So you're pregnant?
Congratulations. You can now eat ice cream by the bucketload, become
an avid consumer of daytime TV, ditch that triathlon training regime
and wear big knickers. Welcome to nine months of guilt-free eating,
and exercise-free living, where even sexual aerobics can legitimately
be shelved for the duration. The celebs do it, your mother probably
did it, so why shouldn't you get fat, slob out, and say goodbye
to your toes for three glorious trimesters?
you can do it differently. A cocktail of diet, exercise and adventure
can keep you and your baby nourished and stimulated. Six weeks into
a round the world trip of a lifetime, Kirstie Pelling fell pregnant
with her third child. At first she assumed she'd have to bring an
end to her travels and return home to the TV and fridge. But as
she came to discover, exercise and adventure aren't always forbidden
fruit for an expectant mother who expects more from pregnancy than
lounging around on the sofa..
It was an almost invisible thin blue line.
We sat in silence, staring at this universal symbol of new life.
In a campsite kitchen in New Zealand, six weeks into a year long
trip around the world, our route was suddenly blocked by an unplanned
pastel blue barrier. We'd planned a cycle tour of New Zealand, an
eco tour of Samoa, and a wilderness tour of The States and Canada,
pulling our two children Matthew aged four and Cameron aged two,
behind us in trailers. And now it was all up in the air.
"Pregnant women don't tend to cycle New
Zealand, or go backpacking do they? Is exercise banned when you're
expecting a baby?" I asked Stuart, my husband and travelling partner.
"Hmmn. Maybe. Do you think the ban stretches
as far as canoeing and kayaking?"
I thought back to my previous two pregnancies,
where my only exercise was hoovering up Maltesers from the sofa
armrest, and adventure was daring to eat an egg that hadn't been
hard boiled, and I feared the worst.
It had first dawned on me that I might be
pregnant while cycling a steep gravel hill in South Island, checking
through my mental diary as a way of killing kilometers. I screeched
to a halt, thrown into immediate turmoil. Would I have to cancel
the trip and go home? Would people blame me for putting the baby
at risk? Would carrying on with the cycling cause a miscarriage?
Was I stealing oxygen from the baby by going uphill and would my
heart and internal organs collapse immediately with the strain?
But contrary to my fears, the medical profession didn't take a deep
intake of breath or order the immediate cancellation of our trip.
In fact New Zealand GP Dr Lucy Gibberd responded supportively to
my many questions. "There is no reason not to carry on cycling if
you are pregnant until the bump gets big enough to get in the way.
The general rule with all exercise in pregnancy is that it is fine
to carry on with what you were doing before -you will be fit already
so carrying on won't increase the strain on your heart." She did
some blood tests and told me to get back on my bike, but eat more
red meat as my iron count was a little low.
tentatively, I carried on cycling north, telling myself that if
the bump got too big I would call a halt to the cycling, or perhaps
hire a recumbent tricycle, which was rumoured to be good for pregnant
women as it put less pressure on the pelvis and stomach. As back
up, I appealed to a New Zealand recumbent cycling club for a loan
of one of their machines, resulting in our news being announced
to the online cycling community before we'd even had a chance to
tell the grandparents. Recumbent cyclists and suppliers all raved
about the trikes, assuring me that I could practically ride to the
hospital to give birth on one. In the event, I finished cycling
'end to end' New Zealand on my own bike, with the toughest challenge
coming from trying to deal with morning sickness and balance the
bike. I completed a two day mountain bike challenge event, towing
Cameron in the trailer around the coast of North Island and I came
last out of five hundred people, but then I was the only one carrying
not one but two offspring as part of my baggage.
Before leaving Auckland I had a scan, where
the radiologist provided me with videos to send back to worried
family to prove the baby was healthy, and not suffering either cycling
fatigue or oxygen deprivation. I then turned my mind to our final
Kiwi adventure; learning to sail a yacht.
The company we had selected for boat tuition
was relaxed about the pregnancy. "Can you handle ropes with a baby
in there?" asked our instructor on the first day. "I reckon so.
I can do a reef knot as well, I learnt it at Brownies," I replied,
and by day five I proved a bump is no obstacle to being a yachtie.
I shipped home my bike when I reached
the most Northern point of New Zealand. I was five months pregnant
and glad to see the back of cycling.
next stage of the trip; an eco tour of Samoa, involved sea kayaking,
swimming with turtles and the odd bit of basket weaving, none of
which presented a problem to an expectant mother. The Samoan women,
who are as laid back about pregnancy as they are about most things
in life, couldn't understand why I refused their reef fish, uncooked
seafood, and undercooked eggs, but they were equally puzzled about
why I wanted to go hiking about everywhere. Pregnancy is an excuse
for chilling out in Samoa.
We shortened our time in Canada and The
States so I could safely fly home. But the six weeks we had were
a whirlwind of wilderness and wild experiences. Camping in the National
Parks presented no obvious difficulties once I purchased a queen
sized airbed and a large quantity of food for the barbecue. My bump
was welcomed into lava caves, on glaciers, through meadows, up mountains,
and into the ever present, all-American burger bars. In the National
parks I helped paddle the family along in a canoe while kneeling
at the front. It put no strain on my back and was more comfortable
than sitting down. Being pregnant provided a convenient excuse for
regular resting and enjoying the view, and canoeing proved a relaxing
way to travel, great for the later stages of pregnancy.
finished the trip with a five day train journey travelling coast
to coast from Seattle to New York, stopping off to tour the iconic
American cities of Seattle, Chicago, Washington, Boston and New
York. The bump provided absolutely no barrier to riding up Sears
Tower, eating fish and chips by the sea, or hanging out in downtown
blues bars. Towards the end of our travels I walked Boston's Freedom
Trail, much to the horror of those Americans who regard walking
as a foolish occupation at the best of times. At the boat terminal
for the Statue of Liberty in New York, the bump was even permitted
to skirt around the x-ray security systems, while everything else,
including the kids' ice creams, was forced through the detector.
We flew home at thirty three weeks, despite
the worries of friends and family that either no airline would carry
us, or I'd give birth on the plane. Airline rules are straightforward
although some give expectant mothers more leeway than others. I
could fly with most airlines until twenty eight weeks. With Virgin,
I was permitted to fly until thirty four weeks, with a doctor's
note decreeing me fit to fly. Two hundred dollars, a few brief questions
and a mountain of signatures bought me this particular piece of
paperwork. Post thirty four weeks I'd have needed to be accompanied
by a doctor or nurse; an expensive proposition, but not quite as
expensive as having my baby in The States. This particular kind
of accident is apparently not covered by travel insurance.
Our daughter Hannah Louise was born underwater.
When I told the midwife I expected my new baby to come out 'pedaling,'
she must have heard 'paddling' and put me straight into the birthing
Pink and perfect, Hannah is now five months
old. Her big brothers show her the photo's of their big trip, and
tell her all about it, reassuring her that she was there. When I
look at the pictures I'm amazed how much we achieved as a family
in a year. Our shared experiences brought us closer together, showed
the boys a world beyond playgroup, and challenged our ideas of parenthood
in so many ways. Matthew and Cameron are already asking when their
next big trip will be. We do plan to do it again sometime, when
Hannah is old enough not just to be there, but to join in the fun.
We'll have to work out how to get them all on the bikes, or perhaps
next time we'll learn to sail around the world. We don't plan to
get pregnant en route.
And my advice to anyone planning or expecting
a baby? Don't take up rock climbing right now, but do carry on finding
safe ways to exercise and stimulate the senses. After all, pregnancy
is just one more of life's great adventures.
©2006 Kirstie Pelling Reproduced here