The Big Idea – Listen to Your Body

“Listen to your body,” advise my husband, doctor and friends. It’s good advice.

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The days and weeks leading up to the birth of my baby were a blur. Moving, unpacking, working, doctors’ appointments, body slowing down, exhaustion, excitement, the basketball in my belly attracting a well-meaning, nonstop barrage of questions:

“When are you due?” Really frickin’ soon – can’t you tell?

“Is this your first?” Third.

“Boy or girl?” Boy.

“Have you picked out names?” Not telling, because everyone has known a so-and-so who was snooty or unpleasant at some point in their lives.

I kept riding well into the third trimester. My pace was slow but steady, my balance solid. Walking, on the other hand, provoked uncomfortable contractions and aggravated a slew of weird but common symptoms including nosebleeds, arm tingling and numbness, and a painful big toe wart that resisted all treatment during pregnancy and then resolved itself immediately after birth. Pregnancy is a full-body experience not at all confined to the mid-section.

A couple of weeks before my due date, as my knees bonked my belly and the downward pressure reached a point of extreme discomfort, I concluded that it was time to stop. Sadly, I parked my beloved Trek Allant for an indefinite rest.

Levi Sloan was born May 16 at 4:24 a.m., a beautiful 8-pound-10-ounce, 10-toe, 10-finger bundle of pure joy.

My new job is recovering, and feeding the little feller. Slow walks each day, naps when possible, hours and days melting away. His older siblings and dad are in heaven.

“Mom,” 10-year-old Sasha asked, “is it possible to love him too much?”

All the while, my bike calls to me, “Come ride! You know you want to.”

Well yes, I sure do, but my seat-sitting parts need some time to heal.

“Listen to your body,” advise my husband, doctor and friends. It’s good advice. In the past, I have endured periods of bike-separation after the births of my two other children and while healing from a broken collarbone. I got back on my bike too soon and paid the price. I’m old and wise enough now to actually follow the advice. What are a few more days in the grand spectrum of things?

Three weeks go by in a snap until one day, the planets line up just right. I’m feeling pretty good, Levi’s resting peacefully with his papa, and I have an errand to run. “It’s time,” say both body and bike.

The first ride is short and oh so delightful. Weaving a serpentine pattern down the road, the cool breeze caressing my face, I inhale the intoxicating flowery bouquet of thousands of summer blossoms. I’m calm and happy.

Back on my bike, where I belong.


Mia Birk is the award-winning author of Joyride: Pedaling Toward a Healthier Planet; president of Alta Planning + Design; principal of Alta Bicycle Share, Inc.; and cofounder of the Initiative for Bicycle & Pedestrian Innovation at Portland State University. For 20+ years she has been transforming communities and empowering people to bicycle for daily transportation, one pedal stroke at a time. She, her husband and three children (baby born in May) live and ride in Portland, OR.

miabirk.com | altaplanning.com

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