Two-time Olympic gold medalist Natasha Hastings thought she had to hide her pregnancy to succeed

Key Points
  • The WNBA announced this week that it will give players paid maternity leave and up to $60,000 toward fertility or adoption fees.
  • USWNT soccer star Alex Morgan announced her pregnancy in November and said she still plans to compete in Tokyo at the 2020 Summer Olympics.
  • Track-and-field star Hastings was five months pregnant before she worked up the courage to call sponsor Under Armour.
Natasha Hastings
Source: Natasha Hastings

Track-and-field star Natasha Hastings hid her pregnancy for five months before deciding to tell her sponsors. The two-time Olympic gold medalist had spent her whole life training and feared that a pregnancy could derail her career.

"I knew I wanted a family," the 33-year-old athlete said in an interview with CNBC, "but I just didn't want it right now."

Hastings said she struggled with reconciling the emotions of excitement and fear and it took more than half of her pregnancy before she was able to celebrate it.

"I was worried about what this meant for my fitness, what did this mean for coming back for the Olympics, I was worried about what it would mean for my sponsors. I was even worried about letting down the people around me because there is this thing as a woman — if you have a kid maybe you are not taking your career so seriously," she said.

Hastings' fears are not unfounded. U.S. sports teams and managers are just beginning to give female athletes the time and support to have a family. But the industry hasn't always been so understanding. Just a few months after Hastings' pregnancy announcement, several other high-profile athletes including Olympic runners Alysia Montano and Kara Goucher spoke out about the lack of support they had at Nike. The outcry led to Nike changing its maternity policy, which now guarantees pay and bonuses during pregnancy.

Olympian Natasha Hastings on the struggle of being a pregnant athlete
Olympian Natasha Hastings on the struggle of being a pregnant athlete

This week, the WNBA and its players announced a new collective bargaining agreement that includes paid maternity leave, for the first time ever, and $60,000 toward fertility or adoption fees.

In November, USWNT soccer star Alex Morgan announced her pregnancy and said she still plans to compete in Tokyo at the 2020 Summer Olympics.

For years, female athletes have sought higher wages and benefits that are more equitable with men, but now family-planning benefits are becoming more important than ever both on the sports field and in the boardroom.

On Tuesday, Hastings appeared at Under Armour's Baltimore headquarters with her son in tow, for an event launching their latest campaign: "The Only Way is Through." That's her mantra these days as she balances motherhood and her career.

Hastings was five months pregnant and showing before she worked up the courage to call sponsor Under Armour. To her surprise, they were excited for her.

"It was almost like I had tortured myself for five months thinking about all the possible outcomes," she added. Hastings and her fiance, former Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback William Gay, delivered a baby boy they named Liam on Aug. 6.

Today, Hastings is back on the track training.

"It's been hard training, I'm not going to lie," she said. "From every aspect. Physically, my body is different, I'm not sleeping through the night all the time with a new baby. I have to allow myself time to recover and get back in shape."

But this Olympics, Hastings' third, has new meaning that's more important than ever, she said. She won two gold medals as part of the women's 400-meter relay team at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. After failing to make the U.S. Olympic team in 2012, she took home the gold again as part of the same relay team at the 2016 Olympics in Rio, where she also finished fourth in the individual 400-meter relay race.

"There is a different why," she said of her Olympic run today. "I don't want to ever look back at this year and say I didn't give it my all."

Hastings said motherhood has had positive effects on her career as well. With a busier schedule, she said time management has really helped her maximize her efforts in training.

As Hastings prepares for Tokyo, whatever the result, she said she hopes her dedication and hard work are one day evident to her son.

"We bring life into this world and still do a ton of other things. I'm still a badass woman, and I can do anything I set my mind to."