Sometimes it’s best to stick to plan A, even if it seems like the universe is telling you otherwise. For Mariajo Uribe, that plan A included becoming a mother in 2020. But with the COVID-19 pandemic plaguing most communities worldwide, the decision for her and her husband, Oscar, to pursue parenthood became a bit more difficult.
“I had always planned to get pregnant in 2020. After COVID it was a hard decision,” said Uribe. “But both my husband and I thought we should stick to the plan. And it was a blessing to have him.”
Uribe elected to forgo the 2020 LPGA Tour season, choosing instead to focus on her and her baby’s health during a pandemic pregnancy. Just three days into the new year, Lucca Bautista Uribe arrived, born on January 3, 2021.
The new mom is now enjoying the challenge of balancing her career in the professional ranks and motherhood, but it’s a tall order for anyone to handle. It can be hard to stay focused on your work with a new child at home. But Uribe is managing, crediting her friends and family for helping her through it.
“I had to make the decision to take the year off during COVID in 2020 for my health and his while I was pregnant. Even though it's come with a lot of challenges being a mom and a player at the same time, I'm loving it.
My friends have been great at helping me stay sane when I don't have him at tournaments. It's been a little hard, but I've tried to focus one hundred percent on golf when I'm in tournaments. Then when I get home, I can spend time with him. Every time I FaceTime him, he’s nice, he’s smiling, and he's having fun, so I keep telling myself he's in good hands back in Colombia and I can focus on what I’m there to do and play good golf.”
She’s already learned some of the more intricate ins and outs of Tour-mom life even though she hasn’t brought Lucca out to an event yet, including when and where to pump for breastfeeding and how to efficiently ship her supply back home when she’s at a tournament.
“One Sunday after pumping all week I froze the milk and then I was going to ship it with FedEx. But, as a rookie mom, I didn't realize that FedEx was closed on Sundays,” Uribe said. “So, I was driving around trying to figure it out and another Tour mom told me that you can fly with it so I had to go and buy a freezer bag and flew with that all the way to Colombia. It was almost 24 hours with layovers, so I was carrying around frozen milk in a freezer and asking for ice everywhere. It was definitely an experience.”
Despite all the learning curves, the comeback has been a concentrated effort from Uribe. Returning to professional golf was never just about getting back to competing on the LPGA Tour for her. While that was important, the Girón, Colombia native was more concerned about qualifying and preparing for a single event: the Olympics.
For the country as a whole, participating in the Games is one of the most meaningful accolades an athlete can possess, and considering the small portion of the population that actually has participated in the global event, Uribe counts herself grateful to be among those headed to Tokyo and to be able to do so after having Lucca.
“In Colombia, it's kind of a big deal,” said Uribe. “I would like to give golf that platform in my country because it is not a big sport here. It’s a big deal back home for any player that qualifies and this year, there are less than a hundred athletes coming with me. It's a privilege to wear the outfits with the Colombian flag on them and I feel really blessed to have that opportunity not to do it only once, but now twice. Thankfully, it was long enough after my child's birth that I was able to come and I am really happy about that.”
Uribe also gives a lot of credit to the LPGA Tour for the way they support mothers affiliated with the organization. She was never one that wanted to continue playing after having kids. But with all of the options for childcare and the incredible support system that the Tour provides, she felt well-equipped returning to professional golf in pursuit of that Olympic berth.
“I've always said I was never going to come back and play with kids but that's how it goes,” Uribe explained. “You cannot plan everything. I'm so grateful that the LPGA has a daycare and that was a big part of my decision to get pregnant and keep playing after giving birth. Without the LPGA daycare, I would not have even considered it.”
With lots of other moms participating in the Olympics but being the only mother in the women’s golf field, Uribe is looking forward to representing the LPGA Tour’s parent contingency. Motherhood and a professional athletic career are not mutually exclusive and it’s women like her that are continually proving that the days of having to pick one or the other are long, long gone.
It’s encouraging to see so many female athletes challenging that antiquated mindset, but, especially in golf with the physical toll that it requires, Uribe’s commitment to getting herself back to the game so quickly for Tokyo is even more impressive. Representation matters. For the Colombian, she’s relishing the opportunity to show the world that having both a career and a child is not only possible but also manageable.
“Being a mom was my biggest dream since I was young,” said Uribe. “Playing in the Olympics is going to be a great way to show people that you can do both things and you can still dream of that stuff and be a mom.
I want people to know that being a mother and a professional athlete are two things that are compatible. Hopefully, more and more organizations like the LPGA give other athletes an option so that they don't have to choose between family and their careers. I'm really honored to be part of this organization that gives me that chance so I hope a lot of people can have the same opportunities.”
But, in true mom fashion, what Uribe wants more than anything is for her son to see her example as he grows up and that he recognizes the grit and tenacity it took for her to bounce back to play in Tokyo, understanding that no matter what he wants to do in life, all things are possible.
“I’m so happy that I'm going to be able to show my son that you could do both and you could do anything you want.”
For a parent, it doesn’t get any better than that.