Derry born Moire O’Sullivan doesn’t believe in airbrushing her account as an athlete and a mother.
Originally from Derry’s Culmore Road and now living with her husband and two sons in Rostrevor, County Down, Moire’s new book ‘Bump, Bike and Baby’ is a warts and all story.
Readers are taken on Moire’s journey from mountain runner to mother and back to runner, after the birth of her children.
The book is already attracting attention and the former Thornhill College pupil believes her story will relate to all women who have searched for the ever elusive balance in life after having had children.
Moire O’ Sullivan is one of the few people to have completed the Wicklow Round - that’s a mountain-race across 26 peaks including over 6,000m of climbing and more than 100 kms, all to be completed in a day.
Even when pregnant, and living in Derry, the mother of two said “ignorance was bliss” and explains how she continued with her fitness and exercise regime until she physically couldn’t do it any longer.
“I was in total denial back then,” laughs Moire.
“I was going for work trips to Ethiopia and going cycling with the Foyle Cycling Club until the bump got too big and put too much pressure on my lungs when I was actually on the bicycle seat, so I just couldn’t physically continue.
“When I was five months pregnant I was adventure racing in Donegal. I was just trying to keep going because I didn’t know any different, In my fourth trimester I was able to keep swimming and walking, but everybody is different. I think really you just listen to your body.
“The second time I was pregnant I think I was more careful because I knew better, but I’m very lucky that I was able to do the things I did at that time and the baby was absolutely fine. I think as a mother-to-be you do things to preserve your own sanity.”
While Moire’s book documents her experiences in pregnancy, a major focus is her return to sport and her introduction to a very different lifestyle after becoming a mother.
“I definitely think the book is honest,” she maintains.
“I think after having my first child I quickly realised that there’s a reason why they use sleep deprivation as a form of military torture!
“I very quickly realised that it was going to take some time for my body to recover, too.
“I got out of hospital after about 10 days and I went for a walk on the beach. I remember the dog ran off and I thought, if I have to run off after that dog, my insides will fall out. Every woman knows about the pelvic floor and what happens afterwards but I didn’t understand the trauma of childbirth.”
Moire is frank about the impact on her body, but equally sure of how important exercise was in helping her find time for herself again after pregnancy.
“I remember the first time I got on the bike. I had been apprehensive about it, but it was actually amazing. I did a one hour bike ride and I loved it. I could breathe and my lungs weren’t being squashed. I had forgotten how much I enjoyed exercising, but this was my previous life.
“I’d had numerous conversations with friends and three or four had suffered post-natal depression. My husband and I had thought it quite possible that I may have been likely to have it because I had been so career focused. His support and encouragement has been fantastic. He had always said that to minimise the chances he would make sure I got the time to do some things for myself and I definitely think getting back to exercise made the biggest difference.
“There were times before I had children when I used to think ‘I can’t be bothered going for a run’ but now when I drop my son off at playgroup and I have an hour to go for a run, I do not miss that opportunity.
“I appreciate exercising a hundred fold more now. It’s about setting your own personal goals whatever that is. Maybe it’s adventure racing; maybe it’s trying to get out for a half hour run, but for me it’s about keeping my own identity. There are so many demands on women. I remember thinking, after I had my first son, that the pressure was intense. I remember when my husband went out to work for the day and I’d be staying at home for the day I’d just wonder what I had let myself in for. You just want to cry at points because you’re so tired. It’s so exasperating at times. This book is about everything I went through.
“I hope it will help people to feel a bit more understood. Motherhood has its ups and downs. We have managed to find a balance but it does take time. ‘Bump, Bike and Baby’ is really about all that and about how exercise helped but it isn’t about a picture perfect version of it all. I’ve written in the book about how my pelvic floor went when I was taking part in an adventure race in Dingle and I just noticed a little trickle of yellow pee, so this is definitely a warts and all book!”
A former member of City of Derry Spartans, Moire said she hopes all women in Derry who are involved in running or exercising, will find something that they can identify with in the book.
“It doesn’t matter what your fitness level is, it’s really about trying to find that time in the middle of life and motherhood for that and I’ve tried to take an honest humourous look at it all.
Moire now resides in Rostrevor, Co. Down, with her husband, Pete Power and children Cahal (2) and Aran (4).
Her book, ‘Bump Bike and Baby’ is currently available in bookshops and online.