Professional golfer Maria Hjorth is back on the LPGA circuit after having her first baby. Hjorth, who originally hails from Sweden, is ranked No. 34 on the tour and has earned more than $4 million since the start of her pro career in 1998.
She plays tournaments around the world, which means plenty of time on planes and in hotels and the need to balance life on the professional golf tour with raising her daughter.
So far she’s taken her family with her on tour when she can. Husband Shaun McBride and daughter Emily accompanied her to Mexico for her first tournament following Emily’s birth. He handled nighttime feedings so she could get the sleep she needed to play.
TravelingMom.com Founder Kim Orlando caught up with her recently to talk balancing life as a traveling mom.
TMOM: So I want to back track for a minute. Thirteen months ago, you find out you’re pregnant and your first thought is?
MARIA HJORTH: Great! Really, really great. We wanted to have a baby and were hoping it was going to be sooner rather than later. So we were very excited.
TMOM: And was there any sort of fear around your career?
MARIA HJORTH: It is so easy to put golf so high up on the priorities, and you look at, you know, I want to play this event or that tournaments, and wait another year and wait another year, and I just thought I had waited quite a long time to have a family. So it wasn’t really a fear at all for my career. I was playing really well before I got pregnant and during the pregnancy as well, and I think you can come back again and be really strong.
TMOM: How far into your pregnancy did you play?
MARIA HJORTH: Six-and-a-half months.
TMOM: And what about after having the baby? When did you come back on tour?
MARIA HJORTH: I played in Mexico as my first event, eleven weeks after the baby. I didn’t really think it was quick. I felt ready to go out there.
TMOM: You brought the baby with you, right?
MARIA HJORTH: She wasn’t with me the first week in Mexico. I went there by myself, and my husband and my mom stayed in Orlando and helped look after the baby.
TMOM: Was it hard?
MARIA HJORTH: It was hard, yeah, but at least now with today’s technology you can have Skype, and I can see her and she will recognize my voice. In that regard it was a lot easier.
TMOM: Were you nursing?
MARIA HJORTH: No, no, I wasn’t actually. I was only able to nurse for two weeks because I ended up having an emergency C-section, and one of the staples came loose; I got infected, so I had to have antibiotics so I couldn’t continue to nurse.
TMOM: So, you actually recovered from a lot then, not just delivery.
MARIA HJORTH: Yeah, I had that stuff going on. I had a nurse come to the house once a day, so it was a lot of doctors, a lot of hospital, a lot of that thing going on as well, not just having a new baby. That was really hard at the beginning.
TMOM: So, how do you put that out of your mind so that you can be on the putting green?
MARIA HJORTH: You just really have to trust the people you have around you. You know they’re going to look after the baby really well. If you’ve been training well before you get pregnant, you know when you’re focused and when you’re not, when you’re concentrating and when you’re not concentrating. That played a big part.
TMOM: Right. Does your husband usually travel with you on tour?
MARIA HJORTH: Yeah, he caddied for me last year.
TMOM: I think that’s so interesting that you and several other LPGA players have husbands who caddy. You know, I love my husband but to have him telling me what to do or which club to use, I don’t know if I could do that, so I think it’s great that you can.
MARIA HJORTH: He wanted to do it for a long time, and we decided last year was a good year to at least try it out. And it worked. I think it’s important to leave your golf on the side once you leave the golf course and have more time as a normal relationship and not a working relationship.
TMOM: It’s got to be hard not to talk about it, though.
MARIA HJORTH: It is, but I think as long as you talk about it before, when you get back to the hotel you talk about other things. TV shows, whatever.
TMOM: So, how does that work at the hotel? Does he get up with the baby because you have to play the next day?
MARIA HJORTH: Yeah, that is really what we decided to do. I wanted, of course, for her to be out here, and he was willing to come out here with me and look after her. We have a daycare on the tour, which is really, really great. But we feel still she is a little young to be in there full time. We decided that once we’re out on the tour, he will make sure I get the sleep that I need throughout the night.
TMOM: Do you have any travel rules in your family? Like, you won’t be away from home more than two weeks or something like that?
MARIA HJORTH: We don’t really. … But i try to avoid being away from Emily for more than two weeks. I mean, as of now one week was long enough; if it was two weeks, it would be really difficult. But maybe later in the season we’ll see how the schedule turns out, and what other tournaments I decide to play.
TMOM: What is your personal must-pack item?
MARIA HJORTH: I would have to say insulin, because I’m a diabetic. I try to pack it so I have a little bit of insulin in my luggage and then I have insulin in my hand luggage, so that I have both available if something happens and something gets lost or something gets stolen even. You have to plan ahead a little bit when you travel with diabetes .
TMOM: Do you have advice for other young players who are thinking about having a family? Do you recommend it?
MARIA HJORTH: I would definitely recommend it; it is an amazing feeling. Like last week I missed a cut, and of course I’m annoyed I missed a cut, but knowing she’s there and my husband is there – at least you have that to look forward to, and you don’t grind so much about, “Why did I miss a cut?” You have other things to think about to clear your mind a little bit.