by Dame Valerie Adams

It was emotionally draining, financially draining, and a process that brought me to tears so many times.

The end result, though, made every bit of pain worthwhile.

No, I’m not talking about the shot put or Olympic gold medals. I’m talking about my daughter, Kimoana, who arrived in October last year and was, for me, the ultimate blessing.

Nothing prepares you for motherhood, what your body and mind will go through during that process. Let's just say there’s a reason they use sleep deprivation when interrogating terrorists – I learned that in those first few months after she was born. It’s real.

But the hardest part was long before I got pregnant. It was when I was trying to get pregnant.

After the 2016 Olympics I decided, along with my husband Gabe, that the time was right to start a family. For professional athletes that can be scary, taking a whole year away from your sport.

But what made it harder were the issues I had with my womanhood, a condition called endometriosis. I had a benign tumour and while I had symptoms during my periods even when I was a teenager, I didn’t know what it was until I was trying to conceive.

We soon got to know all about it when I couldn’t get pregnant, even after trying a cycle of IVF. I had some tests and discovered I was riddled with endometriosis, meaning I could never conceive naturally. That was such a blow.

Eventually they put me on a different cycle of IVF. It took a little longer, but we were successfully able to harvest some eggs and have Kimoana. Finally.

Everyone says the arrival of a child changes you, and it’s true.

I used to be very selfish. As an athlete everything is me, me, me, and even when I got married it was still about me. But let me tell you: life is a lot bigger than just being an athlete. Kimoana has given me a massive perspective and balance. She’s shown me life is bigger than sports.

Don’t get me wrong: it’s a joy and pleasure to do the shot put for a living, but she overtakes any gold medal. I’d give them all back in a second just to have her.

She also helps me keep athletics in its box. If you go to training and have a bad day, then come home and your daughter craps on you, you don’t even think about your workout and that’s a good thing. It’s not easy, but it is worthwhile.

Valerie Adams in Monaco (Dan Vernon)

Kimoana is so much fun. She’s got a bit of sass on her, a bit of an attitude, and that’s all part of life – I don’t want her to grow up too fast.

After I had her, I had six months to get back in shape for the Commonwealth Games. That’s not an easy window, but I still went to Gold Coast and won a silver medal.

The thing is, I had kept myself fit during pregnancy, which for some reason seemed to upset certain people.

I remember posting videos of me training at the time and someone told me I was going to kill my child. Nothing against those people, but that’s just inexperience talking.

People have to realise this is part of our life, physical activity, so you modify your training and make it work while pregnant. Nothing says you can’t do it. You do it, if it makes you feel good and overall, it’s better for the birth of your child.

That’s my message to other expectant mothers: you know what your body can do and what your body can handle. Stay as active as possible and don’t let any normal person tell you what you should and shouldn’t do.

Women are strong, women have the ability to do this, so we must encourage and support this part of life. Do not let another man tell you otherwise because that’s a frequent thing, that men like to comment on things they have no experience in.

I’ve had comments like that from men and I’ve proven them all wrong. Who are you to tell me how I should run my life? As women we’re a lot more capable than most men.

So often, women are afraid to take time out of their careers to have a baby. That shouldn’t be the way. For me, I didn’t want to get to Tokyo 2020 or the end of my career and look back and say: I’ve got all these medals but what now? I’m alone.

You might run into situations like I have where you have problems having children and we often don’t focus on that until our careers are done. Hopefully I can show awareness for women to get checked out because you don’t know what’s going on in your feminine bits.

If you want to have a child, have a child – step away and come back.

That’s what I’m doing now that I’m pregnant for the second time, this time with a boy, who is due next year, about 15 months out from the Tokyo Olympics.

It’s such a blessing to have a second child. But I knew I had to do it now – not to wait until after Tokyo because my body, with my hormones, wouldn’t have been able to hold the embryo then. This way we get a sibling for Kimoana, and to lose that opportunity would have been… for what?

It’s a lot less scary the second time around. I have a blueprint of what I need to do, what to expect.

The other day I had training and I posted a video on Instagram with a note: do not make any comment about what I’m doing because my body is used to it, lifting something this heavy, and I did it with my first child.

I know exactly how far I can push myself, so I’m in a better position to understand what’s going to happen to my body – physically, emotionally and mentally.

I still want to come back to compete, to continue our journey as an even bigger family. That’s what I’m thinking of: my husband, my two kids, watching me compete in Tokyo.

That’ll be my dream.