Exercise in pregnancy and the early motherhood months

Last time I wrote on WordPress was three years ago and so much has happened in the three years which have passed. After dabbling in writing a blog I lost my way and gave up as I was convinced nobody would be interested in my posts and I lost some confidence. Re-reading my posts I have enjoyed reliving my adventures and have come to the conclusion it is completely irrelevant if anyone shows an interest or not the writing

and storytelling is important to me.

2015 was spent being pregnant with my now nearly 20-month-old daughter. Despite being in the midwifery profession and having a low risk pregnancy and subsequent rapid labor and birth of Hayley I found the pregnancy and initial newborn period incredibly difficult. Due to the Fibromyalgia, I was determined to maintain my exercise and ride my bike. There were some ups and downs with this and I faced many negative attitudes along the way and may have lost some so-called friends. Many of the negative attitudes were towards the issue of pregnant women not being seen to be fit to be able to regularly exercise due to the misguided fear it would hurt the baby. In Australia, it appears to be a very rare sight to see a pregnant woman on any bike let alone in the forest riding single track on a mountain bike. I countered this by thinking of risk v benefit and when the benefit outweighs the risk I would ride for example if the roads were wet I would not ride anywhere near a road. If I gained excessive weight and the Fibromyalgia flared up I would not be able to work and would struggle to care for Hayley as a newborn.

A couple of notable moments occurred whilst riding with groups when I was pregnant. I turned up to a ride up Mount Nebo (fire road) at about 32 weeks pregnant early morning when it was still dark. I hadn't realised that the two guys who would show up for a group I now regularly ride with would be in a hurry and in no mood to wait for a pregnant woman. We set off together but they soon got a massive lead on me but I stubbornly continued and soon got to the top (3 hour ride up about 2 hours back) and passed them coming back down they were only five minutes in front of me and I think I became the talk of the group (I believe the two guys got a good telling off from the rest of their local group). The second was on a large group ride about 30 weeks pregnant when a male said to me 'I think you are stupid and should not be riding your bike outside it should be on an indoor trainer' to which I promptly dropped (sped off into the distance) him.

In the entire nine months of pregnancy, I fell off once at about 3 weeks pregnant by slipping on a piece of concrete on my mountain bike and sliding along on my back luckily there were no repercussions to this and I put it down to experience. I rode my road bike to work twice a week until I was 30 weeks pregnant with 30km round trip mainly on bikeways. After this time I relied heavily on my mountain bike and developed a strong love for riding up hills and not down them. I figured riding up fire roads was much safer than riding down them and amassed about 10x the height of Everest within nine months.

Luckily I mostly rode with a patient female friend and with people who I knew. The exercise was vitally important to keep the muscles strong and supple and the Fibromyalgia in check. This worked amazingly well throughout the entire pregnancy and ensured my mental state remained positive. I am proud to say I rode about 20km on my mountain bike the day before Hayley was born in an effort to bounce her out. I had acupuncture the day of her birth which worked amazingly well (luckily Hayley was not born on the Moggill Ferry on the way home from this).

I had an easy labor and birth and I strongly believe that this in some part was down to the mountain bike 'training' I had inadvertently been doing which ensured I was 'fit' for labour and birth. I had sceptical midwives worried for my pelvic floor but this turned out unproven. As a midwife, I firmly believe women should be encouraged to 'train' for labor and birth as you would for any endurance event.

Inadvertently during pregnancy, I had built up a huge endurance base which is still standing me in good stead. After coming home with Hayley I started road riding about 2 weeks after the birth. I would go out for an hour whilst Tom bonded with Hayley and would often receive a phone call saying 'Rebecca you have to come home now Hayley is awake and would like a breastfeed!' to which I would sprint home. I would also meet Tom at Gap Creek trails he would take Hayley home whilst I rode for a couple of hours.

I firmly believe allowing myself to care for my health whilst indulging in my passion saved my sanity and helped me come to terms with the new motherhood role. Hayley was a very unsettled baby who did not believe in sleep which meant no naps and no nighttime sleep (at 20 months old she has just started to sleep through the night) and would often scream for hours at a time. Trying to cope with Hayley and breastfeeding was exhausting and I used cycling as a form of escape for an hour to ensure I was strong enough to care for Hayley. Hayley had severe lip, tongue and cheek ties which made breastfeeding challenging and she required laser surgery for these. I was relieved when we got to 16 months old and Hayley self-weaned.