Synchronized swimmer Ona Carbonell says she had to leave her nursing son at home because of "extremely drastic measures" that made it "impossible" for him to come.
Earlier this month, the Tokyo Olympics committee announced a lift on their COVID-related safety precautions that would allow breastfeeding athletes to bring their babies along with them. While many athletes were relieved they could continue to nurse their babies while performing in the Olympics, Spanish synchronized swimmer Ona Carbonell says the "lift" on restrictions isn't as simple as it seems—and that she's leaving her baby at home as a result.
Carbonell shared her decision to leave her infant son, Kai, at home in a video she shared to her Instagram page.
"Despite the appearance of some news suggesting the possibility that we athletes could travel to the Tokyo Olympic Games accompanied by our infants or young children, we have been informed by the organizing entities of some extremely drastic measures that make this option impossible for me," she says in the video.
Carbonell explains that her husband and son would have to stay in quarantine in a separate hotel and wouldn't be able to leave their room for approximately 20 days while they were in Japan. This presents not only a problem for her husband and son, but she says it puts her team at risk, too.
"For me to go and breastfeed Kai whenever he needs it during the day I would have to leave the Olympic villa, the team's bubble, and go to the hotel, risking my team's health," she says. "I had to make a really tough decision ... because the Japanese government's impositions are not compatible with my athletic performance and being with my family at the same time."
Tokyo Olympics organizers said in a statement that they were "committed to doing everything possible to allow athletes with nursing children to compete." There is a designated area in the Olympic VIllage for athletes to safely spend time with their nursing babies, but they must stay in "private accommodation."
Carbonell said though she was encouraged to bring Kai along with her, the restrictions in place filled her with "disappointment and disillusionment"—enough so that she decided it was best to go to the Olympics without him.
"Our only possibility is to wait for the end of this pandemic so that normality returns, and with it the necessary measures so that the reconciliation of motherhood and elite sport is no longer something extraordinary and practically impossible to carry out," she concludes. "Thank you all for your support."
Having to make the choice between your nursing baby and your career is, unfortunately, a universal experience for working mothers everywhere—no matter your career path. While it's commendable that moms like Ona Carbonell are using their platform to speak out about what she's facing, it's unfair that she was ever put in this position to begin with.