Christa Hill says teaching has prepared her for motherhood
Christa Hill's skates are tied tight, and she's bundled up in a black faux-fur coat and sweater. As she stands on the ice discussing costumes with a parent, her protruding belly visibly pokes out between the folds of her jacket.
Hill, 33, is seven months pregnant. As her June 4 due date looms nearer, she is still playing an active role at the West Hillhurst Community Association as its general manager and a coach of their skating club.
While one of her doctors criticized her for remaining on the ice during her pregnancy, Hill says that another doctor has been fine with her decision because many other coaches continue to teach figure skating right up until their water breaks.
If it were a question of falling, she says the only time she has fallen during this pregnancy has been on the ice in the parking lot. Hill says she has been able to keep incredible balance on her skates, as she should. She's been on them for nearly thirty years.
A life on skates
Hill began skating at the tender age of four. Her babysitter had placed her daughter and Hill in a class at the Jimmie Condon Arena. Hill says at first she was quite hesitant about the activity. Yet, as she grew older, her passion began to peak and she gave her life over to her skates.
Hill competed on a national level until she was 19. At this age, fresh out of high school, Hill says she decided to take a break from road trips, competitions and coaches. She returned about seven years later as a coach, after she was told that she couldn't have any children of her own.
"I look on TV and I watch Dr. Phil and Oprah like everybody else, and I see the current state of affairs about teenagers and how all they're doing is scheduling their time around getting to the mall, going out with boys and getting into all sorts of trouble," she says.
"So at that point I decided because I wasn't having kids of my own it was probably my responsibility to try to contribute the tools I thought girls were missing. And because I had the skill set at a mastery level to apply, there was no reason why I shouldn't do it."
Unexpected turn of events
Hill had dedicated her life to her coaching and her job at the community centre. Pregnancy was not on her agenda or, she assumed, even possible. So when she found out she was unexpectedly pregnant, Hill knew she would stay on the ice for as long as possible. She still coaches six times a week at two different arenas.
"To be honest, it's a bit of nail-biter to see her out there so much," says Marie Wildenborg, whose daughters Grace and Gabby take a Monday afternoon class with Hill. "But we realize too as parents that she's probably more comfortable on skates than she is on shoes. And she's so very careful. It's kind of inspiring to see her just doing what she loves to do and incorporating that into her life."
Now with only weeks away before her due date, Hill says that she has had to make many changes in her coaching methods to accommodate her changing body. Even the smallest of tasks now can now prove to be challenging.
"I used to be able to get my skates on and off in like 30 seconds, but now it's a huge ordeal," she says with a laugh, demonstrating by reaching towards her feet. "From putting on the socks underneath, to getting the toe spacers in, to getting the skates on and laced up; it's a 20-minute deal."
Jumps are now out, as well as spins. Even doing laps around the ice surface can prove to be too much, says Hill. She's now at practices purely for show, with most of the class demonstration done by other coaches or students. However, one of the greatest challenges Hill has faced during these last few months has been focus.
"When something inside of you is drawing down all of your energy, it's hard to stay on track," she says. "Then, it's equally difficult to herd children around and try to keep them on track when you need to be super-animated and very alive for them to be following you. And if you're any less animated than they are, then they're not along for the ride."
'Energy and enthusiasm'
Hill may feel that she's had to struggle with maintaining her energy, but when it comes to the students' parents' views, she's been nothing but lively.
"She's so much fun to be around, because she has so much energy and enthusiasm," says Wildenborg. "She clearly loves the sport."
Jennifer Rho agrees. Her daughter Janine has been taking classes with Hill for only a month, but Rho says that even from the first day, her daughter knew that she wanted to come back because of Hill.
"When they make a mistake, she's right there to pat them and encourage them, and she continues to be enthusiastic over and over and over," says Rho.
"That's what you do as a mom: you pick them up and brush them off and send them off," she adds.
It is this coaching method and her dedication to her students that has Hill feeling confident about the knowledge she's bringing into motherhood.
"Yeah, you can learn how to change a diaper," she says. "But I've had a lot of years of seeing kids through some of the biggest challenges they face in their lives, whether it be anxiety or learning some social skill to get along with other kids, or by helping them learn something new that they are absolutely, frantically afraid to try. I feel that will help me," she says.