Mairéad Baker has done it all. She is a center forward on the Irish’s Women's Water Polo National Team, a mom of two young children and a postpartum and pregnancy coach.
Mairéad sat down with the Her Sport Show to discuss her journey through sports and pregnancy, and how sport has always been a part of her life.
She has been playing water polo since she was 11, and has been on the Ireland National teams since she was 14.
“I actually swam in a local pool here in Glasnevin and the swim teacher that I had recommended that we either join a swim club or start water polo,” said Mairéad. “Water polo happened to be after school everyday so that was the obvious choice.”
She played all types of sports growing up, but began focusing solely on waterpolo when she turned 18. Nine years ago, Mairéad also took up another sporting passion: Crossfit training. She continues to focus on both her waterpolo and Crossfit training to this day.
In 2020, Mairéad started her company 'Thrive and Revive,' a coaching service which offer programs for pregnant athletes who want to stay active throughout pregnancy and postpartum.
"I target it to people with athletic backgrounds who would want to maintain their level and activity through pregnancy and to come back to a higher level of sport postpartum if that is something they chose to do,” said Mairéad.
She was inspired to start 'Thrive and Revive' by other women athletes in her gym that were unsure of what training to do after they became pregnant.
Mairéad sought out certification programs, so that she would be able to better train and help out women who wanted to stay close to their level of fitness, but also wanted to start a family.
Mairéad found programs in the United States that went after the structure of coaching she was looking for: ‘Girls Gone Strong’ and ‘Pregnancy and Postpartum Athlete' by Briana Battles.
After she completed her certifications, 'Thrive and Revive' took off.
She became pregnant in 2020 and 2021, and had her two children in January 2021 and March 2022. After her pregnancies, Mairéad found herself wanting to return to sport and the competitive level she was at before the birth of her children.
“That's kinda when I said okay, I wanna give this a go again. I want to get back to where I was in the sport. I wanna be one of the best in the country again if I can, and then I kind of realized there were a lot of obstacles in my way to do that,” said Mairéad.
Her outlook on fitness changed after pregnancy. “It made me so much more grateful for what my body could do,” said Mairéad. She no longer puts the same pressure on herself as she did before she had children.
“I think in the past before I had kids I probably would've felt like I fell short on goals more than I do now because now I think the goal is just to do what I think my body can do tomorrow,” she said.
She credits a lot of her athletic success after having children to her supportive network and her ability to push herself. Mairéad was able to return to the women's national team, who recently went on to win the the Home Nations Tournament on May 21. It was the first time the event was held in Ireland, and first time there was a water polo tournament in Ireland in 10 years.
When she was asked why she would encourage young women to join sport, Mairéad stressed the importance of sports for not only the physical and mental benefits, but how it can provide a social network for athletes of all ages.
“I suppose it is fun and physically challenging and that's so rewarding but for me definitely the biggest takeaway is friendship,” she said.
You can watch the full episode with Mairéad on our Youtube channel: