Cyclocross racing isn’t usually at the forefront of many women’s mind shortly after giving birth but it is something that I love and thoroughly enjoy, so it was fairly high up on my list of priorities. Well you know second to nurturing my child obviously.
I was keen to get back on my bike asap after giving birth well that was until the epidural wore off. Yes I had an epidural I had 36hours of labour and that epidural was almost as good as acutally giving birth to a baby. Once the poor anaesthetist has sited the damed thing (on the 7th attempt) the relief was overwhelming and after a cup of tea and a packet of chocolate fingers I was ready to push that baby out! Enough of birth stories no one wants the gorey details that I have banished to a far away dark box in my subconscious.
Chris and I arrived home with our perfect bundle and I set about working out how on earth I was going to get my fat, flabby post baby body into some sort of shape for racing a bike in Oh! about 4 months times.
Thankfully the breast feeding seemed to assist with the weight loss. I do not believe in diets, I think you should eat a healthy balanced diet with a little bit of what you fancy every now again. When you are breast feeding and up every 2 hours in the night you need a little bit of what ever you fancy pretty much every day to keep yourself sane and prevent terrible sleep deprivation/hunger rage. So I did not put myself on some sort of ridiculously strict diet no mega Kim Kardashian transformation here. The last consultant I worked for gave me some postnatal advice “it takes 9months to get your body into that mess for god’s sake give it at least 12months to get out of it”. There is far too much pressure on ladies to transform. I certainly felt that pressure and a great deal of it I am sure I put on myself. Every woman’s pregnancy and baby is different and we all need to do what we need to to get through!
The first few weeks after giving birth there was little physical activity. I managed a few pram walks round the village but I have to say I felt pretty exhausted. However I’m sure the fresh air did me good, and I have to say I did underestimate how much pain I would be in having pushed a baby out. Again I wont go into details but I took a lot of pain killers and I obviously complained an awful lot because as we all well know complaining in itself is excellent painrelief. About ten days after I rode my bike on the road. (I checked with the midwife that this would be allowed and she told me to go for it!) Chris watched sabi and I managed 45mins round the block on a beautiful sunny evening. I arrived home beaming from ear to ear but man I felt slow. I didn’t touch the bike again for another few days I felt like maybe I had overdone it and gone for a bit too much too soon. My core felt wobbly and I ached a great deal afterwards. So I returned to the turbo as this was less strenuous than the mega hills of the peaks that surround our house. Bit by bit I managed to push myself a little more and ride a little longer with each session. With sabine snoozing in her pushchair I could manage 40-60mins on the rollers, I think the noise would sooth her, maybe she was just used to it from so many sessions whilst she was in the womb. Gradually I began to feel like maybe I could ride out with some of the other local ladies (these ladies are all pretty fast!). About 8 weeks after giving birth I gave our local chaingang a go, I survived and it looked like my legs seemed to remember what to do!
This weekend marked the start of the cross season for me with a local NDCXL race at alfreton park. It was warm and dry (my least favourite conditions) give me knee deep mud and sleet any day. I was so nervous I could barely sleep the night before. I wanted to race but I know I’m not really race fit but why let that stop you I told myself. I spent hours deliberating silly thoughts such as people will ask why Chris (my much more talented husband) is standing holding a baby whilst his silly slow wife bimbles round. A few times I thought to myself I would just hide under the duvet and not go, make up some lame excuse. Then I realised that I am a mum now (cliché I know!) but I’ve got to set an example. I know Sabine hasn’t got a bloody clue whats going on but I promised myself I would l get back on that bike and repeating the mantra “no fucks given” I told myself to pull myself together and forget what people thought of me and race my bike. So I did, admittedly I missed my warm up as I was breast feeding instead but at least offloading some milk probably made me a bit lighter. So many of my friends had supported me getting back on my bike, Di and Nat have constantly encouraged me. So many of them have kept me company out on the road or in the garage on the turbo, I couldn’t let them down. I think I had used up all my energy being nervous and my legs did feel a bit blocked but I got round and I wasn’t last and now I’ve got something to improve on.
During my pregnancy I became so aware of the negative comments people make surrounding starting a family. So many “no more sleep for you”, “no more fun”, “no more mad nights out”, “no more bike racing”. It often seemed a bit doom and gloom. Now don’t get me wrong it ain’t bloody easy but come on! having a baby is brilliant. There is nothing like it, if like me you weren’t that keen on the idea of having a family. I can tell you its so bloody worth it – now I won’t bore you with mushy details but bottom line – babies and children are brilliant! and when they are small they are portable you can just shove em in the pram or carrier and away you go (admittedly with a large back of spare outfits and nappies! I’ve dragged Sabi on 3 holidays already). Anyway back to my point the more people told me I wouldn’t be able to ride/race my bike the more determined I became to do just that.Chris and I worked out a bit of plan. Chris and I take it in turns to ride out and I sneak on the rollers/turbo when Sabi is snoozing. It seems to work for us and gradually I can feel my legs improving. People have been asking me if I get tired, of course I am knackered I haven’t had a full nights sleep in 4 months but I am less knackered than when I was working. The emotional and physical stress I put my body under as a junior doctor in paediatrics was unprecedented and it was has been a huge relief to decompress and enjoy some time at home with my baby (although I am looking forward to returning to work, I am a glutton for punishment). The past year has been the toughest of my career – working in paediatric oncology dealing with extremely unwell and sometimes dying children, seeing the devastating toll a cancer diagnosis has on families, as well as being permanently short staffed and the axe of the new junior doctors contract hanging over my head – riding a bike and nurturing a baby at home has been a delight and now the cyclocross season has started things could not be better (well they could I could obviously be fitter and stronger but lets not dwell too much on that, and of course Jeremy Hunt could resign but again I’m not dwelling on that either).