Cleopatri Darlux: “Motherhood and high-level sports are still a bit taboo” – female athlete and high-profile mothers

You gave birth to your daughter Olympe in November 2019. Are your moms planned?

No, it was not planned. But I was coming in ages.

Was it difficult for you to tell yourself that you could get pregnant during your career? Do you have any concerns?

Yes, in terms of being able to get back to a high standard, would that be an issue with the employer on my contract. It wasn’t common, and when you don’t have information, you’re not necessarily confident.

Were you worried about him advertising to your club, BBH, and to your teammates?

Yes, it’s a moment I realized, and it was hard to declare. My teammates were very happy, but we have the impression that we left the team. I was still very happy, but I was afraid. The reaction and how it would have happened next: Organizing, will I stay at the club, find my level, will I be able to continue my career?

I have notes today that will shock me

How did the employees and managers react?

The problem is that four months ago, I got pregnant with another player (Isabelle Goldin), and it wasn’t treated well at all, in a different context than mine because she had just made it to BBH, with a big salary. I’ve been in the club for a long time. Suddenly, there were stigmata from Bella. Additionally, she announced it on April 1st (laughs). I found it was fairly well looked after. I’ve had notes today that would shock me. For example: “You could have warned us before signing the contract,” by someone who is no longer around. I had a lot of not so good feedback and I felt after a change at the level of these people. But it wasn’t the entire club. Having children shall not be a condition of the contract. And what does it mean if we say that, we’ll cut wages, and do a shorter contract? It’s good that the club knows that so they can turn around, but if a player doesn’t manage to get pregnant, what happens? Are we three at work? You cannot predict everything. Like injury happens.

Wasn’t it, when you gave birth at the end of 2019?

Yes, but today I feel real.

Handball is a pioneer in establishing a collective agreement that ensures that a pregnant player will keep her salary. Is this real progress?

completely. It’s a start, our sport is already professional, but this agreement allows it to move forward with professionalism. And that it stands out from men, because it is not the same for a man or a woman in a high-level sport and it is only natural to have a convention adapted to women. Having a one-year salary is really great. Before that, it was three months, like a long injury. We also have seven weeks of paid leave a year, like men, while it was six weeks ago.

In the Brest Arena, on May 23, 2021, BBH players rejoice after their title in France 2021. On the right, Cleopatri Darlo with Olympe in her arms (Photo Nicolas Creach / Le Télégramme)

The club kept my salary even though they are not obligated to do so. It was one hell of a chance

During pregnancy, this convention did not exist. How did it go with BBH?

The club kept my salary even though they are not obligated to do so. It was an opportunity for us. Some clubs in the past did not. Some may not have the financial resources.

How did you follow up on the athletic level during pregnancy?

I frequently questioned the doctors of the France team in Brest. I was really well surrounded, with the physical trainers too. It was important. I came back very quickly (after three months of pregnancy). But it wasn’t easy because we had so little information, and I looked a lot at other people’s experiences.

Is there still progress in sports support?

There really is something to do together. The Ministry of Sports has released a guide on sports and pregnancy at the highest level, which is a huge step forward. A guide for what to do throughout pregnancy, and then when recovering. What can be done, who sees, nutrition. I personally had concerns about finding my ideal weight, and wondered if my body would change. But in fact, I found more young people. I also had a fear of cravings, would I still have cravings after giving birth? These concerns have been raised. And I still have the time that I used to be with my daughter.

When you are a top athlete, it feels like you are missing out on a part of your life. There, we have the impression that we are living the life of someone his age

You said you came back stronger. why ?

Physically, I feel better. Psychologically, when I go to training, I am more efficient. When I leave for a long time, I try to do it for a good reason, not to leave for a month for nothing. This allows me to be more detached from practice and to be more of an adult in certain situations. We proportion proportionally more when we are a father.

What does a child change on a daily basis when you are a top-level athlete?

It’s an organized hell. Tired more than before. The nights are restless, with more complicated periods which are an added burden. Conversely, there is also personal gratification that makes the difference. It allows me to be more balanced in life, and to be more fulfilling both on a personal and athletic level. When you are a top athlete, it feels like you are missing out on a part of your life. There, we get the impression that we are living the life of someone his age.

You have talked over and over again about motherhood. Have you received calls from other athletes?

Yes, I have received many requests for advice. For many, there is still that fear of finding the right time to get pregnant.

Women seem to be liberating themselves from these barriers. Has the taboo been lifted?

It’s better than it has been in recent years, but becoming a mother when you’re a top-level athlete is still a bit of a taboo. Motherhood is not a harmless natural thing yet, but mindsets change.

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