Helen Ward believes sport is moving in the right direction when it comes to dealing with pregnancy and motherhood – but that won’t stop her stressing over seeing her own kids on Mother’s Day.
The iconic Wales striker – who is closing in on 100 international caps for her country – is playing for Watford away at Sunderland on Sunday.
It means a long trip back down south, and no time wasted if she’s to get cards and kisses from seven-year-old Emily and Charlie, who’s four.
“I’m not sure if I’ll even see them on Mother’s Day,” she says. “It’s a 12.30 kick-off, so I might just make it back for bedtime!”
Juggling motherhood and elite sport is not an easy task, just as trying to fit in time for physical activity around children can be difficult for any mum.
But Ward believes football and other sports are slowly making progress, even from the time eight years ago when she was pregnant for the first time.
Since then, Serena Williams has won a Grand Slam tennis tournament when she was pregnant, Welsh cyclist Elinor Barker discovered she was pregnant while with Great Britain at last year’s Tokyo Olympics, and the Women’s Super League (WSL) is introducing maternity clauses into players’ contracts.
Once athletes have their children, then many sports are adopting more flexible systems aimed to protect those mothers’ status within the sport their and income levels.
Last year, UK Sport introduced official pregnancy guidance for Team GB athletes for the first time, with the organisation stating that "starting a family and being an elite athlete should not be mutually exclusive."
The new guidance was designed to support Olympic and Paralympic athletes through "pre, during and post-childbirth."
Ward, who could earn her milestone 100th cap against France in a crucial World Cup qualifier next month, says: “I always thought that once I had a family then that would be it, but as soon as I fell pregnant with Emily, I knew straight away I wasn’t ready to stop playing.
“Thankfully I was able to get myself back to a decent level and carry on with my career.”
Admittedly, though, with little information to hand, Helen admits she “winged it”.
“There weren’t many players that carried on so there wasn’t much experience to go on with other mothers.
“I was fortunate enough to play with Katie Chapman at Arsenal and she had three children, and Katie Sherwood, who I played with for Wales.
“Katie has also got three children and she came back after having her first and second. So, I had those sort of role models, but there weren’t many that you could lean on, and little info, so I winged it a little bit with Emily.”