An Adventurous Pregnancy
Inspiring families to live adventurously, promoting independent family adventure






Pregnancy needn't mean sitting at home waiting for the baby to drop. Taking your pre-born on the road can add a whole new dimension to pregnancy, as Kirstie Pelling discovered when she found herself pregnant six weeks into a ten month active, round the world family adventure. Kirstie is a director of The Family Adventure Project. You can download this story as a full colour pdf file in our Adventures Together ebook .

An Adventurous pregnancy
by Kirstie Pelling

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?

Or 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.

Somewhat 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.

The 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.

We 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 pool.


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 with permission


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