I need to take you back a little bit.
Back before the coronavirus pandemic upended life as we knew it, before Tokyo was postponed (more on this later), and even before my pregnancy and my baby boy Liam arrived. This dream has been years in the making...
The truth is that every single minute of the first five months I'd been pregnant, I was terrified.
I was worried about how it would change my fitness, my body. What would it look like, feel like, when I came back? What did this mean for coming back for the Olympics? What did this mean for the rest of my track career? Would I effectively have a career at all?
There was so much up in the air, partly because I'd kept it from the public. For a while, the "public" included my sponsors. What would Under Armour do once I told them? Would they push me to the side, put me on the shelf until the baby thing went away?
It all weighed on me.
As a woman, society tells girls (and boys who grow to be men that would never be asked these questions) from an early age that if you have a kid, then maybe you are not taking your career seriously as you say, or that the occupation must accept a permanent backseat.
It's one of those false notions that people have just accepted in all walks of life for women, regardless of their careers.
So what if the bulk of your business is set upon your physical self being continuously optimized to run world-class speeds?
But once I was given the vote of confidence by Under Armour, a certain amount of weight was lifted. I felt supported in a way I'd never felt before. At the same time, it then presented a new path.
Throughout, I had never actually stopped training. Frankly, I didn't know what else to do. This is what I do—I have to run. Even more than that, I have to compete. I simply could not see myself giving up on Tokyo, even as I grew fully pregnant.
But the times got slower. I was tired in ways I can't describe to you. At one point, I even used the bathroom on myself, right there on the track. But I just had to keep going, no matter what.
I had Liam within two hours of getting to the hospital, not realizing I was in labor on my couch. Apparently, there isn't much I do without some concept of speed.
I'm not going to lie. It's been hard, from every aspect. The reality is that there is a before and after. My body is different than it was before my pregnancy.
At the same time, another part of my constantly-updating reality is that it's made absolute focus when I do train necessary. I can't slack off.
Slowly but surely, it's coming back to me. Each day, I feel more like myself, or rather a version of myself that I'm molding into a new machine—because the old Natasha is gone. She's not coming back.
But I can control the updated version of her. And Natasha 2.0 was going to evolve into something that Joanne 1.0 could not.
My running talent didn't just sprout out of itself. My mother, Joanne Hastings, was once a world-class 200-meter sprinter herself during the early to mid-Eighties. She was a record-setting star in college and made the 1984 Olympic team for Trinidad & Tobago.
After I was conceived, however, her career as an athlete was over. It was a different time and place for women then. This was over 30 years ago now. I fast-forward to 2020 to see women—like my mother, myself, the lawyer trying to make partner at a firm somewhere, all the women trying to accomplish the things they've worked so hard for—are afraid and wondering what happens to their hopes and dreams.
I pushed through everything for them. I did the extra rep, the extra set for those women. I still do.
Of course, I pushed through for my little boy, who will be my legacy. But I also push through for my mother, the owner of a dream deferred, a dream yielded to me.
I am the owner and protector of these dreams, hers and mine. And I plan on seeing them through.
Today, however, I'm faced with a set of questions and challenges I couldn't have imagined, as the spread of the coronavirus has impacted every aspect of our lives.
I don't want to say I didn't believe it at first because it was clear this was a real thing. However, initially, I had to maintain the mindset that the Games would take place. So, I was of two minds: watching what's going on from the athlete's perspective and also taking stock of the situation as a mom.
Putting myself aside, I was planning on taking Liam to Tokyo. So how do I put my child (and my mom) in harm's way, all because I want him to see me at the Games? Fortunately, I won't have to make that decision with the Games postponed. Unfortunately, again, with everyone else in the world, I wait.
At first, I kept asking myself: Was this last year of training a waste? Can I stay focused and maintain what I've been working towards? Is my "why" still strong enough to see me through another grueling year? What about the "track season," as we know it. What will it look like for us, leading up to the new date for the Games?
Honestly, though, right now, it all seems so small. That isn't to diminish what I do, or the Olympics. It's just the reality that so many people are fighting; for their lives, to stay afloat, to save lives.
During this global crisis, my renewed quest toward Tokyo continues with a profound sense of gratitude for my health, my body, my sport, my family, and my entire support system. I realized I'm blessed to be where I am.
With that, I also send my appreciation to those on the frontlines working to keep us safe, and to the workers who were always "essential" but are only now getting their just due.
For now, I do my part to stay home, keep my son safe, and get creative with my training–out of my garage and driveway.
Alongside the mysteries lies a new frontier. Just like when I had to adjust to the new me, Natasha 2.0, I'll grow and improve again. We'll call it, Natasha 2.5, as I continue to push toward my goals and Tokyo 2021. Even if it means another cycle of adapting and learning along the way, I'll continue to push.
We all will, together. We have to. It's the only way we make it.
Through This Together.