupcakes in a row.
11. You recently tweeted that you make the time to exercise. How do you carve out that time?
I look at this as my job even when I'm not in season or in training. After this pregnancy, I do want to be able to hit the ground running and be as strong as I can. Plus, working out helps with labor and helps with my mental and emotional state while I'm pregnant. It helps me accomplish whatever I want. I lift weights, do Pilates, and now that my motivation is back there's a sand dune by me that I plan on walking once a week.
12.What were your favorite tunes on the court in London?
Our theme song was "Good Feeling" by Flo Rida. Before games I would listen to a lot of Sade, just to kind of chill out.
13.What's in your purse right now?
My wallet. Wipes -- for me more than the boys, actually! And my planner. I have a smartphone, but I'm a little more traditional and I use a notebook planner, too. I need checks and balances!
14.Who's your role model when it comes to your health?
Our trainer, Tommy Knox. He's really shown us how to eat well and in a balanced way. He's told us that when you cheat, it's okay -- if you eat something bad, just fix it by eating something healthy the next time. He's made us more mindful of what we put into our bodies.
15.You yourself are a health role model for many young women. What do you hope they learn from you?
People look at us and they just see volleyball, but I think in order to be successful in anything, you have to be well rounded. We have great support systems, and I hope they see that's important. And I hope they also see that we work really hard. Nutrition is a big part of being at your best, and it's not something you can gloss over. And just as hard as you work out, recovery is just as important. There are lots of little common sense, ABC things that allow you to be great. Every day, you're faced with these choices, and we have to make the right ones for ourselves and our team.
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