Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Postpartum Healing: The Physical Side.

Hello folks! Still settling into a routine with Liam and the new neighborhood. Of course, next week I'll have to come up with a new routine (again) once I go back to work.

I figured I'd do a post on the postpartum period of pregnancy/childbirth. There's some good information out there about cycling & pregnancy, but not too much about what happens AFTER birth. I want to start with the physical side of healing, since that directly impacts the ability to get on a bike again. I just had my 6 week postpartum check-up today.

Physically, I'm pretty much back to "normal". I had a very fortunate birth experience in which I was able to give birth vaginally without tearing, just some minor abrasions and swelling. I spent the first 3 weeks physically healing from the birth itself. I was on IV fluids for almost 30 hours, so I experienced more swelling the days after the birth than in my entire pregnancy! That was annoying. It went away after 1.5-2 weeks though. I did have some painful swelling around the birth canal. I was advised to take 600mg of Motrin daily, and that seemed to help. Earth Mama Angel Baby Bottom Balm helped with the abrasions. I found that standing/walking for more than 10 minutes at a time painful & uncomfortable. Not unbearable, but it wasn't fun. I couldn't even think about getting back on a bicycle, ouch! Unfortunately, we were right in the middle of our move, so in addition to caring for a newborn, I was also unpacking and moving a lot of boxes too. (I do NOT recommend doing this). I convinced myself that being forced to get up and move around helped the healing. I was probably fooling myself. The lochia (blood and other stuff that is discharged from the vagina after birth) slowed after 2 weeks and completely stopped at 4 weeks. That was another problem-wearing pads with the vaginal abrasions was excruciating. I was so glad when I was able to stop. So, combined with the swelling, abrasions & lochia, cycling was just out of the question.

In addition to the physical trauma of giving birth, I was/am suffering from sleep deprivation. When I was in the recovery room after Liam was born, I was almost wishing to be back in labor! While I was in labor, the epidural allowed me to sleep right through most everything. Once Liam was born, that was all over! If it wasn't Liam waking us up to be fed/changed, it was the nurses. I haven't had a full nights sleep since before Liam was born (and probably well before that, since I was suffering from pregnancy-induced insomnia as well).  I have a whole rant on how new mothers are treated like crap once they give birth, but it probably isn't appropriate for this blog. I'll just say that as a police officer, I treated prisoners more humanely than I was.

"Sleep when Baby sleeps" is probably the most useless advice I've ever received. Baby sleeping was when I was finally able to have a little time to myself and get things done (and I had a lot of things that needed getting done!) Believe me, I would have loved to have nothing else to do except nap, but that just wasn't possible. There was also the mental factor of needing a break from the baby to do ME things, even if it was just farting around on the internet for awhile.  In the meantime, I just grab an hour or two when I can. Sometimes, I can get 3-4 hours at a time at night! That's a treat. Sleep deprivation tends to make me feel nauseous, so my appetite disappears when I'm really tired.

I'm combo breastfeeding/supplementing (I know this is a hot topic, and if you want me to talk about the whys & hows & stuff on here, I can), and the first week was tough. Breastfeeding stimulates the release of oxytocin, which causes uterine contractions. These contractions help the uterus to shrink back down to its non-pregnant size. This is very uncomfortable, and sometimes painful. It was akin to painful period cramps. Also, my nipples were cracked and sore since Liam and I were still both learning how to breastfeed. I didn't suffer the super painful engorgement that many women suffer from once their milk comes in, luckily. It took about 3 weeks (and liberal application of Earth Mama Angel Baby Nipple Butter) before breastfeeding stopped being painful. Breastfeeding also makes you HUNGRY. I'm hungry all the time, except when I'm feeling nauseous from not sleeping. And thirsty. And hot as hell. Thanks, hormones. I've been eating a lot of junk food because of the move (quick & easy = a lot of pizza and deli sandwiches), but I'm trying to break that habit now. Breastfeeding is also supposed to help you lose the pregnancy weight. I haven't had a chance to weigh myself yet, but I'm pretty much back in my pre-pregnancy pants, although they are a bit more snug than I remember. I still have a bit to go. It was so weird looking at my belly the hours after giving birth. I still had a very pregnant bump, but...there was nothing in there. I still looked pretty pregnant for about 2 weeks after the birth, and I still have a bit of a bump 6 weeks later.

It took about 4 weeks after birth until I no longer felt like I had just given birth and was able to fully resume normal activities. I started by going on short walks with Liam in the stroller. Those felt good, so I took a ride on the bike. The biggest obstacle to getting back on the bikes wasn't healing from the birth, its finding the time to ride! With the husband back at work, I have to watch Liam most of the day and he's too young to take with me on a ride. I have to wait until the husband gets home (or is on a day off) to find time to sneak in a ride, and even then it has to be short since I'm breastfeeding. I could pump a bottle for dad to feed Liam, but that requires even more time and planning. But, I did manage to find time for a couple of rides. They were short rides, and the area I live in now is pretty flat, so they were easy rides. I took Betty (beach cruiser) along the trail that runs by our neighborhood. It felt good, but there was a pretty good headwind. One thing I loved is the number of families I saw on the trail. But more on that in another post. I also took Kermit out for a brief ride. Other than some weird sounds coming from the front wheel (I'm going to need to inspect all the bikes carefully at some point), it felt like I had never been off him.

At 6 weeks postpartum, I feel perfectly fine & capable of riding a bicycle again. The longest ride I've done so far is 14 miles, and that felt great. Being able to go out for a ride now & then has been a big stress reliever for me, which is desperately needed. I also can't wait until Liam is old enough to ride with me!

The next post will be about the mental/emotional parts of postpartum healing. It will probably be quite a bit longer...

Some pictures of my new neighborhood, taken while I was out riding & exploring:

This paved trail covers a good portion of the island, but unfortunately isn't completely connected at places. Still, its a nice trail!

I need to find the story behind this bench. It's a memorial (you probably can't read the names carved on it in this photo). There are benches & picnic tables all along the trail.

Ugh. I really hate "Bikers Dismount" signs. They are useless and silly. I don't mind the stop sign, but I am not walking my bike every 30 feet (this trail crosses a lot of roads and driveways).

Must be nice to have your own plane in your backyard! The folks in this neighborhood all have their own private hangars!

Bike parking! I plan to put up some kind of shelter, so the bikes aren't completely exposed. In bad weather/winter, they'll be kept in the garage.

The local beach. It's actually quite tiny, but I look forward to using it when I actually have the time.

There is a fishing pier at the end of the trail. This is a view from it.

And just because I couldn't resist!

Saturday, August 29, 2015

He's here!

Liam Thomas was born on August 19th at 10:03pm. At some point soon, I'll post a little bit about his birth story, but right now I'm still overwhelmed with everything. In addition to bringing this tiny person into the world, we bought a house and moved into it. Talk about overwhelming! Trying to pack/unpack your entire life while a week overdue, and then with a brand new baby while you are still healing from the delivery is insane. The husband has been amazing through this whole process, and I don't think I could have gotten through without breaking down without him.

Right after delivery. I was in labor for 30 hours (I didn't feel most of it, thanks to the epidural), and pushed for about 25 minutes. Easy peasy.

Liam is wonderful. He's so strong and alert. Breastfeeding can be a bit of a battle, but we're both learning. I don't remember what sleeping was like. He loves to nap during the day, but for some reason I can't make myself sleep. I used to be able to nap during the day with no problem. Not anymore. Instead its "quick! Do ALL the things before he wakes up for his next shrieking/feeding!" Between breastfeeding and pumping, I might get an hour or so of "down time" before needing to tend to Liam again. It's exhausting, but rewarding. I will admit to having a few hormonal breakdowns (including cold flashes. Who knew you could feel freezing in 90 degree weather?!). Thankfully, the husband was there to keep me from going bonkers. It's quite an adjustment going from pregnant to not-pregnant. It's strange to have my body back for myself (for the most part. My breasts still seem to be held hostage.)

Daddy picked out the coming home outfit.

Kid loves to sleep.

Daddy's first night. Kiddo is sleeping, but dad isn't.

He likes to conduct a symphony in his sleep.

We went outside for some vey brief sun. Still snoozing. I swear he doesn't sleep ALL the time.

I am so eager to get back on the bike. There is a fantastic trail near the new house, and I get to watch people riding/walking/running on it every day. I can't wait until I can explore this new area and see where it can take me. I'm still healing from the birth, but in a few more weeks I should be cleared to go. I'm hoping that in the next few days, we can at least take a few walks together. I haven't really been able to stand/walk for more than 10 minutes at a time without soreness/pain. It's starting to fade though.

It's strange living so far from DC. Looking at photos on twitter and instagram, I find myself missing activities that I used to take for granted: running along the Mall, night rides around the monuments, biking through Rock Creek & the C&O canal, group rides, 5K's downtown... I don't regret moving at all; it was definitely time. But I will still miss the ease in which I was able to participate in those things. However, I'm also eager to see what sorts of things I can participate in HERE. There are beaches and parks, and I've already found a local cycling group that does a bunch of rides. I'm sure there are local running groups and races too. And I'm still going to participate in the "big" cycling/running events in DC too.

Speaking of, the 50 States Ride and the Boundary Stone Ride are both coming up. I've done the 50 States Ride a bunch of times, and its one of my favorite rides to do in DC. It's also one of the more challenging rides I've ever done. You wouldn't think that simply riding around the city (the "goal" of the 50 States Ride is to ride on every single state street/avenue) would be difficult, but you would be wrong. There are some killer hills in the city! And for some reason, this ride loves to attract bad weather. It's always either super HOT or super RAINY.  I believe registration is already full though (its a super popular ride), but they are always looking for volunteers! Check it out here:

The Boundary Stone Ride is one that I've heard about, but never had the chance to participate in. Similar to the 50 States Ride, the Boundary Stone Ride is all about exploring DC by riding to all of the old DC Boundary Stones. Doing the whole ride amounts to a metric century, or you can simply break it up into "sides" (about 15 miles on each side).  It will be taking place on Saturday, September 19th, and you can find more info about it on their facebook page or registration page. Registration is free, and you still get a t-shirt and a swag bag! (So, make a donation!) Phoenix Bikes will be providing bike support at rest stops, and Boundary Stone (of course) and DC Brau are sponsoring the ride and hosting the after-party. I'm seriously considering doing this ride. I should be healed and recovered by then.  I doubt I could do the whole metric century, but I could at least do a side, maybe two.

For October, I've registered for the Law Enforcement Ride & Run to Remember again. This will be my 3rd year participating, and I will be part of a team again (Blood, Sweat & Tires). It is a fundraiser for the NLEOMF, so stay tuned for more info on that!

That's it for now. It's been a whirlwind and it doesn't look like it will be slowing down anytime soon.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Big News!

No, not THAT news.

Baby is still very much in utero, and not showing any signs of making his debut anytime soon. He's definitely running out of room, though.  11 days until D-day, and I'm really hoping he'll stay put until then.

No, I have other Big News. Stuff I haven't been able to talk about much because its all happening pretty fast, and its a little overwhelming.

This Girl on a Bike is Maryland. Just over the Bay Bridge to be a little more precise, without giving out my exact address. I'm gonna have to update my twitter handle.

After living in DC for 18 years, it is time for me to make some changes. For the first 18 years of my life, I lived in a small town in central NY State, right on the shores of Lake Ontario. My 'hood was mostly farmland. I love where I grew-up, and I loved the childhood I had because of it. I went to small(ish) public schools and spent a lot of time outdoors. It was quiet, safe and yes...a bit boring. By the time I was 18 and ready to leave home, I knew I wanted the opposite of what I grew up with. So in August of 1997, my parents dropped me off in Foggy Bottom in Washington, DC.  I specifically chose George Washington University because it was an "open" campus in the middle of Washington, DC. I spent the next 18 years making my life here, as a DC resident.

I consider my last 18 years as my "2nd Life". I did a lot of growing up here. From an 18 year old awkward teen-adult, to a now married & pregnant adult. My first roommate was a crazy French girl that grew up around royalty and taught me many things that my small-town experiences lacked. We spent years having crazy adventures until he she moved from DC to continue her globe-trotting, and now works with refugees all over the world. She was the first of many friends that I would meet from all over the world that came to DC. I remember U Street when it was mostly parking lots and only a few clubs (State of the Union, anyone?). Most weekend nights, I could be found at the goth night clubs where the Nationals now play. DC was NOT known for its night-life at the time (in fact, I remember my Parisian roommate being astounded at the fact that DC essentially shut-down at 10pm most nights. It was true. Except for maybe Georgetown, but that was still very much the bro-town it still is now).  In order to shop at a "decent" grocery store, I had to take the metro into Virginia. I had a bunch of odd-jobs until I finally settled on a career in law enforcement, and now work for the District of Columbia as a police officer. I moved into the building that I am now in the process of moving out of 15 years ago! I can't imagine not living here. I've watched my neighborhood go through so many changes. I lived through 9/11 here. I remember seeing the smoke from the Pentagon from the rooftop. DC has definitely shaped the adult person that I am now.

But, its time to start my "3rd Life". My priorities have majorly changed, and so have my wants and needs. It's no longer just about what I want/need, but what my family wants and needs. And although DC is a great place for raising a family (it really is!), its just not what we want anymore. I want to go home and NOT be the police.  I can't do that when I live in the city I patrol. I want peace and quiet at night. I want space, both metaphorically and literally. I want our kid to have the same kind of experiences that I grew up with. I do not want to go grocery shopping with my kid, and run into some jackass that I arrested. I don't need/want 15 restaurants within a .5 mile radius. We can still come into the city for the museums/events.

So, we are buying a house in Maryland. We chose that area because we have a few friends there, and we really like the area. Closing on the house is on the 10th. Yup, the day before I'm due! (Pleeeeaaaase, kiddo, just stay in a little while longer). That means we'll be moving with a newborn. No, we're not insane. Why do you ask? And if you are going to do one really big stressful, life-changing thing, why not do another? It's actually been helpful, in that whenever I start to stress about labor/delivery/caring for a newborn, I just starting thinking about mortgages, house payments, commuting & moving, and the stress from that basically cancels each other out!

Hello, denial.

And yes, this means I'll have to start driving to work. Shudder. Which means we'll need to buy another car. Ugh. These are major cons to our move. The commute is going to be at least an hour, each way. I'm not looking forward to it. I did research alternative commuting methods (maybe park at a metro, metro in to Union Station, keep a bike at the Bike Station, and then bike in.....but that would actually add way more time to my commute). The worst part? I'm also going to have to become.....a Maryland Driver. Yup. Oh, the shame. I might honestly cry.

The good part is that the area we live in (basically an island) has a pretty good bike trail system (it still needs a lot of work in getting connected to various places, but they are working on it). So, even though I may not do a whole lot of biking to/from DC, I can do a lot of biking at home. One of my major reasons for picking the house that we did, is that it is just down the street from an entrance to the bike trail. I'm hoping we can save the car trips for commuting/DC trips, and stick to bikes/the Vespa for just getting around/errand running/etc.

I'm going to miss so much about living in DC. The idea that I won't be able to just pop on home when I'm out & about in DC is going to suck. I love that I'm only minutes away from so many bike trails. Events going on downtown? I can get there in 15-20 minutes. I don't want to be a stranger/tourist in my own city. I know every crack in the sidewalk, every alley cut, every little quirk in a 2 mile radius from here. Just from running/walking/biking the same areas every day.

In less than a month, that will all change for me. I still can't fathom it. Definitely denial.

In the meantime, I have officially started maternity leave. I'm using this last bit of time before kiddo gets here to start packing. We haven't bothered unpacking/unboxing a lot of the baby stuff/gifts we've received since we'll just have to immediately pack it all up again. The apartment looks like a hurricane hit it. Ugh. Boxes and stuff just EVERYWHERE. Who knew a 1 bedroom apartment could contain so much STUFF. 15 years of stuff. Bah!

Anyway, if you don't hear from me much on twitter/facebook for a bit, this is why. Busy, busy, busy.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

The final countdown

35 weeks today. I think this might be my last post until after the kiddo arrives.

I'm starting to really feel the pregnancy. Up until a few days ago, I felt fine. I didn't feel "pregnant" unless I looked in a mirror and saw my belly. I could still tie my shoes and touch my toes. My feet hadn't swelled into boats. I didn't have any aches and pains. I felt little kicks and punches, but they felt more like muscle twitches (thank you, anterior placenta for being a cushion). All the horrible things that other women told me would happen during pregnancy...didn't.

And then I woke up last Saturday. I was completely prepared to ride into work as usual. But then I noticed my finger joints really ached. And my back. And shoulders. And neck.  And what the heck is this really heavy thing around my midsection? Trying to turn over or even get out of bed was an ordeal. I wanted to go in one direction, kiddo had other ideas. And those cute little "kicks" and "punches"? They are full-on belly spasms. The alien chest-burster doesn't seem like a fictional character anymore.  And what is even happening to my belly button?! Riding on a bicycle just doesn't seem appealing at all right now. I had promised myself that when it stopped being fun, I wasn't going to force myself. So I think I might be done with bike commuting for a bit. MIGHT be. I'm still going day by day. I don't feel miserable, but my willingness to hop on a bicycle in the summertime heat & humidity has gone way down.

These last few weeks are going to be pretty busy. I'm still working full-time (currently scheduled up until D-day, although I might take some time off before). We still have some things to purchase for the kiddo (he has all the basics, so it's not urgent). I need to pack my hospital bag. Tour the Labor & Delivery wing at the hospital. Read up on breastfeeding. And there's some other big changes going on at the moment that I don't want to reveal just yet. But this is all happening so FAST all of a sudden, and it's getting so REAL. This kiddo will be here NEXT MONTH. No longer a theoretical concept, but an actual, real, tangible (screaming, crying, hungry) person that we'll be responsible for. Yikes.

Anyway, I got scolded again last week for riding my bike. At least this guy had the decency to "warn" me before lecturing me ("Sarge. I'm gonna warn you, I'm gonna sound disrespectful for a minute..."). He launched into a rant about how I was out of my mind for still riding a bicycle, have I looked in a mirror (because I'm not aware of my own pregnancy??) and blah blah blah. I was on my way out the door, so I didn't stick around to listen it. Just nodded my head, "uh-huh-ed" him and was on my way.

So I figured this post could be about how to handle "well-meaning" people that feel the need to voice their opinion on your choice to bike commute while pregnant. Actually, this could apply to bike commuting in general, pregnant or not.

  • Understand that you're probably not going to change their minds. People that feel its okay to lecture another grown adult about their choices are pretty firm in their own beliefs and opinions. So, if you do decide to engage, be prepared to either shrug and walk away or let them know that you heard them, but you don't agree. And then ride your bike anyway.
  • Be an example. I've found the best way to handle people who think bike commuting is "crazy" is to just do it. Show them it's not a big deal and that its completely normal by doing it. After awhile, they give up. And then it will seem strange to them when you DON'T ride your bike because they got used to seeing it.
  • What I hear most often from people that think bike commuting is "dangerous" is that its because of the "crazy drivers" out there. My response is usually "Aren't you a driver? Why not make it safer for me by driving more carefully?" Or with my coworkers: "Yup. If only there were people out there that had the legal authority to stop these drivers and enforce traffic laws...maybe when you are out on the street, and you see one of these "crazy drivers", you DO SOMETHING about it".
  • Ride your bike anyway.
  • I also point out that I've been in far more car "accidents" then I've been in bike "accidents", and that I'm more concerned about being injured in a car than I am being injured on a bike.
  • I let them know I've been bike commuting in a city for 5 years, and that I am very experienced and competent at handling my bicycle.
  • Ride your bike anyway
  • My bike commute is my daily meditation. It prepares me for the work day ahead, and then helps me decompress on my ride home. I need it. It keeps me sane. A sane me is a happy me, and a happy me is a more pleasant supervisor/coworker.
  • The exercise is good for me and the growing baby. It's actually ideal because the riding position distributes the weight in a way that it takes the load off of me, and encourages the baby to position himself correctly for birth. The motion is also nice for the baby.
  • Don't accept the invitation to an argument. If someone is being rude, it's perfectly fine to walk away in the middle of their rant. I don't mind having discussions, but I won't do arguments.
  • Ride your bike anyway

Being a pregnant bike commuter can be challenging because there's an element of sexism involved. When a person tells me that I'm "crazy" for the simple act of riding a bicycle, what they are really saying is that I'm not capable of deciding for myself what is safe/acceptable/healthy. I often get asked what my husband thinks of my choice. Then there is the "THINK OF THE CHILDREN" pearl-clutching that is usually a thinly disguised veil at controlling someone else's behavior (and not at all about THE CHILDREN). I could go on a whole rant about my experiences as a pregnant woman in the workplace, especially a traditionally male workplace, but this isn't really the blog for that. I'll just say its been.....frustrating. It seems that the only people not invited/allowed to define what a pregnant woman is capable of are the pregnant women themselves. Instead policies & procedures are created by people (usually men) who seem to think that being pregnant is equivalent to being injured/ill and refuse to acknowledge that pregnancy is its own uniquely female event. For instance, the 1978 Pregnancy Discrimination Act says that pregnant employees are to be treated as any other employee with a short term disability. Except...I'm not disabled. I didn't break my leg or arm. I'm pregnant. It's not the same. Yes, certain accommodations need to be made, but I should be the one to decide what they are. Anyway, I digress. Ride your bike. Don't listen to the haters.

The next time I post here, kiddo should be here. Forgive me if I go radio silent for a bit, because I might be a bit overwhelmed. See you on the other side!

Edited to add bump picture....just because:

My usual commuting outfit. Thank goodness bike jerseys stretch.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Third Trimester

At 30 weeks, I am officially into the third trimester. 10 weeks to go!

I'm still riding to work (about 4.5 miles), but I think my days are numbered. DC summers are notoriously hot and humid, and I can't risk over heating. I've been very lucky the last few weeks, as the weather has been cool and dry. I'm still able to physically ride, but I'm not going to risk heat complications. My midwife was starting to give me the concerned clucking when she saw me in bike shorts at my last appointment. "Yes, we might have to stop riding's getting hot out there!".

My belly is now pretty obvious to everyone. I was riding to work the other day, and a man in a truck very cautiously pulled up beside me, his eyes as big as saucers when he saw the belly. "You feeling okay?". Haha, yeah, man. I'm feeling okay.  My midwife has warned me about changes in my center of gravity, but I honestly haven't noticed anything different. My balance is still the same, or at least I'm not noticing a difference since I ride nearly every day. I did notice a huge difference when I went swimming last week and got out of the pool. It felt like I weighed a million pounds! I still haven't had to adjust much of my riding. I'm still riding the Orange Velo Polyvalent with drop bars (aka Kermit). I still wear pretty much what I usually wear on a bike (bike shorts, jersey). My feet haven't suffered any swelling, so I still wear my usual bike shoes (Keen Commuters). My belly hasn't bothered me for my short commutes, so I haven't adjusted my saddle or handlebars. I try to avoid hills as much as possible, because I do notice some niggling pain in my belly (similar to RLP) sometimes when I'm riding up a long hill, and I don't want my heart rate/breathing rate to get too high. Luckily, my commute doesn't involve any strenuous hills.

Some big changes are coming up very soon (changes at work, buying a house and possibly moving), so I'm just trying to take things day by day and not let unnecessary worries bother me. This is one thing pregnancy is teaching me: I can't let things that are out of my control bother me. I just need to trust that everything will work itself out in the end.

My virtual ride for the Police Unity Tour went fairly well. I had to shorten it to one day (instead of 3) because I managed to catch a nasty Spring Cold, and couldn't breathe through my nose anymore; so I spent the rest of the week in bed. I was disappointed I wasn't able to ride the C&O canal towpath like I had planned, but I felt physically awful.  Still, that one day of riding was great. It was a perfect day outside, and even riding around in one big loop didn't get boring. It will be nice to ride with the group next year, though.

And since I've seen other folks do it:

Number of weeks pregnant: 30

Belly button status: Still an innie!

Worst symptom: I'm actually suffering from an annoying leg cramp right now. Ow. Oh, and the heartburn has begun too.

Exercise: Daily bike commute (4.5 miles), walks around the neighborhood, and the occasional squat set.

Weight Gain: I believe its been around 15lbs, the last time I checked.

Feet: I can still touch my toes and put my shoes on, but I can no longer see my feet if I look down. No swelling either, and I still wear the same size shoe.

Baby Movement: Kiddo has been kicking/punching up a storm lately. It's a little weird. Still haven't spotted any extremities poking against my belly, but that's mostly because I refuse to look...because CREEPY.

Reading: Wheels within Wheels: The Making of a Traveler (Dervla Murphy); Natural Hospital Birth (Cynthia Gabriel).

Craving: Ice cream. Smoothies. Milkshakes. Anything cold & creamy.

Awkward Moments: I haven't really experienced many, yet. Mostly it has to do with well-meaning folks and riding my bike.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Waving goodbye to the 2nd Trimester

I'm currently sailing through Week 26, and pretty soon will be starting the final trimester of this pregnancy.

Second tri is great! I feel so much better than I did in the first trimester. I have energy again, and I don't feel like emptying the contents of my stomach every 5 minutes.

So far I haven't had to make any adjustments to my bike or my biking style. I haven't found anything to be particularly more difficult than it was before. I currently commute on a bike with drop bars, and although I was worried about my belly getting too big and hitting my knees while riding, that has not been the case yet. But the Bump is definitely growing. I went out for a walk the other day, and I caught a glimpse of my reflection in a window....yikes! Of course I see myself in the mirror everyday, but I don't really see myself.  I guess I'll see how the growing belly will affect my riding in the last trimester. If I need to, I can switch over to a bicycle with straight bars instead of drop bars and adjust things for a more upright riding style.

I have adjusted my commute slightly. I no longer ride after dark if I can help it. Mostly this is because my route home takes me through a heavy bar/club area, and I simply don't trust drivers (and pedestrians) to not be drunk on the road. I distinctly recall one ride home through this area (before I was pregnant) and a young man driving some type of sporty car ahead of me decided he didn't want to sit in the heavy club traffic, so he gunned it and tried to pass the car ahead of him at about 80 miles an hour. The laws of physics kicked in (2 objects cannot occupy the same space) and he ended up ping-ponging off of about 3 cars and ended up on the sidewalk. That move takes a certain kind of judgment that only alcohol can provide. No one was hurt, but it was super scary. So glad I was BEHIND him, but it was so scary to watch it unfold. I don't mind risking it when it's just me, but I'm not going to put this kiddo at risk if I don't need to. Instead, the hubster picks me up after work and we stick Kermit (my commuting bike) on a bike rack. Handy.

Speaking of risks, I got a pretty severe lecture from a coworker (a subordinate, no less) who was downright angry that I was biking to work while pregnant. This coworker saw me pull into the parking lot on my bicycle and immediately laid into me, ranting that I had no right to put a child at risk and that she doesn't trust drivers in DC (despite being one herself), blah blah blah. She didn't even give me a chance to respond, and honestly I started getting so angry I just walked away from her mid-rant. I'm used to getting Looks, and the occasional off-hand "Question Comment" (i.e. you're still riding pregnant? Is your doctor okay with that?), but this was absolutely not okay. I've become acutely aware of how pregnancy turns a woman into public property. Whether its a coffee shop barista who "helpfully" gives you a decaf coffee despite you not ordering decaf or someone commenting "are you supposed to be eating that?" while you are trying to eat lunch; or complete strangers feeling absolutely entitled to touching you (I've discovered that if I rub their belly in return, they stop); some people seem to forget that you are a capable adult human being and not just a walking incubator. Anyway, after I had a chance to calm down (and rant on twitter for a bit), I pulled that coworker aside and explained that 1). It was really not okay to speak to me like that. 2)I am still a supervisor, so its REALLY not ok to speak to me like that. 3)If she was genuinely concerned about my chosen method of commuting, I have no problem having a CONVERSATION about it, outside of work, but that I will not be lectured. 4). That my commute on my bicycle is the best part of my day, that I look forward to it, that it is time that is completely for ME, and that it actually helps me to relax & lower my blood pressure (which I need), and she made it the exact opposite of that with her lecture. She did apologize. I know that these sorts of "issues" happen because the other person genuinely thinks they are being helpful, but still....I get really tired of the pearl-clutching "think of the children!" rhetoric when its really about controlling/judging someone else.

Did I rant a bit there? Sorry.

Anyway. The weather is changing and that means its time to adjust my bike bag contents. Instead of extra gloves, scarves & layers, I now bring sunscreen, wet wipes, a towel and rain gear. (This is in addition to my usual commute essentials: lunch/snacks, water, change of clothes). I'm not complaining. I'm SO over cold weather. Give me heat & humidity. Please. My current commute outfit is usually a running/yoga capri and a bike jersy or large t-shirt. It works so far. (Weird fact: I can still fit into my usual pants. I have bought a few pairs of maternity pants for work, but my regular pants still fit fine. Shirts are another matter.)

This weekend (starting Sunday) is the Police Unity Tour. Thank you all that donated! I met my fundraising goal, so now I just need to ride the 205 miles. Yikes. My plan is to head over to Hains Point in the morning, and generally follow the mileage/rest stop guidelines from the cue sheet from previous rides. The first day is about 85 miles, the second is 80 and the last is 45ish. Will I actually ride all those miles? I don't know, but I'm going to try. I plan to take it nice and easy though. If I start to feel to uncomfortable, I will stop and call it a day. I'm not trying to go into premature labor here. I plan on having the hubster stop by with refreshments throughout the day. This means I can ride Blue (my carbon fiber frame road bike) instead of Kermit since I won't need to carry snacks/lunch/hydration for the whole day on my bike. If any of you are in town and want to ride in circles, feel free to stop by! I'll be wearing my Police Unity Tour jersey.  I'll post more specifics here the night before (as well as on Facebook and Twitter). It's supposed to be HOT, but clear those days. We'll see.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Remembering Jim

Hi! Before I get to relating my usual cycling shenanigans, I just wanted to remind you that I'm still raising funds for the 2015 Police Unity Tour!

A little over 10 years ago, I was out of college and had no idea what I was going to do with my life. I had vague thoughts of working for some criminal policy think tank, but the string of temp jobs I was currently working had turned me off of office work. I wanted to be outside, I wanted to be around people, and I didn't like playing office politics. Staring at a computer screen for 8 hours a day was killing me with boredom.

Luckily I had a friend with a solution. His name was Jim. We weren't close friends, but we ran in the same social circles & and we were LiveJournal buddies (before there was Facebook and Twitter and Blogger, there was LiveJournal. I will posting a few excerpts from his posts; I do so without any permission, and I hope Jim's family won't mind. I didn't know who to ask). Jim had just joined the Metropolitan Police Department and was going through the academy. He loved it.

He wrote about his adventures, and I followed every word. He graduated and was assigned to the First District, and his stories changed from enduring the physical challenges of the police academy to life on the street. His stories were hilarious. He obviously loved his job. Did I mention he was attending law school too? That's insane. At that time, a rookie police officer could easily put in 12+ hour days working their shift plus court commitments. To attend law school classes on top of that is amazing, and showed the dedication that he had. It wasn't a surprise at all when he was made Rookie of the Year for the First District. Jim was proud of being a police officer, and it showed. Even on a "bad" day, he was still proud of what he was doing.

Jim knew I was suffering a slow death in my temp jobs, so one day he sent me an email: "Wanna join MPD?" I thought he was crazy. Me, a police officer? He told me that he thought this would be the perfect job for me, and that he would be a reference for me. I thought it over....and put my application in. In March of 2005, I was accepted into the Metropolitan Police Department Academy and began my career. I fully credit Jim with giving me the confidence and the nudge to apply.

While I was in the academy, Jim was still busy policing the busy streets of the First District. His patrol area included the National Law Enforcement Memorial, and I remember him writing about how seriously he took that duty:
I had one person ask, so let me extend this to everyone. The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial is on my beat (and I make sure its safe and skateboarder free) so if anyone wants a rubbing and can't make it down here let me know and I can get it for you

One thing Jim wanted very much was to become a bike patrol officer. He begged his Commander to allow him to attend a training class. The Police Mountain Bike training certification is a coveted and difficult certification. The physical skills required to obtain the certification are some of the most challenging on the department. There's often a waiting list to get into the class. Unsurprisingly, Jim managed to get into the class.

I remember him talking about how excited he was. It was August. It was very hot. I was still in the academy.
So today was my first of five days in mountain bike school.

It hurt.

It was hard.

It was full of rain, mud, scapes, crashes, bumps, brusies, sun burn, and pain.

And it was a damn lot of fun.

The first thing we did was the usual administrative nonsense (sign this, write that, read this, agree to A B and C etc.), then we learned how to work and do basic maintence on our Smith and Wesson bikes. Then we went riding. We tackled small hills (and at the begining, before I figured out how the gears work, I couldnt do even small hills), then long rides, then hills again. Hills suck, but the long rides were fun. I believe I drank over 7 liters of water all told... and I was still wanting for more towards the last half of the ride (Monica you thought the 3 liter camelback was to big!)

After my intial gear working issues I def kept pace with the group. They tell you when you start the class that its all mental... and it is. I refuse to fail, and so far I've been doing well. Will power and gel pads. I'm not sure when gel pads became the rage, but I found shorts with gel pads and gloves with gel pads, both of which def helped with my overall post-class comfort.

Tommorrow: Big hills.

It was a hot afternoon, and I was in the academy's gym when there was some sort of disturbance. I wasn't sure what was going on. I just saw our instructors huddled together, whispering something. They looked worried. I heard whispers of an officer getting sick? Hurt? Going to the hospital? I didn't know. I just knew I had to get through this defensive tactics class.

It wasn't for a few days before I realized what happened. That the "sick" officer was Jim. And that he died.

Jim died of hyponatremia. He became ill on the 2nd day of the class and began vomiting. The instructors assumed he was dehydrated and gave him water to drink. They didn't realize that was the problem. Jim had drank so much water to prepare for the class, he had diluted the sodium concentration in his blood. His body began to shut down. Paramedics were already on the scene treating an officer that had injured his knee when Jim started having convulsions. They rushed him to the hospital, but it was too late. He fell into a coma and never woke up.

Jim was my first Line of Duty death. The Washington Post story about his death is here. I still check Jim's livejournal from time to time. If anything, it reminds me of why I became a police officer on the days when I start questioning everything.  Jim's enthusiasm and dedication to his duties still shines on.

Jim is why I became a bike officer. I couldn't help but think of him while I went through the same class he did.

It breaks my heart every time I am at the Memorial to see his name there. This was his beat! He should be patrolling it, not carved on it. None of those names should be there. But there they are. They are a reminder of the price we all pay for peace and order.

Jim was very lucky. He died doing what he loved. Even after death, he continued to serve his community.

I wish I could say that Jim is the only friend/coworker of mine up on that Memorial, but that is not the case. The Law Enforcement Memorial is one of the few memorials that keeps growing every year.

This is why I ride. Every dollar that is raised by the Unity Tour goes to the upkeep and preservation of the Memorial. It goes to preserving their legacies, and supporting their families. Please consider donating today (please be sure to include my name, Kathleen Coffey, under the rider information).