…Just when I felt like I was finding my feet and getting a feel for how the game works, I sustained what is referred to in derby as “The Nine Month Injury” and everything changed.
Getting started in roller derby was a long journey for me. After getting bitten by the bug in May 2010, I finally passed my minimum skills in January 2011 and played in my first bout for Rainy City Roller Girls Tender Hooligans in March that year. Just when I felt like I was finding my feet and getting a feel for how the game works, I sustained what is referred to in derby as “The Nine Month Injury” and everything changed.
Anyone in the same position should be aware of the changes your body goes through before and after pregnancy, and bear these in mind when making decisions about pre- and post-natal exercise. A year after the birth of my daughter, here are some of the things I learned…
In the first trimester of pregnancy, you are likely to experience dizziness, tiredness and nausea. What’s known as ‘morning sickness’ can occur at any time of day, and can be very debilitating for many women. So while it may be tempting to continue skating (whilst of course avoiding scrimmage or any kind of contact drills) you may not feel up to it.
Finding an alternative form of exercise is definitely a good idea. Keeping fit during pregnancy helps your body to cope with carrying the weight of the baby, prepare for birth and make the journey back to derby training in the long run a bit easier. The advice is to usually to keep it low-impact, so swimming and yoga are ideal.
Keep in touch with your league! Taking on an organisational role, coaching or becoming an NSO will enable you to be a part of the action and support your team mates to achieve success.
In the second trimester, you’ll probably be feeling pretty good. Remember that you don’t need to be ‘eating for two’ and try to have a balanced, healthy diet. Take the opportunity to watch bouts and stay up-to-date with any rules changes or strategy developments. A lot can happen in the time when you’re not a part of the game!
In the third trimester everyone will be telling you to ‘take it easy’ and ‘put your feet up’. Listening to your body will help you to find a balance between getting the rest you need and staying active. Many women get lower back pain at this time, and sleeping becomes uncomfortable (lots of pillows will help). Don’t forget to do your pelvic floor exercises as often as possible; this really is as important as your midwife tells you!
After the Birth
After the birth, your body will need time to recover. Six weeks is the very minimum you will need to wait before doing even moderate exercise and you’ll have a check-up with your GP around this time. You may still be experiencing back pain, plus motherhood is exhausting! By all means go for walks with your baby and do gentle stretches, but don’t attempt anything more strenuous, no matter how keen you are to get back into shape and back on the track.
Deciding when to get your skates back on is very much a personal choice. I waited two months but others don’t feel ready and choose to take a more extended break from derby. Leaving a tiny baby for any length of time is difficult emotionally, and is likely to be made more complicated based on your child’s feeding and sleeping patterns.
Don’t Rush It…
When you do start skating again, take it easy. Your body will still be affected by the hormone relaxin, which softens your cartlidge, ligaments and tendons, so you are more vulnerable to injury than you would otherwise be. It’s a great idea to join in with your league’s programme for new skaters, to brush up on your basic skills and get idea of what you feel comfortable doing. Listen to your body and if it doesn’t feel right, don’t do it!
Make sure you wear a supportive and well-fitting bra (particularly if you’re breastfeeding) and buy new protective gear if your old pads are damaged or worn. A pair of padded shorts might be a good idea, to protect your coccyx and pelvis.
Bear in mind that in the time you’ve been out of training, a lot more new girls will have joined your league. Don’t be disheartened if you are not able to get a place on the roster straight away. Get advice from coaches and mentors on what you need to work on to improve and keep practising to develop your skills further.
Life as a derby mum can be difficult: you will be tired all the time, you probably won’t be able to go to all the after-parties and may even miss out on bouts if you can’t arrange childcare. But many women value the opportunity to have another part of their life separate from motherhood that enables them to get fit, socialise, de-stress and experience the buzz of the best sport in the world! ‘The Nine Month Injury’ doesn’t have to mean the end of your derby career.