I've ridden with two people on my bicycle many times before -albeit admittedly committing safety cycling sins; wobbling along with a passenger on my saddle as I heave the wheels forward standing on the pedals in the comic awkward fashion you need to adopt to enable a functioning "backy". But I hadn't yet contemplated what it would mean to ride with two people -always - for the next nine months or so. By two people, I mean myself and my growing baby; swimming around in my tummy.
The morning after I dislocated my knee once, I was working miles away from home -it went without saying that I would ride my bike to get there. I just had to do it one legged with the help of my fixed gear bicycle. Or the many times I have hosted mural painting workshops across the vast corners of Greater Manchester & needed to transport litres upon litres of rainbow coloured gloss paint & wooden boards -again, only a bicycle [& a rickety home made bamboo trailer] would do. And so it was only inevitable that I would endeavour to continue pedalling into my pregnancy, a time when most people assumed I would have to stop -my various bicycles it turned out, are very much made for two.
For every stage of my pregnancy my trusty steed helped me through. In the early months of turgid morning [& afternoon... & evening] sickness -whooshing along on my wheels would ease the fresh air through my altering system and every single day equipping me for busy day ahead at work. Even the rain was welcomed as it formed a much needed distraction to the whirling metallic waves of exhaustion and never failed to successfully replace the caffeine that I was no longer allowed in waking me up from my daze.
My bike kept me socialising - at a time when pub & parties only had so much to offer. But luckily, most of my friends ride bikes too and out we would go for jolly saunters or meet up for Critical Mass in town each month. And then when the inevitable bulge of my growing baby boy began to grow and grow...and grow, I'm convinced that plodding along on my bike until the very last day kept at bay the swollen feet, the excruciating hip and back pain I was so conscientiously warned about and the general discomfort of having a human being kick you in the ribs every two minutes. My bicycle kept me fit and in turn, enabled a highly enjoyable (albeit long) labour that I still feel nostalgic for rather than a painful endurance test like many people describe.
Inevitably, I had to hang up my road bike a few months in and wave farewell to the endurance sweats of long distance cycling (which I'll admit felt like the biggest sacrifice - even more than giving up wheat beer and blue cheese) -but chugs along canals and cute quaint routes would be fine for now. It even gave me an excuse to buy a new bike, with upright handlebars and a basket on the front. All of a sudden I wasn't in a rush anymore - I felt no need to race burly guys in their lycra stampeding down the A6 in the mornings, I took the long scenic routes that enabled me to gaze up at the trees and enjoy my surroundings again. Before I knew it, traffic was starting to give way to me even when they didn't need to - even the big shiny BMW things that I always seemed to wrestle with on the roads were going out of their way to let me go first!
On the 21st October around two weeks after my due date, I was out enjoying the autumn sunshine and orange leaves whilst pedalling over as many potholes as possible in attempt to get things moving. It was a wonderful ride with beautiful music playing from a speaker in my basket - life felt so simple and straight forward. In the early hours of the 22nd October, everything started to happen and it was soon time to meet my little guy. It was only a matter of time before the two of us would be riding a bike together again, but this time he would be in the world with me seeing everything for the first time.