Elana Meyers Taylor blog: "I'm honoured to be his mother"

In her third blog for Olympics.com, Elana Meyers Taylor talks about the challenges of juggling her son Nico's care alongside her and Nic's schedules, and why it might be the most rewarding thing ever.

By Elana Meyers Taylor
Picture by 2021 Getty Images

As Beijing 2022 selection gets ever closer bobsleigh star Elana Meyers Taylor in her third blog for Olympics.com candidly talks about the challenges of juggling care for her son with special needs while being an elite athlete bidding to make it to the Games.

While it might be chaotic and complicated at times, the three-time Olympic medallist shares her immense pride for her son and the joy of seeing Nico flourish.

READ: Catch up on the second blog detailing the challenges of breastfeeding

The challenge of Nico's childcare

We finished up a World Cup week in Sigulda, Latvia, and moved on to Winterberg, Germany, where we’re getting close to that final Olympic selection. I won the two-man race in Sigulda and won the monobob race in Winterberg, followed by a 4th place finish in two-man, which meant I secured enough points to qualify a sled for Team USA in Beijing 2022.

I have to wait until 16 January for official selection to the team, but the sled is qualified which is the first step.

I was speaking with my husband the other day and told him that this quad (four year cycle into the Olympics) has been more difficult than any of the other three previous. He responded: “Oh - you mean the quad during a pandemic?”- so yes of course that, but also the new challenges that parenting bring.

In our particular parenting, we have a whole new set of challenges as parents of a child with special needs.

Naively, I hadn’t even given much thought to the possibility of having a child with special needs prior to getting pregnancy- I don’t think many people do. The old adage- “I don’t care if it’s a boy or a girl as long as it’s healthy” rings true for most parents, but what happens if your child wasn’t born “healthy?” Sitting in the NICU with Nico I can tell you bobsledding was the furthest thing from my mind.

After we got the diagnosis of Down's syndrome, my focus became figuring out how to provide best for my son and what I needed to do to make sure he had everything he needed. Very early in our NICU stay, we were visited by our first physical therapist- something I had no idea would be needed for a baby. It was our first introduction into the therapy services of children with special needs.

Doing baby manicure

Therapies, schedule clashes and making it work

Over time we would learn there are a lot of recommended therapies- A LOT!

The question became, how do you juggle all the therapies with training for the Olympics? We started out slowly (of course with the pandemic we had no choice- there were no therapies except virtual available) and gradually added more and more as more became recommended as he aged. Nico’s schedule got so complicated sometimes I couldn’t remember if it was me training for the Olympics or him!

Nico would get at least five therapies a week each for an hour - physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, music therapy- heck we even tried aquatic therapy - but that didn’t go over to well so we had to step away from that for the time being. That meant Nic and I were juggling our training schedules and also running around to make appointments, prep Nico for therapy, and make sure he properly recovered as well. It was chaos, but we made it work.

It often meant I had to adjust my training schedule, getting up early to get a workout in or working out later in the day after appointments, but what mother wouldn’t accommodate to do whatever is best for her son? We made it work.

The more difficult times were the doctors appointments and procedures. When Nico received his cochlear implants, the major surgery exhausted us all but none more than Nico. It was quite a process for the surgery and recovery- but Nico handled it like a champ! Definitely had to miss a few training sessions for that, but I wouldn’t take back his ability to hear through cochlear implants for anything.

Nico during an occupational therapy session

Why it's all worth it

Now that we’re on the road - we struggle to fit in all the organised therapies and many can’t even give us services depending on what country we’re in.

Nic and I are very diligent though to work on many of the things our therapist recommended, and its fun to see Nico learn new skills (we’re now working on standing independently and walking!).

What’s really amazing is seeing how his language has blossomed, especially as he interacts with the US Bobsled team. He waves and laughs and smiles at our teammates, and he’s getting closer to speaking (outside of mama and dada which he already says) every day and I can’t help but be extremely thankful for the US team’s role in this.

Nico’s schedule may add a bit of complexity into our already chaotic lives- but I wouldn’t change him for the world. I’m honoured to be his mother, to be a parent of a child with special needs, and if I can be a bobsledder while doing it- then that’s pretty cool too.

GO OLYMPIC. GET ALL THIS.

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