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Creating a Bond Between Motherhood and Sport

Mothers are the ultimate endurance athletes. Nike’s first dedicated maternity collection, Nike (M), supports women during all stages of pregnancy and beyond. 

An example of Nike's universal design philosophy, Nike (M) is created by combing through pregnancy data findings with analytics from more than 150,000 comparison scans of non-pregnant women against those of pregnant women. Throughout the design process, designers also gathered detailed feedback on fit, feel and function from nearly 30 female athletes who were pregnant or postpartum.

"The more we listened to expecting mothers and postpartum mothers, the more we learned, reworked and innovated through inclusive design," says Carmen Zolman, Nike Senior Design Director for Apparel Innovation. "It's the project of a lifetime to work in lockstep with all kinds of mothers to bring to life a capsule that truly supports women's relationship with sport during such a transformative time in their lives."

Discussions with several professional Nike athlete mothers illuminate this truth. Their experiences also elucidate the impetus for Nike (M).

Giving birth is arguably one of the most transformative events the human body can experience. 

Whether a biological mom, surrogate mom, adoptive mom, stepmom or otherwise, every mom’s journey and recovery look different. However, overarching themes from professional athlete moms still apply to moms of all backgrounds: be healthy, be confident, be active. Most of all, be kind to yourself — always.

That's what United States women's national soccer team member and Orlando Pride forward Alex Morgan had to continually remind herself as her firstborn daughter, Charlie, grew to term. 

Although active throughout the duration of her pregnancy, Morgan was seeing slower mile times and lower output in her group cycling classes as she progressed. As a professional athlete who always pushed her body to the limit pre-pregnancy, the Olympic gold medalist talks about the importance of taking a step back and relishing the process of training while pregnant:  

“Not only was there a physical shift I had to make, but it was a mental shift to say, ‘That’s okay,’” says Morgan. “As an athlete, you want to see gains. You want to continue to progress. Throughout my pregnancy I had to shift my focus from thinking, ‘I’m getting worse at my mile’ or ‘I’m getting more tired easily,’ to ‘I’m growing a baby, so be forgiving of yourself and your body, and really enjoy this time.’”

“Throughout my pregnancy I had to shift my focus from thinking, ‘I’m getting worse at my mile’ or ‘I’m getting more tired easily,’ to ‘I’m growing a baby, so be forgiving of yourself and your body, and really enjoy this time.’”

Alex Morgan, United States women's national soccer team member and Orlando Pride forward

From setting world records to recovering from injury to creating and sustaining new life, the human body truly is amazing — as is the mind that supports it. Take retired British track and field athlete Perri Edwards, who, when she was 36-weeks pregnant, compared healing previous injuries to her "race day" mindset heading into birthing her firstborn:

“Pain is temporary, and I feel like I’m going to take that mentality throughout when I’m giving birth,” says Edwards. “The pain I’m going to be going through is a step closer to meeting my son, and that’s the positive affirmation I’ll be saying to myself when I’m breathing. It’s the same way I dealt with pain during sports rehab. I told myself, ‘It’s one step closer to where I want to be, [back on the track].’”

That same notion held true for golfer Michelle Wie West, who welcomed daughter Makenna on June 19, 2020. The U.S. Women’s Open Champion believes the injury obstacles seen across her career (including a surgically-repaired right hand, and neck, back, hip, knee and ankle injuries) ultimately made her pregnancy pains and labor easier. 

“When we [husband Jonnie West] were trying to get pregnant, there was definitely a thought in my mind, ‘Can my body actually do this? Can my body actually go through a pregnancy?’” says Wie West. “I had gone through so many injuries, so many things wrong, that I really hoped my body would pull through and go through a healthy pregnancy and labor. I felt so accomplished after. I definitely have a greater appreciation for my body and more of an understanding of it.”

The timeline of motherhood doesn’t stop at nine months. In fact, for the many women who have two or three children (on average), the journey navigating motherhood from pre-pregnancy, pregnancy and postpartum can be up to 10 years. 

Motherhood is a new chapter for a woman’s relationship with her body and with sport, and it’s often difficult for pregnant and postpartum moms to find the support they need to find sport. 

“Postpartum is one of those areas that really gets forgotten,” says Morgan.

Morgan went on to emphasize the importance of supporting women on their journeys to and through motherhood so that moms get the chance to recover the right way and on their own terms. Because it’s not always about shattering world records and winning tournaments. Sometimes it’s about ensuring moms feel comfortable enough to get to the starting line. 

With the introduction of the Nike (M) Collection, a four-piece essentials capsule consisting of the Nike (M) Pullover, the Nike (M) Swoosh Bra, the Nike (M) Tank and Nike One (M) Tight, Nike employs universal design philosophy to help play a role for moms as their relationship with their bodies and sport simultaneously change.

“The Nike (M) sports bra is great because it’ll give me easy access for when I want to breastfeed,” says Edwards. “The leggings give you options of wearing over your tummy or showing your tummy, and the maternity shirt has this extra material for the extra weight that I’m carrying. You look very smart, very comfortable, very hip.”

Now that she’s a mom to Charlie, born May 7, 2020, Morgan says she’s more in tune with her body than ever, and paying closer attention to its needs. She’s also excited that she’s joined the club of full-time professional athletes who are also full-time moms. 

“I feel like I owe it to myself and the female athlete community to be a badass mom athlete,” says Morgan. “We have mom athletes in the community who have won Olympic medals and who have made it to the highest stage in their respective sport, and I want to continue to carry that.”

“We have mom athletes in the community who have won Olympic medals and who have made it to the highest stage in their respective sport, and I want to continue to carry that.”

Alex Morgan, United States women's national soccer team member and Orlando Pride forward

Whether it’s learning to be kind to their bodies as they change or coming to the realization that their bodies can do so much more than propel them to the top of their sport, one thing’s for certain: Nike mom athletes believe that being a mom makes them better athletes, and better people.  

“Especially with [Makenna] being a girl, it refreshes my perspective on the world completely," says Wie West. “I want to play not for myself anymore — but for her. I want her to see me as a strong woman, whether it’s in golf or not.”

The Nike (M) collection launches September 17 in North America, Europe and Africa on nike.com.

Read More: Apparel Performance