Cristie Kerr's 'miracle baby'
The diapers she could handle. Even the crying wasn't so overwhelming once Cristie Kerr and husband Erik Stevens adopted the "You don't scare us" attitude with their newborn.
And as far as having another person, albeit little, in the house and in her life?
"Instantaneously," said the former world No. 1 on the LPGA Tour, "I was so much in love."
No, she was convinced she was ready.
"I'm a preparer," Kerr, 36, said of the planning she did before baby Mason arrived via surrogate mother on Dec. 8. "Everything was set in the nursery and for the feedings. I'd rather be over-prepared than under-prepared. Erik jokes that if a [disaster] hit, I could feed and clothe 5,000 babies. I did a lot of reading before he was born."
Except for one small little detail, which is that infants can't read.
"It will be a little challenge for me not to try to control every little thing, to have all my ducks in a row, because I like to have things organized," she said. "But from the time we brought him home, it took eight weeks to unpack everything with all the feedings, diapers, having to take a shower...
"I'll have to adjust and say, 'Just go with the flow. Everything's not going to be perfect.' "
For a woman who has forged a reputation for being in charge both on and off the golf course, gaining fame 10 years ago for her physical transformation after losing nearly 60 pounds, that may well be the biggest adjustment of all.
"What has made Cristie so successful in golf is her incredible attention to detail," Stevens, 48, said of his wife of seven years, a 16-time LPGA winner and two-time major champion. "You can sometimes overdo that when you have a type A personality, and I mean that in a positive way. Cristie is super-organized, super-efficient and she's learning to be efficient in a different way and not put so much pressure on herself.
Cristie is super-organized, super-efficient and she's learning to be efficient in a different way and not put so much pressure on herself. ... I've just noticed she's more peaceful with everything.Erik Stevens
"Give yourself a little slack that, 'Hey, look, it's OK I didn't do the 17 things I always do before I play golf. I did 15 and the other two went to Mason.' I've just noticed she's more peaceful with everything.''
For Kerr, any stress is minimal by comparison when she thinks of the years after being told that endometrial deficiency would make it difficult, if not impossible, for her to carry a child to term.
"Golf is the hardest sport in the world, I think, because you have to focus 100 percent on what you're doing and if something affects you from the outside world, you're going to see it, and my friends knew how much it was affecting me," she said.
"It was definitely hard. We started trying a long time ago and you think, 'Oh yeah, we have plenty of time.' Then you wait and it doesn't happen and, well, it doesn't happen and then it doesn't happen for a reason. Then you're into your 30s and the cold, hard fact is that there's not a lot of time."
She said learning she was not alone, and that 20 percent of women have related problems with having children, did not necessarily make her situation any easier.
"I never believed [what women say about their biological clocks ticking] until I had a dream about having a baby and then I woke up and I [thought I had] lost the baby," Kerr said. "I thought the biological clock was b.s., but it does happen. There was so much focus on golf that when it was time to start a family and there were real medical issues, it was hard to take."
The couple considered adoption but ultimately opted for in vitro fertilization and gestational surrogacy.
"He's our little miracle baby," Kerr said. "People don't realize how expensive this is and the toll it takes physically and psychologically. Not everyone can stick it out, but we were very fortunate that we had amazing doctors and they pointed us in the direction of a law firm that found us an amazing carrier, an amazing woman and one of the strongest people I've ever met. It has turned into a lifelong relationship."
And Kerr said they would do it again. But first things first. This week Mason will be nearby as his mom tees off at the JTBC Founders Cup in Phoenix, minutes from their Scottsdale home. After that, there will be family trips to the Kraft Nabisco Championship in Rancho Mirage, Calif., and then to Hawaii for the Lotte Championship.
And Kerr, currently No. 14 in the Rolex rankings, is still vying for one of four roster spots in the International Crown, July 24-27, a new Olympic-style competition at Caves Valley outside Baltimore.
"I don't think [motherhood] will change me as a golfer," Kerr said. "It changes the stresses you have, but if I handle things the right way, it will change me for the positive. I just have to not put too much pressure on myself.''
With Stevens scaling back on his business dealings a bit to be at home with the baby -- he is Cristie's manager and agent -- the couple are hoping for a smooth transition.
"I played Thailand and Singapore myself [in February] and it felt OK," said Kerr, who finished 13 strokes behind the winner in a tie for 22nd in Thailand and 14 strokes back in a tie for 35th in Singapore. "Of course, I missed my husband and baby, but I had to go to work and I knew Mason was well taken care of. Erik is a great daddy, very attentive and loves Mason.
"The second week in Singapore, it did affect me but I was also working with new clubs, a new caddie and there were a lot of moving parts. But now things are settling down."
Kerr is certainly not alone. In 2013, not counting Kerr, there were 25 moms on the LPGA Tour with 36 children.
"He's going to be one of those babies who spend some time on the tour," Stevens said. "We've found out he has a lot of aunts, and we've had a lot of offers for babysitting."
Kerr said they still haven't decided if Mason will travel to the British Open in July, or how much help they will need from others along the way. "I just want to take this year to learn what we need as we go along," she said. "We didn't feel like we needed to hire full-time help. LPGA has full-time daycare at all U.S. tournaments, so we should be OK here."
Though Kerr will reduce her number of personal appearances this year, Stevens said his wife will continue in her philanthropic efforts, primarily for the Cristie Kerr Health Center in Jersey City, N.J., a facility that treats women with breast cancer regardless of their ability to pay, which was inspired after her mother, Linda, was diagnosed with the disease.
This week, there also will be an announcement regarding plans for Kerr to do military-related fundraising in honor of her father, Michael, a Vietnam veteran.
As for golf, Stevens said he would not even venture a guess as to how his wife will respond on the course.
"Golf is not like any other sport," he said. "If a goalie has something else going on in his life, he can make maybe 17 saves in a game and let in four and still win. . . .
"Cristie has high expectations and she has won nearly everything and has been No. 1. But it's the only sport in the world where you're more disappointed than anything. The peaceful side of this is that when Cristie gets done playing, there will be someone there smiling whether she shot a 64 or 74. And that's a calming influence."
At three and a half months, his parents say Mason is just starting to recognize them and smile, which he does when he's not bothered by the new teeth coming in.
"What a baby makes you realize is that there is a whole other side to life that is so meaningful," Stevens said. "All of a sudden the phone rings and you don't answer it, and you get an email and you don't respond. There's this whole other thing where you can't imagine what life was like before and in a way, it's more grounding.
"It's really a great honor to be parents. We have employees and sponsors that we're responsible to, but when we're home, it's all about making sure that little guy smiles."
For Kerr, it really is a miracle.
"I always expected I wanted to be here, we always wanted to be parents," Kerr said. "We imagined trying [to have a baby] earlier, but things don't work out as you plan sometimes. But this has a happy ending."