Editor’s note: Kaitlyn Vincie is a reporter for FOX Sports who regularly appears on Race Hub, RaceDay and as a pit reporter for Camping World Truck Series broadcasts. I’ve known Kaitlyn since she was trying to break into the NASCAR world, and I’m honored she agreed to do an essay for JeffGluck.com on the story of her pregnancy in advance of Mother’s Day.
By Kaitlyn Vincie
When I first found out I was pregnant with my daughter, Kadence, it reminded me of a scene from the movie Knocked Up. It’s the part where Katherine Heigl had all the pregnancy tests in her hand, wondering if ONE of them would have a different outcome. Like Katherine’s character, all four of my tests said the same thing — and all four were positive.
Yes, there were four.
A quick visit with a doctor gave the final and official verdict after an unsettling 17 hours: Ready or not, my fiance Blake Harris and I were going to be parents. Off to the races, as they say.
I went into last offseason thinking 2017 would be about planning a wedding with Blake, who is the car chief for Furniture Row Racing’s No. 78 team. But while we were ready to get married, we definitely weren’t in the right mindset to have a child. I could barely seem to keep plants alive at my home, much less fathom raising a kid.
However, there was a different plan for us than we anticipated. And I am certain now it’s the greatest turn of life events I could have hoped for.
Blake and I are both career-oriented and like-minded people. As a key member of the No. 78 team, he lives in Denver, Colo.; I have been working the last six years in NASCAR television out of Charlotte, N.C. with a variety of roles for FOX Sports.
We met while working and traveling on the racing circuit at an unusual restaurant near New Hampshire Motor Speedway (just your conventional NASCAR love story). But Blake was easily the partner I had been hoping to find, and through this entire process he has handled our turn of life events with grace and dexterity — while I’ve been the temperamental and often emotional one.
Getting pregnant wasn’t my current dream. Working in sports television, however, was something I had my eye on since I was 18 years old, and I wasn’t anxious to have something sidetrack my current career trajectory.
But once the reality set in we were going to be parents, the biggest thing that worried me about our pregnancy situation was the logistics. “How’s this going to work?” I asked more than once.
Figuring out how to balance a long-distance relationship is hard enough as it is. Now factor in long-distance parenting, a time change and both individuals traveling every weekend for work and — voila! — you have our current dynamic.
Somehow, we are balancing our careers amidst wedding and nursery planning, as well as baby appointments in both Colorado and North Carolina, NASCAR travel and living in separate states across the country. My home is littered with bridal magazines, how-to baby books, doctor bills, airline tickets and NASCAR notes.
In addition, I was tapped to cover four Supercross events, which required learning a new sport in addition to my NASCAR duties. The SX events often put me in different locations than where Blake was for the weekend with the Cup Series, so we had to get even more creative to see one another.
As you can imagine, this year has been nothing short of a whirlwind — and we are only in May. While there’s never really a great time to start a family with the long racing schedule, Kadence is due on Aug. 23 — which happens to be on one of two off-weekends we have all year. If everything goes according to plan, she will arrive in between the Bristol and Darlington events.
It’s funny when you work in NASCAR how everything is referenced in relation to race dates and venues.
My current plan is to continue traveling right up until I’m no longer allowed to fly. I never even realized there were restrictions on flying while pregnant — which further proves how little I knew about this whole process. I’ve also learned quickly to always choose an aisle seat now that I am pregnant, because people find it annoying if you have to use the facilities three times during a flight to the West Coast.
Once Kadence arrives I’ll take some time off, but I fully plan to return to work before the season ends; I have a target race in mind. Blake will be by my side when our daughter is born but will have to return to his team obligations in Denver and be back on the road very shortly thereafter.
The life of a road crew member is one of the most demanding positions in the whole garage, and I understand the responsibilities that are on the line. Although it will be hard to operate as a single parent in some ways during that time, I am fortunate to have the support of both my family and his, along with a small, close group of friends.
As far as FOX Sports and my producers behind the scenes, they have all been very supportive — which I am very grateful for. They’ve encouraged me to take all the time I will need in terms of maternity leave, and not rush the process. Many of them have families of their own and understand what my new normal will be.
One of the very first calls I made to share the news was to Krista Voda, my former colleague at SPEED Channel. In a panic, I asked her, “What do I do now?” I remember working with her on our Trackside broadcast when she was pregnant with her daughter, so I knew she had firsthand experience. Needless to say, she talked me off the ledge and continues to be someone I lean on for advice concerning motherhood while working in the sport.
My FOX Sports colleague Jamie Little also has become a sounding board for my various questions about pit-road reporting while pregnant, and was the first to send me a racing-themed onesie.
Jamie and Krista have and continue to be my biggest role models in more ways than one. The job of pit-road reporting is hard — even if you aren’t carrying a small human inside you — and I’m thankful I can learn from several women who have done it before me. But in reality, there aren’t many of us — it’s a small club.
All the logistics aside, I’m determined to make it work. In today’s society, there still seem to be some traditional ideas that women have to choose between career and motherhood. And that is simply not the case. It’s harder — as I’m finding out — but it’s possible.
I don’t want to transition into a lifestyle that doesn’t involve the career I have worked so hard for; that’s not me. I want to be an example for my daughter of a working mother, because I think that’s a very important message to send.
My new family dynamic really is an example of two working parents who have to do everything it takes — even before her arrival — to provide for the family. It’s a constant balance between fostering the careers you have worked your whole lives for and adjusting to what the new normal will be once the latest addition to the family arrives.
When it comes to Blake, racing brought us together. And even though we live in different states, racing still brings us together every weekend. The sport will very much be a part of Kadence’s life as well, as we will likely be bringing her on the road this season and beyond.
Actually, NASCAR is already been part of her life — thanks to a few challenges that I’m thankful Blake has helped me through.
Recently, we had our largest ultrasound scheduled for a Denver appointment on April 26. Well, as Dale Earnhardt Jr. fans might recall, he announced his retirement on April 25 — the day I was supposed to fly out to Colorado on a 3 p.m. flight.
When the retirement news came out that morning, I didn’t even give it a second thought: I changed my flight. As a journalist, I didn’t want to miss what would likely become one of the biggest news days of the entire season. Those are the moments you remember as members of the media — being there, being a part of it and fielding your question to Dale Jr.
So I switched to a later flight, went to the news conference, drove straight to the airport, arrived in Colorado after midnight and was at my doctor’s office with Blake at 8:30 a.m. the next morning. Of course, it was all worth it when we got to see Kadence’s face that day on the ultrasound, along with a plethora of other organs.
Why the name “Kadence?” The musical term “cadence” means rhythm. Our little girl has completely thrown off our life rhythm, so it seemed more than appropriate coming from two parents who are both musically inclined (I sing, he plays multiple instruments). But although this chapter in life has not been without its share of struggles, I am looking forward to what’s next, and I am grateful for the new challenges that have been thrown our way.
Blake and I are expanding from a two-car team to a three-car team. And as any team president would tell you, those expansions usually come with some growing pains along the way.