This is my command: Love one another the way I loved you. This is the very best way to love. Put your life on the line for your friends.
Today I’m going to write about love: Losing a love, gaining a love. In short, I’m going to talk about bicycling and pregnancy, which is on my mind every day.
Since December, I’ve known that this year wasn’t going to be what I expected, athletically. In October I joined Team Group Health with the full intention of training hard, going out, and kicking butt. My main goal was to upgrade to Cat 3 by the end of the season, which would involve racing frequently and well. Riding with the team, I exulted in finding a group of strong, fast women who could push me to my limits. I eagerly anticipated a season of training hard, getting stronger and faster, learning new skills, and then really using them. And I really started enjoying the camaraderie of the team, getting to know these amazing athletes, working hard with them and then laughing with them.
It’s hard to explain what it feels like to lose this future, even in exchange for another, more meaningful future.
One high-performance woman athlete I talked with, who herself is pregnant and due in April, told me, “You have to go through a mourning process as you give up your sport. You’re losing a love.” When she said that, it resonated with me. Yes.
Bicycling is a huge part of who I am, how I define myself. It’s been my bread and butter for the last two years, as well as my passion. With cycling, I’ve discovered depths to myself that I never knew existed. I have pushed what I thought were my limits, and found strength to go far beyond them — in 2011, I rode almost 10,000 miles and did two of the major ultra-distance rides in Washington State. I never would have guessed I could do that. I looked forward to learning more about myself in 2012, taking on this new challenge of racing.
So far pregnancy hasn’t dramatically changed my physical appearance, but I’ve already had to cut back on the type of riding I do to ensure the fetus’ health — cut, and cut, and cut. Even so, I push the limits all the time. Be conservative. I’m responsible for another life, after all.
Having to do this kind of riding erodes my riding buddy pool: I’m riding easier, shorter, and slower, just as everybody I know is gear up to ride harder, longer, and faster. Who wants to ride at a conversational pace, when racing is about riding so hard you’ve got nothing left at the end? And I feel my fitness eroding, and I have to let it slip away.
And now, not only do I say farewell to racing, watching my teammates prepare for the first races of the season, but I know that the day is coming when I won’t be able to ride at all. It’s like contemplating the loss of a limb, or one of my senses. As if I knew in advance that I was going to be paralyzed for life, that it was coming, and that I’m powerless to stop it — knowing, in fact, that I chose it.
Whether I’ll ride again, let alone with the same strength and passion for a challenge that I do now, remains unknown. Who can know what happens after August, when Little Ferguson makes its appearance? I may never regain that part of who I am, or not regain it in the way I have it now. I’m giving up that future and that part of myself, and it’s terribly hard.
Oh, yes, I’ve heard it from all sides: Parenting is wonderful. It’s the most rewarding thing you could possibly do. Your priorities will change once the baby comes. It’s all worth it. I don’t doubt this truth; at the moment, I doubt my own ability to accept it. People telling me these things act like this should comfort me somehow, or that my being upset at losing high-performance cycling in exchange for being pregnant is somehow wrong. Who would want to ride a bike when they could have a baby? Well, I’ve never cared about babies or longed to be a mother, but I have derived many hours of joy from bicycling. “It’s so worth it” isn’t any consolation for me at the moment.
I’m sure it’ll all be worth it in August, but that doesn’t make the pain of giving up this love any less right now. And, oh, it is painful.
[16Feb2012] Edit to add:
1. If I have given the impression that I’m unhappy with having this baby, or that I don’t want to have our baby, I’d like to put your fears to rest. Ian and I are looking forward to being parents, and I feel that overall this is exactly what I would have hoped and wished for, if I could’ve had my ideal situation. I’m glad to be pregnant now, and I’m getting ready to be a good mommy. This post is not about that. It’s about part of the journey towards accepting change, and how I’m having to evolve my view of who I am as my life changes. Change, even good change like becoming a parent, is hard.
2. I would really like to hear about your experiences of having kids: What did you have to give up? What unexpected things happened that were hard to adapt to? How did you deal with it?