Mother’s Day Q&A Session with Emily Jackson (by Sarah Leith Bahn)

We were lucky to have the Jackson-Troutman clan in the Gorge for a few weeks recently and, after seeing Emily juggle a preschooler, a baby, a moving home, business commitments and still getting time on the water, we couldn’t think of anyone better for a Mother’s Day Q&A. A professional paddler for most of her life, Emily is (literally) traveling a less-traditional road with her family, paddling wherever the water is good and taking her kids along for the adventure.

And who better to interview her than one of our other favorite moms, Sarah Leith Bahn? Sarah is a former US National whitewater slalom team member who still finds time to get out on the water while juggling two boys, starting a business with her husband, vlogging about healthy eating… oh, and writing a book along the way!

Enjoy!

 

Sarah:

How do you get your life jacket on over your engorged milk boobs? This was a problem for me! I got to the put-in the first time to paddle and couldn’t fit in my life jacket!

Emily:
Did the same thing in my DrySuit after having my Daughter Parker- it was my boobs and hips- I may have cried a little, I loosened all the straps and fed her as much as I could right before paddling!

Sarah:
How do you deal with the fact that you pee a little every time you take a hard stroke?

Emily:
Haha- I was pretty lucky this only happened when doing jumping jacks- or at least, I didn’t notice it while kayaking… Wear board shorts I guess and try to not wear a drysuit for the first little bit… You can get rid of board shorts pretty easy but once a dry suit smells like pee- there is no going back

Sarah:
I had my babies in my mid-30s. I gained 60 pounds in both pregnancies. And it was really hard for me to trust my shoulders, my back and abs again – I was worried when I first went paddling that I’d get injured. It took a lot longer than I would have thought to trust my body again and know it was strong enough to handle paddling. Do you have any advice for women to learn how to trust their bodies again after growing babies? (My pregnancies were like an injury and it took time to have faith that my injury was healed)

Emily:
I was younger with both kids, but I don’t feel this changed that feeling of doubt I had with my body. With Tucker I competed 3 weeks before I had him – weighing 198 pounds in a small Star (max weight of that boat is supposed to be 140 lol) and then I actually competed 3 weeks afterwards at US nationals and won. I decided I was happiest if I got my time in the water, and this meant baby was happy, daddy was happy and most importantly I was happy. I felt if I held myself back in fear of my body getting hurt, then I was already hurting myself. I focused on play boating and easier river runs and literally told myself, it’s like riding a bike, you just need to do it, and while paddling, convincing myself that I had all the confidence in the world (even though it was at an all time low). I laughed when stuff didn’t feel right, but my confidence stemmed from the fact that hey- I am a MOM now- things are different and different is totally okay.

Sarah:
I was never a Nicole Mansfield that ran multiple class V rapids daily, but I did love technical class 4. However after I had kids, I really had a hard time with rapids that had consequences. I found myself scared instead of nervously excited. It was like something flipped inside me and honestly it made me turn my back on the sport for a little while. I was bored on class III and too scared on class 4. It took a new slalom boat, and multiple laps down the Lower White Salmon to realize, I do love simply being on the river and feeling my hull react to the water regardless of how small the whitewater is. Do you have any advice for Moms that come back to the sport after having kids that find themselves scared of a sport they once loved?

Emily:
This is totally normal is so many different ways- Any major change in your life will have you looking at things a little differently. There are so many ways to add spice to kayaking without upping the consequences. For starters- take a playboat down an easier river run, try splatting, squirting, and harder lines on rapids. The combination of trying things plus being in a smaller boat will make the river feel different. Much like taking a SUP on flatwater and all of sudden the flatwater at times can get difficult and exciting. My favorite feeling is when water simply splashes me in the face. So I feel like my day was an accomplishment if I had that one moment of bliss. The absolute hardest part about getting back into kayaking- is choosing to go kayaking over taking care of other responsibilities, as mom we get accustomed to taking care of everyone else and not ourselves, so by simply choosing to put yourself first for that quick kayaking lap, or river run, you should already gain confidence and be proud of yourself regardless of what you are doing on the water.

Sarah:
One of the things I loved about the sport of kayaking – especially on the Potomac River, I could paddle whenever I wanted and was not dependent on anyone. My boat was always on my car and I could literally in 5 minutes go from eating breakfast to taking a lap down little falls on the Potomac. Then I had a kid and felt trapped! I couldn’t just go paddling whenever I wanted. And it made me sad. How do you deal with feeling trapped?

Emily:
This day and age I feel like being a Mom alone isn’t enough, we all need to be supermom and take care of everything on our own, asking questions makes us look weak right? I feel trapped when I want everything to be perfect and an exact way. When I am not flexible or allow people to help me, the walls around me get tighter and tighter until I eventually crack. My kids have been watched on the river banks by people who I would never expect to watch them, people have run my shuttle with the kids in the car, by giving up a little control, and taking people up on acts of kindness my freedom has come back! By being flexible and saying yes to the chaos, accepting the challenges, and knowing that when I get home, the house will be messy, the kids might be a touch tired, by my soul is refreshed, makes me feel like I can accomplish anything.

Here is my Ted Talk on Prioritizing to give you a little more insight on how I try to balance my lifestyle:

 

Thanks again, Emily & Sarah, and Happy Mother’s Day to all of you moms that paddle!

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