Some people have asked me “are you going to blog about pregnancy?” The answer to that is clearly “not very much.” First of all, there’s the very real STFU parents factor to consider. Second of all, there’s nothing I can say, do or wear that won’t be executed with a great deal more style and good cheer by the 25 year old Mormon mom bloggers. Third, when it comes to actual medical information, I have no idea what I’m doing. Fourth, when it comes to pregnancy and parenthood, ditto. There is nothing I can share with you that can’t be resolved yourself with a few simple google searches, for example “stabbing breast pain normal 8 weeks?” or “sonogram looks like a t-rex wtf.”
If you’re reading this, you have the technology, so get to it. It can only lead you down a saner path than I could ever hope to blaze… unless the path is to the comments section on babycenter.com, in which case, ignore those crazy, paranoid beeshes. Seriously. I guarantee you will land on a thread where a user named daenerys123 homebirths some dragons in a tire fire and honestly, that only happens in like 1-2% of pregnancies so avoid, avoid, avoid.
The only bit of wisdom I have to share that I never found in any pregnancy book or website is, “if you are taking a s***load of pills- and if you are a geriatric mom, you probably will be to allay your crushing guilt & paranoia- take them in ascending order, from smallest to largest.” This will ensure that the fist-sized prenatal you are taking doesn’t create a log jam of other smaller pills, causing you to belch up orange scented fish oil all night. Of course, a good old fashioned addiction memoir probably could have told you as much, but you’re probably not looking at those for prenatal tips.
The one other thing I have a little bit of experience with is biking while pregnant. At this point, lots of women are starting to write about this non-issue but until it becomes accepted as an actual non-issue, I think it deserves more coverage. For every website featuring a woman who biked safely and happily while pregnant, you will find 15 quoting the APA’s warning, saying”why risk it” etc. Although I think more women have probably almost died choking on fist sized prenatals than riding a bike while pregnant [raises hand] biking gets the bad rep. Meanwhile on a typical morning at 8 a.m., NPR reported three crashes on the Capital Beltway, yet car commuting with your children is assumed to be the safest bet? Really? So with the alleged safety issue dispensed with (at least for advice scofflaws like me), here’s my experience researching and purchasing my very first MOM BIKE:
Sure, I don’t have a crib mattress, a car seat, or child care lined up, but I am now the proud owner of a brand new MOM BIKE. At least I have my priorities straight. To be fair, I’ve already put in a s***load of work on the nursery…
and put the bicycle replacement off for a lot longer than I meant to, but at 27 weeks my belly was coming dangerously close to the stem of my Jamis when I “stop short” so it was either this, or wrap myself in bubble packing.
I chose this:
Of course, some people might choose not to ride a bicycle at all at this or any other point in pregnancy, but, clearly that was not the choice for me. I think many women who wouldn’t ride a bike while pregnant wouldn’t ride one while not pregnant either, so there’s that. But many who do ride daily find that biking well into their pregnancies is just as safe, healthy, and enjoyable as it always was. I’m not going to chastise anyone for choosing not to if she isn’t comfortable, but am firm in my belief that it’s just dandy for anyone who does decide to continue.
There are a few things to consider… number one is “how are you feeling?” If pregnancy has turned you into a puking, exhausted mess, biking might not be the right thing for you till you get to feeling better. One thing I will say is that I was often pleasantly surprised by how good it felt to just sit down on a bicycle and take the weight off my widening, hobbit like feet after a long day of walking, but this might not be the case for everybody. It turns out that long distance walking is aggravating my hips right now in a way that cycling does not, however, everyone carries their baby and extra weight differently. Remember that some people jog comfortably up to the day of delivery while others experience all sorts of nasty aches and pains they’ve never felt before despite a lifetime of 10ks. So, don’t be surprised if you still love biking, but don’t lose any sleep at night if you don’t. That’s what hours of belching up fish oil is for.
Second is your route, weather conditions, and distances. Maybe you don’t want to do a 20 mile round trip commute anymore when it’s 90 degrees, or ride in heavy traffic, or maybe you do, just be aware that your feelings may change. For example, I have felt fine riding to every one of my prenatal appointments, however the one day Eric and I drove together due to an off site meeting later in the day, was the day of our anatomy scan. Suddenly, our baby went from being a brine shrimp to a tiny person in my mind, and while I’m not sure I would have been scared to get on a bike right afterwards, I was suprisingly grateful not to have to make the choice.
Of course, the next day I was back to my usual hijinx. The next big mental hurdle occurred for me very recently, right around the time of “viability.” I had read about a doctor who reacted the same way and thought at the time, “how weird. I’m not sure I see the logic there.” Well, right around week 25 I started to get a little more nervous and could indeed see where she was coming from. Not enough for me to stop riding, but enough for me to notice it.
If # 1 and # 2 are in order, you may eventually get to # 3: the equipment. I envisioned myself transitioning to a more upright, step over frame with more stem/belly clearance and a comfier saddle around week 20, but due to travel, laziness, and satisfaction with my touring bike, I didn’t bother looking too hard for a solution. Suddenly, right at the kickoff of the 3rd trimester, I was really ready to make the change.
One option is to make adjustments to your current bike. That would have been okay for me, except that my touring bike frames were already a tad small for me, hence the belly/stem issue.
The smaller size felt more comfortable at the time that I bought them, but if I’d seen this day coming, perhaps I would have opted for the next size up. Even raising the handlebars wasn’t really going to help on the stem clearance issue, plus I wasn’t loving the idea of eventually putting a child seat on a bike I have to swing my leg over (they both have a men’s top tube). So, I sold a second touring bike I had and began the search for a new or used bicycle that would suit my current, and hopefully future needs.
Used is a great option, and one I would have taken if I’d been more diligent about searching Craigslist in August. But, I left it too late and didn’t really have weeks to spend searching for a) a bike with a suitable frame and gearing and b) the requisite parts to bring it up to Eric’s safety standards. It was a disappointment really, because if there’s one thing I’m up for these days it’s Quixotic projects, but many of the frames were way too small or a little too big, and either single or three speed. My 9 mile round trip commute to work isn’t hills galore, but 1-3 gears with a bike seat or trailer plus child was not going to suffice, and I didn’t want to spend a lot of time or money exploring upgrading the gearing, seat, & brakes for a 30 year old, non warrantied frame. Maybe next time.
So, it was off to the races at the bike shops. There are plenty to choose from around DC and of the ones I visited, 50% were insulting or indifferent to my needs. We’ll not waste time on them or name names, but if you’re reading this dudes, tune up the bikes in your shop, and don’t talk to me like I’m an idiot. Moving on to the GREAT shops: Bicycle Space and the Daily Rider (don’t let Daily Rider’s work in progress website and use of the word “curated” deter you. It’s not too twee-dy.) I ended up buying through Bicycle Space, but would have been thrilled to hand money over to either of these establishments. They have affordable bikes, they have pricey bikes, they’ll also order and build-what-you-like- bikes. Employees at both stores offered great advice and were pretty much unlimited in their patience as I dragged anything and everything with two wheels out of the store for a test ride, and I can’t say enough good things about them.
During the fact-finding portion of this endeavor, I also relied heavily on the blog Lovely Bicycle for her very comprehensive reviews. One perk to her stature as a pretty well known bike blogger is access to all kinds of fancy bikes for pretty extensive test rides, usually five miles or more through the hilly Boston area. Somerville seems to have good bike shops, and the author’s readers and friends seemed more than willing let her give their bikes a spin. Her reviews and photos suggest a (healthy IMO) preoccupation with aesthetics, but don’t let the loveliness fool you. Constance Winters is familiar with the ins and outs of daily riding, the strengths and weaknesses of various bicycle design and construction elements, and has ridden more bikes and for longer periods of time than I’d ever be able to, so I was a happy beneficiary of her wisdom. Another good resource is www.bikeforums.net- you have to register, but it’s simple and after that you can ask 4,000 obsessive questions about 8 vs 11 gear internal hubs or whatever the h*** you need to know. People there are friendly know-it-alls, which a) makes me think they’re all secretly librarians and b) puts me completely at ease.
At the end of the journey, what I sort of wanted was a custom build Soma Buena Vista
but SOMEONE told me we couldn’t afford it so SOMEONE ELSE had to cry about it in a taco shop. Spoiler: SOMEONE ELSE = me, and it wasn’t because there were no tacos left on my plate. It was because the weight of my life choices suddenly became overwhelming to me and I thought “I’LL NEVER HAVE ANYTHING THAT’S BEAUTIFUL OR FANCY AS LONG AS I LIVE.” The next morning, I realized that while this may be true, I will have a baby, and that’s super fancy! Kind of?! And after much deliberation, we did decide to get me a sweet new ride, just not a $2,000 one, and I felt a little bit like an Onion headline: “Pregnant Woman Buys Shiny New Bicycle, Cries About It.” In retrospect, it’s all for the best since I don’t know how long I’ll be out of work.
It is a Civia Twin City (see reviews here and here), currently outfitted with a generous 5 gears but as suspected, I’ve only use the highest three so far in about sixty miles of bicycle commuting. First and second may come in handy when I’m pulling more weight- I could also upgrade to an 8 or 11 speed hub if it seems necessary. Belly clearance is EXCELLENT, and one additional benefit I hadn’t anticipated was the lack of toe-verlap, which I’ve always experienced on my Jamis. I can turn this way and that without hitting my foot, no matter what shoes I’m wearing or where I am in my pedal stroke. Fabulous! I upgraded to (springy) Brooks saddle and grips for prettiness, added a bell, water bottle cage, and zip tied a small bread basket to the back rack we already had to throw my purse in. I thought I wanted block pedals, but the factory pedals are actually very comfortable with any type of shoe. Last but not least, my lighting situation is just blinky LED lights at the moment, but I will probably upgrade to something nicer in a few weeks. One other important upgrade that I went ahead and made already: the double kickstand. Apparently this can keep the bike much more stable when loading or offloading a kid.
All in all: the bike is just about perfect. It’s so comfortable in fact, that I was considering a longish (25 mile) ride today, just to see how it would feel but for several reasons (Nat. Park bike trails shut down, haven’t done a long ride in too long) decided against it. I’m a bit disappointed, but the idea of having a pregnancy related issue on a solo ride and dragging furloughed Park Rangers to come rescue me from my own self absorption just didn’t appeal. Even I have rules sometimes. Might have to wait till sometime in 2014 to enjoy something like that again. Sigh. But, I’m happy to still be up to short rides and commuting, this bike sure makes it a pleasure.
Thanks for reading! And please feel free to weigh in with any thoughts or experiences biking while pregnant.