The 9 Month Injury no image

Published on August 8th, 2011 | by Ivy B. Leaguer


Derby: Check. Degree: Check. Baby: TWINS! Now What?

Roller derby found me in January of 2007. I was listening to the local news at noon when I heard a “coming up next” tagline for a piece on the Star City Roller Girls of Roanoke, Virginia. My interest went on high alert and I couldn’t wait for the commercial break to end so I could contact these women and somehow get involved.

I was at home in nearby Blacksburg, battling depression and trying to stay afloat. Just crawling out of bed was a big deal for me. Although in the middle of my grad school career, I managed to avoid lab research for nearly the entire month of December thanks to the holiday season. But my advisor would only allow that to happen for so long and I could sense his agitation.

In early January, I spoke candidly with him about what I was going through and why my presence was scarce. Although I feared the worst, he was surprisingly supportive and left me with this bit of advice: Form follows function. It may be an architectural doctrine but I understood his phrase to mean, basically: Get off of your ass and do something; you will feel better.

I decided to contact the Star City Roller Girls and do something.

I had to join Myspace (I know!) in order to contact the league president and founder, Maureen O’Havoc. She told me a new league closer to me was starting up but I felt that commuting twice a week would be in my best interest. My husband Karl, graduating from vet school in May, secured a job at a clinic in Roanoke and we had already discussed moving there when I finished my program. So O’Havoc gave me the rundown on what was required from me and said to show up for Wednesday practice.

Driving to my first practice was nerve-wracking. I didn’t know a soul and I hadn’t skated in years. There were 4 skaters, including myself, making up the fresh meat class. Two of the new skaters were 18-year-old skating whizzes, executing perfect cross-overs all around me, skating backwards as if to mock me while I fell on my 30-year-old ass. I felt like Bambi on ice. But everyone at practice was so encouraging and supportive that I pushed through it and couldn’t wait for the next one. After that night I vowed, “I WILL get better!”

I sucked for months.

And then one day, it all clicked. I had to stop thinking so much and overanalyzing my every move. Once I did that, my skating improved dramatically. And I got involved by volunteering at events, helping with committees, attending league meetings. As a result, I formed life-long friendships with SCRG members and became an elected league officer. I’ve been Star City’s Interleague Coordinator since April of 2008 and a co-captain since 2009.

My roller derby work ethic gave me renewed enthusiasm in my lab work. I still suffered grad school setbacks but they didn’t send me into emotional tailspins because I had the best outlet for my frustrations.

Still my life, though considerably improved from that bleak winter, was missing two things: 1) my doctorate degree and 2) a baby. Because I worked with numerous chemicals and radioactive materials on a daily basis, not to mention that I had to be able to write a dissertation to sum it all up, I decided to not start a family until I successfully graduated. Also, honestly, I didn’t want to stop playing derby. Derby gave new purpose to my days and it felt like I just got started.

Fast forward. I eventually received my Ph.D. in Biochemistry in May of 2010. My family, in town for graduation, was able to watch me skate in a bout on graduation weekend. Having them as spectators at the bout made me more nervous than stepping on a stage in front of thousands to receive my diploma.

Now the only thing I had left to do was get pregnant. I joked with my teammates that all Karl would have to do was look at me and we’d get pregnant. I planned on being pregnant by the off-season in 2010, bench coaching in 2011, and returning during the off-season in 2011.

That didn’t happen. Turns out, my body had other plans and it took several months and a few doctor visits to turn me into a Fertile Myrtle. And damn if I’m not currently 18 weeks pregnant with twins.

Twins! All of my planning never considered the possibility of twins. With a so-called singleton, I could pop one out and have the husband watch the kid for few hours while I head off to practice. Now I’m struggling with how I’m going to leave the house to go grocery shopping once the two arrive. How can I leave two infants at home while I strap on my gear and hit the rink?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m overjoyed with my pregnancy news, but I already miss my derby life and my teammates, the ritual of practice, the smelly gear, the pre-bout jitters. I’m still the league’s ILC and a co-captain and I currently help run the bench during bouts. But I won’t be able to keep it up for long. I won’t be able to travel far in a few more weeks and I know my mind can’t stay focused on derby business and ILC scheduling for a season I will miss completely.

I hope to be able to return at some point but for now I’ll have to say, “Good-bye, Roller Derby. You have been a true life-saver.”

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