Baby boom at Scotties leads to inspirational performances from Canada’s top curlers
KAMLOOPS, B.C. – There’s been a baby boom at this year’s Scotties Tournament of Hearts.
Playing pregnant at the Canadian women’s curling championship is commonplace for the annual event, but this week in Kamloops it appears that number is particularly high.
“I guess it just happened that a lot of us were the same age, we’re all almost 30 or early 30s and it was perfect time to have a baby because it’s fours years away from the Olympics,” Team Canada lead Briane Harris told TSN.ca. “So, it just ended up that everyone seemed to get pregnant this year. There’s almost a pregnant person on every team, it’s pretty crazy.”
Harris has a June due date while Sarah Wilkes, lead for Team Rachel Homan, is due in May.
Sisters Casey Scheidegger and Jessie Haughian of Wild Card 2 are both pregnant and due in June, as well as Nova Scotia second Karlee Everist, who has a due date later this summer in August.
“I think this is very unique and it’s kind of exciting that we have so many moms-to-be out there so I’m happy to be apart of it,” Scheidegger said earlier this week.
The biggest baby boom of the season has been with Team Kaitlyn Lawes, otherwise known as Wild Card 1 at Sandman Centre for this week’s Tournament of Hearts.
“I’ve been prioritizing rest and it is a lot of sweeping,” said second Jocelyn Peterman, who is due in June with husband and curler Brett Gallant. “So far been feeling pretty good and this is our first two-game day, so we’ll be making sure we’re taking some naps in between.”
Lawes missed a portion of the curling campaign after giving birth to her first child, daughter Myla, in December and regular vice Selena Njegovan is with Team Lawes in Kamloops, but on pregnancy leave as she’s expected to give birth in late March.
“It’s amazing what the female body goes through. These women out here are superheroes. They’re playing through pregnancies at every stage,” remarked Lawes.
Scheidegger says there’s been a little more discomfort compared to a regular Scotties and she has to watch what she eats before games but is feeling fine overall.
“I’m feeling okay, I did have a fall yesterday, I tripped over a rock which is not unlike me. So, a little bit sore and a little bit of discomfort, but other than that pretty good,” she said.
Harris, who is riding a perfect 7-0 record so far with Team Kerri Einarson, says the intensity of the game can sometimes be a helpful distraction.
“It’s definitely challenging, but at the same time, you just have to a good mindset and just do what you can out there,” said the 30-year-old. “Sometimes you can just turn it off if you’re in the zone, so that’s what I’ve been trying to do.”
With so many curlers in a similar position, the support systems have been there as well.
“There’s lots of support. Everyone knows what you’re going through and is so kind about it,” said Peterman. “So, it’s really cool we’re all kind of doing it together.”
One of the most memorable pregnancies at the Tournament of Hearts came two years ago inside the Calgary bubble when Rachel Homan led her Ontario side to the final while eight months pregnant with her second child, daughter Bowyn. Less than a month after giving birth, Homan was back on the ice for a Grand Slam event.
“We love our sport. And obviously it is nice that we have the ability to still be able to compete throughout our pregnancy in most cases,” said Peterman. “It’s nice to know that you don’t have to quit the sport just because you want to start a family.”
Pregnancies were front and centre leading into this year’s Canadian championship as well.
With Njegovan unable to play due to her pregnancy, Team Lawes received an exemption from Curling Canada to add Laura Walker, an out-of-province curler, because they were a top-five team on the Canadian Team Ranking System.
Fellow curlers – including Team Lawes – and fans alike took to Twitter to voice their displeasure with the rule, saying that all teams should be eligible for the exemption, not just curlers on the top-five teams.
Curling Canada soon changed course and made all teams eligible for the exemption. They also allowed Njegovan to be with the team in Kamloops.
“Selena has been a huge part of our team this whole year,” said Lawes earlier this week. “We wouldn’t be here without her, so to be able to have expertise and knowledge on the bench is amazing.”
The higher number of pregnancies at this year’s Scotties proves once again that you don’t have to choose between starting a family and being a curler at the sport’s highest level.
“You can do whatever you set your mind to,” said Harris. “If you’re feeling good enough to play and you’re healthy, I think woman can play as long as they want and there’s no limits.
“Until the doctors makes you stop.”