Cycle of Life: Biking While Pregnant

Despite unexpected emotions and uncooperative body parts, a mom-to-be finds balance on her bike.


Time: 7:15 p.m. Place: The kitchen. Action: The sounds of glass shattering and a pregnant woman crying. Last week, the mug Sue made me slipped out of my fingers when I was unloading the dishwasher and fractured into three jagged pieces. This time it's the hand-blown glass bowl Auntie Sharon gave us at our wedding. What am I going to break next?

At four months pregnant my joints have started loosening. Experts say this is my body's way of lengthening ligaments to prepare for childbirth, but that knowledge isn't helping my current situation. Surefooted for 29 years, I feel clumsy all the time. I don't know where my fingers and toes stop and the world outside my body begins. To walk is to trip. Every plate, glass and bowl in our house is in danger.

But on my bicycle everything's in balance. The handlebars with their no-slip grips keep my hands and arms steady, my belly juts comfortably over the frame, my legs feel strong and sure on the pedals. The morning sickness that's been keeping me nauseous every afternoon and evening abates as oxygen hits my bloodstream. I bike downtown and buy the baby something to wear home from the hospital: a pink-and-yellow stripped bodysuit. On the ride home I feel so many emotions—happy, nervous, excited—at the thought of the tiny little boy or girl who will some-day wear it. Nobody knows the tears have nothing to do with the wind in my eyes.

At 26 weeks the morning sickness finally stops. The weather turns warm, and my husband and I go biking together. We eat tomato-and-mozzarella sandwiches on the porch on unbreakable aluminum plates. I take the bike path home from work, pumping as fast as I can. A pedestrian notices my belly and cries, "You go, girl!" while my kicky baby is quiet, enjoying the ride.

But time passes too quickly, or maybe I'm too reckless, and two weeks before my due date and four weeks before I had expected (I was sure I'd be overdue), I go into labor after biking over a terrific pothole. She's tiny. She's perfect. The pink-and-yellow bodysuit fits just right. Too soon it will be time to buy her a bicycle and fly down the path together.

Tips & Gear

Choose a fat-tire, full-suspension hybrid or mountain bike with a big saddle, and stick to level terrain. "Stay away from anywhere that might increase your risk of an accident," says Jim Pivarnik, Ph.D., a professor of kinesiology and epidemiology at Michigan State University who has studied fitness during pregnancy. "Also, avoid crowded areas with high levels of carbon monoxide from auto exhaust."

ALWAYS WEAR A HELMET Nutcase helmets, $60, come in snazzy patterns (polka dots, anyone?) and have a full-coverage, slip-proof design that protects your whole head.