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Sheryl Swoopes: WNBA Star Bounces Back

Sheryl and JordanSome women seem to be shining stars: lots of talent, good looks, a successful career and a family, too. One woman whose star shines even brighter than most is Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) player Sheryl Swoopes. The first woman to have a Nike shoe – the Air Swoopes – named after her, Swoopes has remained one of the league’s top players even after giving birth to her son, Jordan.

A member of the Houston Comets, Swoopes is not one to sit on the sidelines. That’s why when she found out she was pregnant with Jordan at age 25, she committed herself to playing basketball and staying in shape throughout the pregnancy. She had no morning sickness or any other symptoms that hindered her lifestyle. “My pregnancy was great,” she says. “I did everything as I normally would: traveled, worked out, played five-on-five. I enjoyed being pregnant.”

Pregnancy and Birth

Upon learning she was unexpectedly pregnant, her biggest fear was telling her agent and other WNBA associates about her condition. She kept her special secret throughout the first trimester “in case something happened,” and then shared the news. “I was nervous about what everyone would think, but they were all very supportive,” she says.

Her pregnancy proceeded without a hitch: She didn’t even have extra cravings for her favorite ice cream – pralines ‘n’ cream. She did have a pet peeve, however. “I didn’t want anybody touching me at all,” she laughs. “I got very uncomfortable after month seven.”

Swoopes and her husband, football player Eric Jackson, attended Lamaze and breastfeeding classes. When she was induced because her baby was getting very big inside of her, Swoopes tried to use the Lamaze breathing techniques but became frustrated. She then realized the true meaning of the expression “No Pain, No Gain.”

“It was so painful,” she says. “I got an epidural and it was the best thing ever invented.” Five hours later, Jordan was born. Swoopes cried tears of joy when he was placed in her arms and “forgot about the pain immediately. I was so glad about the way it happened – I wouldn’t trade that experience for the whole world.”

Despite her rigorous game and travel schedule, Swoopes breastfed Jordan for seven months. “The first two weeks were very hard, but after that it was great,” she recalls. “I did a lot of pumping – the breast pump is the second best thing ever invented.”

Bouncing Back
After her postpartum adjustment, Swoopes planned her return to the basketball court. She was nervous about her basketball skills – would they be as solid after baby as they were pre-pregnancy? “I came back in knowing I wouldn’t be the same player I was before,” she says. “My mind felt the same, but my body felt different. As competitive as I am, that was difficult.”

It didn’t take long, however, for Swoopes to regain her strength and skills. She reports that she feels she’s at the same level now that she was pre-pregnancy, and her stats on the court prove that. After her son was born, Swoopes led the Comets to garner their fourth consecutive championship title and was voted the 2000 WNBA Most Valuable Player. Swoopes also was named to the U.S. National Team and played in the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia. She spends summers working with kids, hosting a series of basketball camps.

Sheryl in PlayA Basketball-Playing Mom
Becoming a mother changed Swoopes in many ways. While she still travels quite a bit for her career, she notes that she has grown up a lot faster than she would have if she had not become a mom. “I have a lot more patience now,” she says. “I put Jordan’s needs ahead of my own – he’s my number one priority.” Her favorite thing to do is interact with her son, whom she calls very intelligent. “I love to watch him – I could watch him all day. I go to bed looking at him and I wake up looking at him.”

Jordan, like his namesake, basketball mega-star Michael Jordan – with whom Swoopes has played one-on-one – already knows how to dribble and shoot the basketball. He also plays baseball and football, like his dad. His parents, however, aren’t pushing him into athletics. “If he wants to play sports, then that’s fine. If he doesn’t want to play sports, that’s fine too. I just want him to be happy,” she says.

Swoopes manages her hectic life with the help of a nanny, and when she travels, her mother takes Jordan. While there are no plans for other children in the near future, Swoopes hasn’t ruled them out. She plans to work as a sports broadcaster after she retires from the game, but motherhood clearly ranks high on her life’s to-do list. “I want people to remember me as a great athlete, but more than that, I want people to remember me as a great mom.”

© 2010-2018 Elisa All. All rights reserved.