A small message from me and my baby-to-be

I found this amongst my draft posts….from 4 years ago a better description of cycling while pregnant ūüôā

My transport experiences lately haven’t taken me to distant lands but they have taken me to slightly foreign territory. ¬†In January this year I found out I was pregnant. ¬†Along with all the thoughts, feelings and panic attacks, I thought about how this would affect my transport through my city – from the immediate impact of being pregnant to the long term ¬†impact of have this growing child to occupy, nurture and hope they become a decent human being in a humane world.

First I’ll talk about pregnancy. ¬†I’m still only 7.5 months pregnant so I can’t speak for what it’s going to be like from now until the birth but so far riding my bicycle as my main mode of transport has been great, not perfect, but great. ¬†At the start I did internet¬†searches to try and work out what made sense, but the myriad of different opinions and different experiences led me to realise that it was, as it should be, a personal choice. ¬†All along I have said that if my body decides it can’t do it anymore I will stop, but I still haven’t had to face that possibility.

In my first trimester I was tired, really tired – it’s how I worked out that I was either pregnant or some other parasite was taking all my energy. ¬†I kept riding though – in some ways riding does take some energy but in other ways it gives you it back, especially on beautiful days. ¬†There were times when I did feel a little light headed and if my commute was much longer (it’s roughly 9 km) I might have had to stop and walk a bit. ¬†I never got really nauseas and I actually think the daily exercise and the movement on the bike helped. ¬†I was trying to be careful with the potholes and cracks but occasionally when I did hit a bump, I felt my belly asking questions of the city’s road maintenance program. ¬†But after 13 weeks, my scans were showing a healthy baby with no signs of being in a washing machine type arrangement.

The second semester started great – with new energy and from what I had read – less risk of miscarriage or less discomfort from cycling (not that there is any real known risk of miscarriage associated with cycling in the first trimester). So I was enjoying my new found life of not being tired until at about week 17¬†or so I started to get back pain. ¬†My instant thought was that this is somehow going to be related to my riding and I’m going to be told by my doctor to give it up. ¬†But as it turns out it wasn’t – just ligaments stretching (which many massages from my lovely husband helped with) which stopped after a few weeks and no one was telling me to stop riding. ¬†It was quite the opposite as people were happy for me to be still active and strong. ¬† ¬†One comforting thing about the ride was that my baby always seemed to calm down when I was on my bicycle – I thought this might mean he will like riding in the future – we’ll see. He gave the thumbs up in the ultrasound after I road up the hill to the John Hunter Hospital.

I continued to ride through my second trimester with the only other major hiccup involving waking up in the middle of the night not being able to straighten my knee or put weight on it. ¬†I had torn my meniscus (in my knee) during my sleep! ¬†It turns out that riding my bicycle was part of the physiotherapy to get it back on track, so as slack as I’ve been with my other exercises it has been getting better (fingers crossed!). ¬†So after a couple of days off the bicycle (contemplating whether I should get surgery) I was back on it with a purpose. ¬†As I approached my third trimester I noticed it was taking me an extra ten minutes to get to work and by the end I was breathing like I was trying to suck up all the air within a metre of me with each breath.

And now I’m in my third trimester. ¬†Things have become very obvious with no hiding the bump behind loose fitting clothes. On buses and trains people no longer have to contemplate whether I just have a large belly or there is an alien like creature in there – they can practically see it moving my belly around. ¬†Note: this doesn’t always mean they give up their seat but usually they do. ¬†So on my bicycle it’s a similar story, other people on the road can see that I’m pregnant. ¬†Most pedestrians and people at bus stops give me lovely welcoming smiles. ¬†Some people give me little words of praise for staying so fit, and I don’t know what most people in cars think (you can’t really see them). ¬†However, I still get cars doing stupid things¬†on the road and, with the crazy cocktail of hormones that possess me, I often find myself crying for humanity in such situations.

So, cycling while pregnant might not be for everyone but it seems to have worked for me. ¬†As much as anything else, it helps me cope psychologically and emotionally with what is happening to me and to the world. ¬†It gives me some rhythm both as my feet rotate the pedals and as I get to see the sun (or clouds) everyday and get to move through the streets. ¬†I also forget that I’m pregnant when I’m riding (except on the uphills and after long distances). ¬†I still find myself riding in a similar position and the extra weight doesn’t bother me as much as when I’m walking, sitting or even lying.

This brings me to my next issue Рof raising a child within the urban transport world we face everyday.  But perhaps I will leave that for another day … the sun is shining and I should be outside :).

Can you fit a trailer on the train?

As a single carefree bike riding bandit, I would sometimes use the train network in combination with my bike to extend my range. I could easily find a way to put my bike on the train, whether it was hanging it from a hook or just hanging on to it near the entrance of the newer trains. These days, with two children in a trailer behind my bike, I have struggled with how to make the formidable train-bike combination work for me until….

Last week I visited a friend who had recently had a baby. It was in the suburbs and getting there would involve either two buses, a long bike ride with some sketchy roads, or a train and a 5 km ride along the bike path. I went for the last option, completely unsure whether I could pull it off – asking myself how we would fit the bike and the trailer on the train, and then there were the issues around getting it on and off the train to the platform, and from the platform to the bike path.

I nervously arrived at the station and was sort of regretting not bringing a friend when I realised the image of the ramp up from the platform at Booragul Station was completely in my head. ¬†Negotiating stairs with a bike isn’t fun at the best of times but when you attach a trailer with two children in it, the whole thing becomes too complicated to contemplate on an empty stomach. ¬†I then had the realisation that Cockle Creek had one platform (the right one for my outbound trip) and was grateful for the the relatively new bike path from Cockle Creek station to the lake.

At the train station I asked about previous experiences with putting trailers on trains and they said they had never seen anyone put a trailer on the train. I couldn’t work out whether it was due to their lack of experience working at train stations or whether it was something that just wasn’t done. After all, if the train was an old one, there was no way I could fit the trailer in. I asked about how to know whether it would be a new or an old train. Apparently if it says “Oscar” on the trip planner app you will have a new train. Also, non-express trains and trains on the weekend tend to be new trains. And yes you can fit a trailer on the new trains!

Trailer in train 2019

I pulled my bike up into the carriage and did a fifty point turn to get it facing the direction of the door so we wouldn’t have to reverse out. On the way home I worked out that by entering in the next carriage and walking it through the wide automatic doors between carriages you avoid this manoeuvre. The kid jumped out of the trailer for the train trip but I started preparing early to make a smooth exit. While we were in the train my son pointed out that it looked like it was going to rain so my smooth exit turned into a mad panic of a wet cat trying to keep her kittens dry.

After securing the rain cover for the trailer and resigning myself to embracing the adventurous feel of rain hitting my clothes and skin, we were on our way. The ride along the lake was quite easy and reminded me of the days when riding in the rain was normal – you got wet while you rode and dried off at your destination and life went on. The small stretches of road with traffic really made me see the importance of a good network of quiet streets and bike paths. Even though there was a bike lane, the trailer stuck out and I was constantly negotiating with cars to make sure they gave us a wide berth.

On the way home, the rain had eased but my brain was pondering the possibility of getting the bike and trailer down the stairs at Booragul because all stations within cycling range had stairs to the platform I needed. I went with Booragul because there is a school nearby and I figured some students might help me and they did … plus every person on the platform. ¬†I detached the trailer from the bike and four boys carried my sleeping children in their chariot without waking them, while I carried my bike and then reattached the trailer before the train came. I had people offering me help getting the trailer on and off the train, and the experience made me feel good about humans, particularly one’s that catch trains.