When ESPN reporter and host Laura Rutledge was expecting her first child, now 3-year-old Reese, she was due in October, when the regular football season had only just begun. Her experience carrying her second child — a baby boy due later this month — has been entirely different, given that she’s been pregnant with him the entire football season. In fact, Rutledge recently earned a round of applause for covering the NFL Draft at nine months pregnant.
While the draft may be a rigorous assignment, it’s nothing Rutledge isn’t used to at this point in her pregnancy. The sports journalist tells Yahoo Life that she “struggled with feeling sick and tired” while working her usual schedule throughout the fall, which involves hosting NFL Live five days a week and SEC Nation at a college football town on the weekend. Not to mention that, on top of “essentially working seven days a week,” she’s raising a toddler.
“I've been kind of amazed by the strength that I didn't know I had,” says Rutledge.
During her first pregnancy, the NFL reporter had to stop working sooner than she had planned, due to third trimester complications, so this time around, she says she was “hypersensitive” to making sure she was following doctor’s orders. “I actually brought [work] up to them earlier on, because when I was around seven months pregnant, I was covering the Pro Bowl and then the Super Bowl,” recalls Rutledge. “So it was a two-week period where I was in Las Vegas, and I was in California and Arizona, and it was like, ‘Is this OK?’ We've kept this open dialogue, and we had ultrasounds, and they’d say, ‘Right, you're good to go.’”
So when it came time to cover the draft, Rutledge once again checked in with her doctor two days before leaving for Kansas City. “I said, ‘You can tell me not to go, and I will totally listen,’” she says. “My doctor did a full check, and she said, ‘You’re OK, you can do this. If you want to, go for it.”
With the green light from her obstetrician, Rutledge got to work, traveling with her husband, Josh, who accompanied her in case she went into labor. She also credits him with helping her stay calm, hydrated and fed.
“I’m like, ‘Go, go, go, go, go!’ And he's like, ‘All right, but calm down, it’s OK, we don't need to overdo it,’” she laughs, adding that he supported her by carrying around a “very floral, girly-looking lunch box that had all this food and drinks in it” while reminding her to eat and hydrate. “A lot of times, especially now that we have Reese, he hasn't been able to come to some of these events, so it was really special to watch him just soaking it all in,” says Rutledge. “And the draft is such a unique event. You're really watching people's lives change. So, for him to witness it and see all the different jobs that I do, from hosting NFL Live to the red carpet interviews to the family interviews, is something that we won't forget.”
Of course the three-day event wasn’t without its challenging moments, notes Rutledge. “There were moments where I thought I was feeling contractions — just Braxton-Hicks — and I was feeling some pain,” she remembers. And in those moments, she would have to remind herself to sit down, drink some water and make sure to tune into her body.
“There were some times where I was on my feet so much that he wasn’t moving as much for a period of time,” she says. “So I said, ‘All right, let me sit down and make sure I can get him to move.’ And thankfully, he did, and everything was fine.”
Rutledge’s attempts to stay hydrated also backfired a bit and led to a “really funny moment.” “We had to sort of rush up to the red carpet, and we got there and I thought, ‘Yeah, you know, I've really got to pee,’” she shares, noting that the nearest facility available was a Porta Potty. “Normally I would have held it, but I thought, ‘I need to [go], because that really would have been distracting!’”
The soon-to-be mom of two admits she was “very emotional” about covering the draft while pregnant. “I was really trying to soak everything up and be thankful for the chance to actually be there with him in my belly, and very soon, we're going to meet him, so it’s really cool that he was there,” she says.
The experience has led Rutledge to be even more in awe of other women who are juggling work and pregnancy. “There are so many women who work right up until the day of giving birth, and for some that’s a choice, and for others, it’s a necessity,” she says. “I’m so sensitive to women who don’t necessarily have that choice. I have felt very lucky that I was in a position to make the decision and [felt] very supported at ESPN.”
She continues, “I would just encourage people to look around and tell women in their lives how much they appreciate what they might have done, whether that was carrying a child, trying to get pregnant or dealing with pregnancy loss. And as women, we can't celebrate other women enough.”
Though Rutledge has now made it look almost effortless to juggle an intense career with pregnancy, there was a time when she couldn’t envision her current life at all. When she was 21 and first started working after college, she admits she believed “it wouldn't be possible to have a family.” “I thought, ‘I'm going to be committed to this and just do this work, and that's probably going to be it for me, and maybe down the road, I'll be able to have children,’” says Rutledge.
As it turned out, she made both of her dreams come true at the same time. To anyone who has the same goal, Rutledge advises, “It's more possible than you even think. We’re constantly told by society all the things we can't do. My message is you can and you will, and you're going to be amazed by how you get through it.”
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