On september 4th I gave birth to my first son Benjamin. My nine months of pregnancy were surprisingly easy and allowed me to kayak up until 10 days before birth, endurobike and even paraglide up until month seven. In the 8th month I went hiking for 7 hours in the vicinity of Svartisen glacier, and in general feeling very good as the little man grew happily inside. As it turned out, not everybody liked the fact that a woman still goes down a hill on a bike or jumps in the kayak to paddle class four as soon as the belly can be seen…
Before pregnancy I repeatedly heard comments such as: “Women have to decide on their own when to slow down and put on the brakes”, and “Pregnancy is not an illness – it is really good to keep staying active”, pluss “Your body will tell you when to slow down”. So what happened when it actually did not tell me to stop until ten days before birth? People got angry.
I guess I should not have been so surprised to realise that whitewater kayaking and enduro biking is not really looked upon as “normal activity” for pregnant women. However, to be able to stay so active made the mental aspect of my pregnancy extremely easy – I was happy and active and the same with my baby boy. And here are some facts to consider
- When I got pregnant I was not just normally fit. I was as fit as I have ever been in my entire life – coming straight from high-end athlete performances at World Cups and World Championships the months before, and a hard training regime leading up to those competitions.
- My mind has not played tricks on me (too much) – I still have trusted myself to make the best descicions on the water and on the biking trails – why would I now suddenly start screwing up just because I was pregnant?
- Kayaking is like walking – I have close to 15.000 hours on the water – that is 625 days (24/7) or 1.71 years.
But what really have surprised me is that it is not just strangers remarking on my activity level the past months – also my friends have found it appropriate to point the finger at times. It seems like the tolerance for socalled “extreme sports” while being pregnant is quite low – and lower than I actually thought up front.
This brings me to the key topic of this text: TOLERANCE
Perception is the key to it all. I do believe that many of the negative remarks come from not truly understanding the world an extreme sport athlete walk in. One of my friends commented “But what if you get the paddle in the stomach when you run this?” The section in question is one I consider very easy, and one I have done hundreds of times without anything happening. I just replid: “Why would something happen now?”.
I have been blessed with a man that trusted me 100 % while carrying his child. He never once told me not to get on the river, to not run a rapid, to not go biking… He did however tell me that I might be wise to not paraglide the last two months – something I agreed with as soon as I gave it a thought. His trust in me has been the biggest sign of love ever – and I am forever grateful for his support.
Being pregnant have been a wonderful journey, leading the way to the arrival of little Benji. As I have explored new depths of my own being while feeling him grow inside, I have also learned more about the people around me and the world I live in. It only encourages me to walk my own steps, making myself and thus my little family happy.
To end this blog here are some advice for the pregnant extreme sport athlete:
- Try to follow your gut instinct – not your brain. The brain will tell you to slow down or to keep going – but it is really the body that will tell you how active to stay while being pregnant.
- Try your best to not listen to anybody telling you what to do or not – be your own being.
- If you are happy, the child will also be happy. You will never cause him or her any harm or risk – it is your child after all.
- To kayak while pregnant is really down to good balance and a good back-deck roll! I had both and thus enjoyed endless trips on easy whitewater the last month of waiting.
- I thought being fit would help me at birth – but as it is with strong core muscles sometimes it can be a hard birth because all the muscles can cramp and hinder the pelvis opening up… as it did for me with 30 + hours of labour. But being fit put me back on the bike 4 days after birth, and in my kayak 7 days after birth, so I say the benefit of being active is huge.