Pregnancy Body Issues, Birth Plans, and an Eye to the Future

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33 weeks and some days!  Here we go!  I wanted to give you guys an update with where I’m at!

Some “Normal” but Frustrating Body Issues

The last few weeks have been the first time where I’ve had to alter how I use my body (apart from the changes I’ve made in regards to the ability to push myself at higher intensities on the bike).  As athletes, we are used to pushing through discomfort.  I’ve had two things happen recently- and truth be told, these things might have happened regardless of why I think they happened and they are NORMAL as well. I just thought maybe I would be exempt- how arrogant and embarrassing.

First, we got a lot of snow with the arctic front.  We also have a massive driveway.  On the first day of the storm, we got probably 10 inches of wet snow.  When it snows in Kelowna, it doesn’t just melt off a week later.  It usually sticks around all winter because we basically have no sun for 3+ months.  If you don’t shovel, your driveway and sidewalk can turn into sheet ice.  SO, I took it upon myself to shovel this heavy, wet snow 3x in one day off the driveway. I enjoy shoveling snow!  I had felt this pain in my lower abdomen before after hiking, but I wasn’t sure what it was- I thought maybe it my lower abs were sore, or it was referred pain from something else.  I was getting pain in the front of my pelvis too, and walking was hurting.  That night, getting out of bed or off soft surfaces was excruciating.  I went to my pre-natal chiro (my first appt which I probably should have been doing all along), and I learned that it’s pubic symphysis pain.  The PS is a disc in the front midline of your lower pelvis that gets bigger from water content and more lax from the hormone relaxin.  I irritated mine with the hiking in the past (although it cleared up in a day or two) and now with the snow shoveling.  The snow shoveling created some inflammation that is sticking around.  It’s getting better, but I have to get out of bed differently, I’m not supposed to push or lift anything heavy, walking hurts some days, and I’m just generally uncomfortable moving around, especially getting on and off soft and unstable surfaces.  This can get a lot worse called Pubic Symphysis Dysfunction (PSD). I’m glad I caught it and can take precautions and do some muscle activations to prevent it getting worse. I wish I had known what that pain was (it wasn’t ab pain like I thought!) instead of pushing through it all day shoveling the driveway. Hopefully pregnant ladies reading this will get a warning.  We got a LOT of snow the last two weeks and it was really frustrating to feel helpless and have to rely on my husband to shovel it when he got home from work. One day I looked outside and my neighbor was shoveling my sidewalk.  I was filled with both appreciation AND guilt.  Here I am- an elite athlete and my neighbor is shoveling for me while I sit on my bum! I thanked her profusely and tried to release my shame!  I hate asking for help with anything physical, but I better get used to it for the near future.  I hate not being able to lift anything heavy too, but I really do not want prolonged PSD and I can’t muscle my way through this one.

The next thing that happened was just 2 days ago.  It felt like the midline of my abs was bruising and tearing apart. It was and still is really uncomfortable.  I had heard of diastasis recti.  When I had my initial assessment with my pre-natal chiro a few weeks ago, she checked for any diastasis and I didn’t have it.  I went back yesterday and that pain I am feeling IS my abs separating.  When you do a sit-up, you see doming in between your abs and seeing that creeped me out. I feel disheartened by this- like I did something wrong or that I wasn’t strong enough to prevent this from happening.  Diastasis Recti is when your abs separate a bit down the midline.  I learned more about it and it might have happened because (I didn’t know this for sure either) you’re not supposed to sit straight up out of bed or when getting off the floor.  You are supposed to roll to your side.  I am so accustomed to just sitting straight up from a laying down position and generally just using my core a lot in daily movements so *maybe* this caused it?  There’s also the simple reality that your belly and muscles get really stretched out to make room for baby.  I feel a lot of pressure above my navel and pushing into my ribs.  I’ve read varying things about the damage being permanent post-partum to being able to repair it yourself with rehab .  It’s common, some people can fix it, and it depends on the degree of separation. It’s probably not nearly as bad as I think it is, but I’m super bummed about it and it hurts.  I feel anxious about the long term effects. I’m using KT tape to support it the best I can.

In a short period of time, I basically went from feeling good to having 2 injuries.  I feel ashamed of both.  The best way to crush shame is to bring it forward and confront it.  I wanted to share these things in case someone reading this feels the same way or wished they knew about it before it happened to them.  And yes, even if you’re an elite athlete, you’re not exempt!!  The good news is that NONE of this hurts at all when I ride my bike, so there’s that! 

OK, now that that is out of the way…

I mostly feel excited about being pregnant now

It seems unbelievable that a little sentient human is going to come OUT of me. When I watch the birth videos in my course, I’m always amazed how big the baby is when it comes out and imagine that even now, a real looking baby is in there.  The constant jabs and kicks are from him!  I can’t wait to meet him and Matt and I are both super excited about the challenge of parenting.  I think that it’s such a great opportunity for us to be better and even though I have ZERO experience with parenting, I think that all the years I’ve spent learning about mindfulness, psychology, self-awareness, and values are going to come in really handy!  I also will discover where I have tons more work to do.

I love feeling the baby move and he moves a lot!  It’s crazy to see your belly move.  There are some days I worry he isn’t kicking as hard or moving quite as much, but it’s just paranoia.  I do constantly think of the position of the baby because he shifts so much. Less than 4% of babies are breech by delivery, but I still think about it and never recline!  Being in the position on the bike is actually a good position to encourage head down. (He was head down last time we were at the midwife, but he is always moving!)

How I Hope to Give Birth

As far as birthing, I’m planning a natural birth at the birthing suite at the midwife’s clinic (which is basically a house).  They have a huge tub as well. Research shows that being in the water is extremely effective (like as much as drugs) for pain relief.  Another reason I’m choosing to give birth outside of the hospital is that incidences of medical interventions are much lower (like less chance of c-section, drugs, etc) and I just don’t like hospitals!  Matt and I are taking a 6-week HypnoBirthing class that started a couple of weeks ago. It’s about self-talk, visualization, breathing + relaxation, and perception of pain. Hello familiar area! I’m excited to see what I learn. I also decided to hire a doula just so I have that extra support and they do manual therapy (like types of massage and pressure during birth).  I’m a little nervous about this whole thing, but I feel a lot less nervous since starting the HypnoBirthing class- I wish I could feel what the pain/pressure/surges (whatever you want to call it for you) will be like in advance so I can better mentally prepare for it but the HypnoBirthing is helping.  I just hate the name!  I have read many women’s description of what birth feels like, and it’s different for everyone.

I’m also planning to stay open-minded- if I have to transfer to the hospital for drugs, then I will do that, but I hope I won’t need to.  My confidence is a bit shaken because several top athletes I highly respect that I would consider having a crazy pain threshold have said they wanted to go natural and then ended up getting an epidural.  I hate needles and I HATE the idea of a catheter in my spine, extra drugs needed to help the birth move along and the associated issues.  I guess when you make that decision in the moment, you just need it and you don’t care.  I know I’ll have the endurance to get through it – I can excel racing my bike for 24 hours straight(!! one of my reminders for confidence), but I just don’t know what it’s going to feel like!  The goal is a healthy baby coming out the other end with as minimal damage to me as possible.  As my pelvic floor physio has told me, birth IS an injury that you have to recover from.   I’ve heard mixed reviews about HypnoBirthing- some people say that it worked really well for them and other people say they took the classes but didn’t use it and it didn’t help. I think having the best of intentions and trying to use your training is a good place to start.  Every birth is different as is everyone’s preparation level with the technique they learned.  Hopefully I can calmly breathe my baby down and be peaceful in the process.  I might come back and read this after birth and laugh my ass off… we’ll see!!   I have to say I’ve read so much about birth and pregnancy that I’m almost sick of it- I tend to be the over researching/overthinking type if you haven’t noticed.

Breastfeeding

I’m starting to internalize the reality and logistics of breastfeeding as well. It’s been helpful talking with Larissa Connors about it (she is a fellow professional endurance athlete who recently had a baby and is getting back to racing in May).  I didn’t know or think about the fact that your boobs get full and you have to get the milk out… so the logistics of doing a really long endurance race are … different.  I’m laughing at the idea of stopping in a race to pump milk out.  Breastfeeding and milk supply are the primary things that will change the types of races I’ll be signing up for in 2020. No mega distance stage races or 100 milers because my boobs just won’t make it.  Or if I do sign up for any long races, I have to sign up as a participant knowing I’ll have lose 15-30 minutes 1-2x sitting on the side of the trail to pump! I’ve had some good laughs at different scenarios.  That said – I have signed up for my first race of 2020.  It’s kind of crazy, but I’m going to try.  It’s a 6 hour mtb race (local race called the Salty Dog, but it’s crazy hard and technical!)  I WILL have to stop at least once to pump, I won’t be “race fit,” but I want to go and I’m already excited for the challenge!  Matt is also doing it and we are joking about who is going to beat whom with my stopping!  The logistics of a lap race will make it easy to stop when I need to and obviously it’ll be hard to race for the win if I have to stop a few times to pump (however long that takes?! No clue.)  I’m also planning on Singletrack 6 stage race in June. It’s another race I can drive to (there aren’t many left in BC!), and the stages are short enough I should be able to get through them just fine without stopping.  The recovery aspect will be a whole other story with lack of sleep and taking care of a baby, but I’m up for the challenge and have adjusted my expectations accordingly (like I usually sign up for a stage race expecting to win… I’m going into this one with the expectation to make it to the finish, share my experience, get some great training, and have as much fun as possible…and if I surprise myself- awesome).  I hate when someone tells me something will be too hard or I won’t be able to do it and I enjoy pushing the boundaries of what seems possible, even if it’s really hard!  Why not?

Eye to the Future Feels Good

Basically- I’m starting to think about the future a bit more and the exciting and challenging things that come with it instead of ruminating on the slog of pregnancy. I know, slog sounds so negative but it feels like being in limbo some days.  Early full term (37 weeks) is only 3.5 weeks away. Crazy!  It is still a long time, but it’s going to go fast.  I’m trying to really appreciate each day where everything is still very simple.  I also just can’t wait to hammer on my bike, feel fast again, and start pushing myself on technical trails. I really miss that!  And it goes without saying, I simply cannot wait to hold this little boy that is nicknamed ChuckNorris (one word) for his acrobatics in my belly.  It’s weird how birth can happen from 37-42 weeks- that’s quite a split! I might go crazy when it gets close wondering when it’s going to happen!

Sleeping has been hit and miss. Some nights I wake up 2-3 times to pee and I sleep well. Other nights feel like I didn’t sleep at all.  Could be hormones, could be baby movement.  I never have trouble falling asleep but waking up a lot has been an issue.  I’ve always been a really good sleeper, so this is frustrating and it’s happened my entire pregnancy.

Still Riding!

I miss riding outside but it’s definitely winter as I look outside and see huge, beautiful flakes falling from the sky. I was thinking about fatbiking, but decided to skip it this year because I do crash a lot when I fatbike… even if it’s a soft landing.  I also am not skate skiing because I also am pretty new at it and fall a lot. I’m trying to motivate to swim, but the main barrier is we only have one car right now and the days I plan to have the car are super busy with me running around trying to get so much done.  It’s kind of an excuse- if I really wanted to swim, I would make it happen… but I feel happy riding my bike most days in the garage on my KICKR (thank you Wahoo!). I’m really proud of my consistency.  I’m doing tempo workouts some days while being mindful of how I feel.  Of course, “tempo” is based on a new FTP I made up for myself. The FTP I decided to use is based on respiratory frequency and perceived effort. The associated workouts seem to be on par even though the power number is low.  It’s not about the number right now.  Some days take the wind out of my sails after a ride and I have to stop work earlier or just rest more, but that’s ok!  Yes, and some days even a recovery ride tuckers me out.

Taping for Diastasis for comfort and to try to prevent it from getting worse!

Here’s a fun belly shot while I was trying to get just a photo of me riding!  It’s funny how different angles can change how bit it looks.  Look at the difference between these two pics!

If you want to see what I’m up to for training, you can see and follow here!

Ok, that’s it for now! I have a bunch of information I want to share about vegan pregnancy, symptoms I actually haven’t had and why I think that is, how things are going on the sponsorship front (think jagged race course profiles!), and how I’m managing all my projects in preparation for taking a little bit of time off work when the baby comes.  Stay tuned!  I also include any blog updates in my weekly newsletter if you want in!

Thanks for following my journey!

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Sonya Looney

🚲 Pro Cyclist 🎙 Top Ranked Podcast: The Sonya Looney Show 🌈 Former 24h World Champion 🧦My brand: Moxy & Grit 🦄 🥦 My Community: Plant-Powered Tribe
Mountain Biking, Enduro, Running, Trail Running, Nordic Skiing
Kelowna, BC, Canada

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