Pregnancy Chronicles of a Pro Cyclist: Part 2

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I’m back!  I’m working on getting caught up to present times.  If you missed part 1 about my first trimester and how we decided to have a kid, you can read it here.  Thanks for all the messages and for sharing your stories with me!

Ok, so where did I leave off?  Ah yes, around 18 weeks pregnant and sharing my news.

Sharing My News

Sharing your pregnancy news and even emotionally accepting that you are pregnant is different for everyone.  I was afraid to let myself fully believe that I was pregnant and that we were actually going to have a baby on the other side of it.  I want to say this was due to the previous miscarriage, but I honestly felt that way the first time I got pregnant as well.  There is just so much unknown and you read so many bad things (note: stop reading about miscarriage stats if you are pregnant- it will NOT help!) I’d say it really took until maybe week 20 to connect and think, “wow, this is going to happen!”  I admit that even now as I write this nearing week 26, I’m still a little nervous. I’m still afraid to fully connect and put my heart into it, but feeling the little guy move around a lot including keeping me awake kicking me all night makes it feel very real!

Sharing my news was hard because I still felt some weird shame around being pregnant but I wanted people to know at the same time.  I hated that I was hiding something because I’m an extrovert and I’m not really a private person!  Coming out of the pregnant closet isn’t just a worrisome experience for Professional Athletes, but it is for many working female professionals.  In fact, in some of my apps, there is information about discrimination, worries of being treated differently, etc.  I think things have improved for women, but we still have a long way to go.  All the Nike stuff around female runners and athlete pregnancy was coming out around this time as well, and that did not soothe my worries.  Here’s one article I liked. We were coming back from a ride trip in Squamish when I posted this photo.  It might sound overly dramatic, but it took me awhile to tap “post” after writing it. Once it was out there, I couldn’t take it back and if something went wrong, that would be out there too.  But sometimes being brave means just doing things, especially when you feel nervous about it, so I took an inhale, hit tap, and it was out there.  (Kind of like how I felt before posting my last post!)

17 week baby bump

It felt great to get so much support from the community and excitement around my pregnancy. Thank you! I tried to feed off of it so I could feel more excited too, but I still had so many questions, so many unknowns, and so much stress around what would happen with my sponsorships.  I specifically and successfully tried to time my pregnancy to have almost no impact on my racing and so I wouldn’t miss my 2019 or my 2020 season, but what if that didn’t matter?  I find that writing out all your what-ifs and worries can help when you are stuck.

Here were a few of mine:

How do I plan my life once I start trying to have a baby?  (this was an earlier question- but trying to get pregnant and then not being sure if you can commit to races or plans in the future is hard. I had to be wishy-washy about fall events because I didn’t know where I’d be, if I’d make it through my first trimester, and I had to give vague answers about races inviting me to come to their events in early 2020. Being vague is NOT me!)

When should I tell people?

What will it be like to take almost a year off of competing? I’ve competed in sports my entire life without taking a year off.

What will my training look like while pregnant and what’s ideal for me and for the baby?

How long will it take me to get back to racing and to fitness?

How long will it take to heal from the birth?

Will I ever be fast again?

How will a baby change me as a racer?

How will a baby change my relationship?

How am I going to get as much work done as an entrepreneur and a pro athlete with a baby?

What if my sponsors bail and I won’t be able to race like I did before due to financial implications?

How is my body going to change?

How will my identity change?

The answer is there is no cut and dry answer which- as a fixer and analytical type is HARD! It’s having the confidence to know that I will figure it out as I go and not expect things to be the same.  The fear of the unknown can be really difficult, but it depends on how you view the unknown. Yes, it’s guaranteed to be hard and challenging, but I’m also excited about the unknown. I’m excited about the growth. I’m excited to help others with the same feelings by sharing my own.  I’m excited to learn how to take care of a baby (yeah… I’ve only changed a diaper like twice in my life and I’ve never held a newborn. That’s going to change pretty fast).  I’m enjoying reading the books because I love learning new things.  I’m excited about the person I’ll become as a mother and the opportunity to be a teacher to my kid.  When I start spiraling, I try to think of the things I’m excited about instead of the things I’m worried about.  That was MUCH easier to do once my depression from first trimester lifted.
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Here are some more thoughts from my journal around the “what-ifs” of bodily feelings and concern with miscarriage.  This technique works with most things.  If you want some other examples that are more relatable to you, go here or get my ebook I wrote with resilience techniques.

I am trying to replace negative thoughts with positive ones. It’s a slow process. I also am trying to be more aware of my interpretation or reactivity to something.  (Up until about week 20) – I’ve been having a lot of minor but noticeable menstrual feeling cramps.  I talk about the ABCDE model in my talks.  Action, Belief, Consequence, Disputation, Energization.  The A-action is the cramp. The B-belief about the cramp is the part I can change by using disputation. Is the belief true?  I first think, “oh my god, cramps. I need to go check to see if there is blood.” And I admit that I compulsively check. Belief is “cramps are bad.” C-Consequence is compulsive behavior and heightened anxiety.  D-Disputation- is it true that cramps are bad?  Well no, it’s not true. Cramps a normal part of early pregnancy. I’m just assuming the negative.  Being super in tune with my body has always been good as an athlete, but it’s a detriment as a pregnant person because I am hyper-aware of small changes.  Those small changes can send me spiraling.  This method has been helpful as well as mindfulness meditation.  A mantra I use when my brain starts telling crazy stories is I stop it with “May I be well” which is a part of self-compassion meditation.


Other questions I’ve had along the way so far is the push-pull and pressure of training.  I mentioned this in my first post, but it’s hard to know when to push through feeling tired.  You’re growing a human and I know how much of a toll a solid training block takes on me when I’m NOT pregnant. What is the right amount and the right intensity? There were days where I felt like I was being lazy, wondering if I was unmotivated, wondering if I should skip the ride or not.  I always committed to starting for 10 minutes and if I still didn’t want to ride or didn’t feel better, I’d go home. There were rides where I did turn around after 10 minutes.  There were days I wanted to ride longer, but I’d ride less because I felt tired or angry at how bad my body felt.  The pressure to train is partly due to fear of losing fitness, fear of losing identity, fear of taking too long to come back after birth.  A few people I confided in suggested that maybe I stop riding and pick up another form of exercise so I could drop the pressure, but I just couldn’t do it.  It takes confidence to take a step back, and I waded through the best I could. After that advice, I didn’t stop riding, but I gave myself permission to do less.

Here are other observations and issues I had. I made a list to help figure myself out:

  • Obsessiveness with hitting a certain number of arbitrary numbers/hours I set for myself. If I don’t hit those numbers, then I’m not a “real athlete” or I’m somehow jeopardizing my return to racing.
  • Difficulty with emotions on the bike ride- the “I’m just being wimpy and lazy, I really could or should do more” versus “I’m tired and I need to go home and rest.” It’s probably good I have no one to compare myself to but it drives me crazy not knowing what the right amount is.
  • Depressive episodes and anxiety. When it was happening, I was able to accept it was happening and that I couldn’t talk my way out of it or fix it, but that led to feelings of helplessness.
  • Loss of self-worth. I’m worthless if I’m just laying around feeling exhausted
  • Frustration with being tired all the time and not able to do work on the same level. Doing work makes me feel good because I get some control, I get to take my mind off being a pregnant person and I feel more like myself. When I’m too tired to work, it makes things worse because I feel even less like myself.
  • It has been hard to accept my body- mainly my increase in breast size and after 15 weeks, a popped out belly.
  • We booked a babymoon which helped me feel like I had something to look forward to. Other than that, I feel like I have nothing to look forward to.
  • I have an appreciation for these difficulties because there are more layers of self-discovery. I’m excited to share it when I’m ready, but I’m also afraid to share it.  What if I look crazy?
  • Feels like this is going to last forever

And then I started to find some resolution and things got way better.

I can’t pinpoint it.  They say second trimester is a lot easier so I’m sure that has something to do with it, but it wasn’t like I hit the second trimester and a switch flipped. It was more gradual.  I’m also guessing that it was a combination of hormones balancing out, my acceptance, processing of my changes and letting go, feeling better on my bike rides (yes, I started having rides where I didn’t feel so weak around week 17), and having my news out there.  I never got my energy back so that I felt like myself again or that I felt strong on my bike, but I got enough where I could do most everything I wanted to do in a day without having to lay in bed.  I felt way better than first trimester, but I was still tired (duh.)  I guess I got used to my new normal on the bike.  Here’s something for those of you pregnant cyclists that may help.  Don’t compare yourself to other pregnant cyclists. Some people feel good enough to race, some feel good enough to do big rides and interval training. That might be you…and it might not be. Some pregnant cyclists (like me) are just trying to get out and survive a 2-hour ride at a just riding along pace.  Some pregnant cyclists stop riding completely.  You have to do what’s right for you and listen to your body. Comparison is the thief of joy and spins up insecurities.  It’s frustrating to have to slow down or do less if your body is telling you to do so.  Also listen to the fatigue you feel after you ride.  In my first trimester, I’d force myself through 2 hour rides (at a snail’s pace feeling so weak) and I’d have to lay in bed the rest of the day. I’d probably do it differently, but who really knows?  Now? I can do a 2 hour ride and go back to work when I’m done.  And if I feel tired, I don’t force myself to hit a number, I just go home.

I also don’t want people to feel like they should compare themselves to me or any other athletes in terms of how much they should be riding or how they are supposed to feel. You need to do what is best for you.  But if you’re worried about overdoing it, know there are people who kept racing, kept training, and were still fast during pregnancy. I wish that was me…!  But it’s not and I’m ok with that. Here is an article written by fellow pregnant cyclist Laura King (who did some races, longer rides, and intervals- I wish I had the energy to do that!).  There is very little information on what is “safe” for elite and recreational athletes.  I had also consulted with some of the resources she listed, and I think the article was done very well if you’re trying to get as much info as you can. The problem is that there really just isn’t any true data to make a recommendation for athletes and everyone is different…and everything is SO generalized.

I also started a gym program with a trainer who had specific prenatal training.  I found that the workouts were too easy and he was suggesting I’d need to go lighter as time went on.  I really appreciated his knowledge as a starting point, but I took it from there and customized it so that I felt challenged enough without overdoing it. Hee was on board with that.  It’s been fun to get stronger and to take on something where I didn’t feel pressure or I wasn’t comparing myself to how I normally am.

🙂

My next post will be much more cheerful because I am more cheerful!  I’ll tell you about my babymoon, getting the flu for 2.5 weeks (ugh!) and where I’m at now!  Sign up for my newsletter if you want to be notified!

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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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