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Monday, June 1, 2015

The Mamas Project: Kim & Kiara

When you need to vent, we all have those friends we know we can call. And then, subsequently have them vent back, you agree life is hard/sucks/sleepless…a good reminder you are not alone and then you take a deep breath and carry on. 

But there is also that mom you admire, you can feel the love they have, the integrity, and honesty they have shown in their new role and it makes you feel hopeful. Kim is one of those women. The real joy she has in motherhood seeps into you and you see the brighter side, you remember what you love about it and remember to treasure the little things. She is a mother who has embraced her role and lives for every day. That is not to say she doesn’t have bad days like the rest of us. She has just learned through life experience, that happiness is a journey; you have to live, breath, believe in positivity and success in all aspects of life, including motherhood.
Now mother to 16 month old Kiara (pronounced Key-ra), and pregnant with her second child, Kim was only recently married and at a turning point in her push to make the Paralympics, as a triathlete, when she and her husband decided that they needed to try for a family. As a cancer survivor, Kim was told her reproductive system had the maturity of someone 10 years her senior and that if she waited to try for kids her chances of conceiving would drastically decrease. Already unsure she would be able to conceive, having undergone chemotherapy for osteosarcoma at the age of 18, they decided to try immediately. Miraculously, Kiara was conceived just 9 weeks before Kim competed in her first international triathlon and won her class. That is not a typo, Kim was 9 weeks pregnant when she won. The win capped off an extremely successful season and Kim had her sights set on competing in Rio de Janeiro for the 2016 Paralympic Games. After the birth of her daughter, her plan was to arrange child care and begin training again.
And then Kiara came. And priorities changed.
The identity once centred around being an athlete, expanded to include her daughter. Kiara became central to her being and this altered her end goals.
“I made a choice, based on what felt right in my heart, and every single fibre in me said - my heart is at home with her”
Trying for a second addition to the family became a bigger priority than making the 2016 games. Kim’s athleticism is ingrained in her being, her mentality was: sport isn’t going anywhere.
Cancer changed Kim in a way that she would not have otherwise changed and she says motherhood did the same. It made her a better person and now she views life differently. She knows firsthand life can be so short and so sweet, and those little moments are not to be sacrificed. Kim views success as a balance. It is being a full time mom, entrepreneur, athlete and wife. But instead of burning out trying to excel at everything, at once, all the time (you know we’ve all tried this, and failed), she maintains a balance by keeping each component alive, yet front and centre at different points in her life. Right now, it’s motherhood.
“I focused on career, athletic and life goals to preoccupy myself, as I had been told kids may not be a possibility. When I conceived Kiara it was the greatest blessing and miracle. Literally, I’m not just saying that to make it sound like a magical fairytale, to me it was exactly that. And I loved being pregnant”
At 18, during chemotherapy, Kim lost her hair, dropped from her athletic frame to 89 pounds and had her leg amputated. She experienced these drastic identity and life changes (during a period where she was already trying to discover who she was), years before she became a mother. Her perspective on the physical changes you undergo in motherhood are refreshing. As Kim describes how she first felt putting on weight in her pregnancy, she is smiling, glowing, and touching her skin. With her pregnancies, she sees the weight gain, the rounding and the extra skin, in stark contrast to her previous state and embraces what we all should with extra vigour.
“My personal confidence has been bettered by cancer/amputation, I hope that one day it will translate to my children, regardless of their gender. Cancer stripped me, woke me up, awakened me to what true beauty and real confidence is. I rebuilt myself through it and feel more confident in my skin because of it. I want my children to feel their own individual beauty and confidence”
And it is so true, what greater success can there be, than teaching your kids to love and care for their bodies?
We got to talking about how to handle the challenges of motherhood, the days that make you feel like you can’t be doing it right. The food thrown on the floor, the missed naps…
“They are just humans, tiny little humans who have zero control over their emotions. They don’t know any better and I can’t expect to be able to control that. I just try and be positive and happy and hope she benefits from that”
And when all else fails (and some days it will). Hand her off to the hubby and take a breather. At the heart of it all, Kim reminds me that you have to do what feels right for you and your family.
“Embrace the changes of mommy hood, don’t waste time fighting it or how you feel, address your feelings and adapt yourself until you find the balance that uniquely fits you”
And above all, be grateful.
“Cancer and amputation taught me immense gratitude for life. Kiara has now taught me a level of gratitude that is indescribable. I get to experience life through her, everything is new and amazing. This is something I think is overlooked and is a huge gift. Let yourself just get dirty and messy, or totally caught up in simple things like morning cartoons and cuddles, trying new foods or playing silly games. It’s all amazing to our kids, we should let it be amazing for us too”
Kim views life and motherhood in the same way. 
“If we all magnified our strengths and successes, instead of highlighting our hardships, we would be a lot happier”
It’s all very deep, I know. But if it makes you feel better, listening back to my interview with Kim, we had some amazing dialogues about motherhood and identities, but we also talked about poop for a solid two minutes. Nap ruining poops, the worst kind. So the takeaway is, Kim is just like you, or me, but she has had experiences that remind us that success is a product of our own creation and definition. People like her are here to make us all reflect and remind ourselves that we are doing it right, in our own wild ways.

Contributed by Jena & Sarah

June posts sponsored by Little Dreamers Consulting