New Mother Athlete (by Eimear Mullan)
It's taken me a while to get around to writing this, but I guess I have been pretty busy lately.
I moved in to trimester 3 still feeling pretty good. I always wondered how I’d feel when pregnant and how I’d cope with the huge changes in my body especially towards the end, but, in general, I felt like myself. Just a big bellied, slower and less hectic version of me, but my thoughts soon moved to how I would cope after the birth. Much like my predictions on the gender of the baby, my feelings about training and racing after pregnancy changed from day to day. Some days I’d be full of excitement and confidence that I would be able to do it, other days I was full of doubt. It’s such a long and most likely very bumpy road back, that I’d sometimes doubt my ability to cope, especially after having already had such a long road back from injury before. Eventually, I stopped thinking about it and decided to take each day as it came.
I kept moving with training/exercise, but each week the volume naturally dropped to correspond with how I was feeling. I did plenty of swimming and biking with some walking (with a bit of jogging) and easy gym work. After 34 weeks, all bikes moved indoors only because I didn’t want to risk the open road anymore. So, from then I was in a basically upright position on the TT bike, resting my hands on the arm pads. At 37-38 weeks, my jog/walks were almost entirely walking and swims were slower but I was still managing at least 3k per swim. I also kept a few strength sessions, mostly focused the rehab work I usually do for my hamstring. I was very lucky as I only had around one week where everything felt a little more uncomfortable, the baby was really high up making it hard to breath and giving me a bit of heartburn when I tried to do any activity. Then, at 35 weeks, I actually felt the baby drop down and from then on it was much more comfortable.
Just after 39 weeks, on the Friday we got the keys to our new home. It probably wasn't the best idea to move house around the due date, but it's just how things worked out. We planned to spend the week slowly moving everything before the baby arrived, but he had other ideas. That very night/early the next morning, my waters broke, so I left our old house and never returned to it. After the birth, Ritchie spent the day moving everything, so I returned to our new home with our new baby and a lot of unpacking to do.
The scariest thing throughout the whole pregnancy for me was the thought of labour. It’s such an unknown and everyone has such a different experience that you just don’t know what to expect. I heard many horror stories but I wanted to have as little pain relief as I could handle because I wanted to see how much it really hurts. Although once it really started I would have given anything for more pain relief (but by then it was too late).
The midwives wouldn’t believe me when I said I thought I was progressing quickly because I was pretty chilled out and was asking for food. They brushed it off and said I’d still be there in the evening and were suggesting that I would need to be induced. One minute I was pretty relaxed eating sandwiches and the next I was shouting for a midwife to come quickly as I was sure I was close and was in a lot of pain. I had asked for a water birth so when I started pushing they ran the bath for me but said it would be a while before I’d be getting in the water. The bath was still running when our little Rui Odhrán was born. With under 30 mins in active labour he was there. It went much quicker than expected and from that moment our lives were changed forever.
The weeks after were very tough, tiring and physically painful but I was very lucky to have my mum stay with us for over 2 weeks. It was brilliant to have her help and I’m not sure what we’d have done without her. As tough as those first few weeks are you forget about it as things gradually get easier.
After 4 weeks, I slowly started to ease in to some exercise, and, after 7 weeks, I stared getting training sessions from my coach. This might seem early to start being coached, but for me it’s as much to keep me from doing too much or silly sessions I shouldn’t be doing. We’ve agreed to take things very very slowly. I’m only swimming and biking at the minute, as I have some pubic bone and groin pain after then ‘rapid’ birth, but I’m happy to see a little bit of fitness returning. Grandpa Nicholls is now a full time babysitter, so without him and granny too, I wouldn’t be able to even think about returning to racing!
I still have my doubts about whether my body will recover enough to let me run and race again but I’ll take things as they come and, hopefully, will make the start line (and podium) of a few races next season.
And, finally, to answer that age old question; childbirth is definitely more painful (and daunting) than an Ironman!
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