In my 11 years living in Calgary, I've done my fair share of Stampeding. As editor of HuffPost Alberta and a Stampede volunteer, I usually spend at least seven or eight of the 10 days on Stampede grounds.
For the past 10 years, I've been the Stampede-goer who works hard, parties hard, and like many Calgarians, spends a fair amount of time grappling with some degree of hangover. But, this year I've hung up that party hat and traded beer for water, as I am seven months pregnant.
Let me tell you, while the partying can take its toll, I've found Stampeding while carrying another human being is much more taxing.
Six days into Stampede and I've come up with 11 suggestions for those women who are pregnant or may be pregnant during Stampede one day:
1. Antacids are your very best friend.
(Can you believe I ate all of this in one afternoon? I can! I'm pregnant! Clockwise from top left: Jurassic Pork mac and cheese, Grilled Cheese Glazed Donut, Lobster Corndog, Mini Donut Popsicle.)
Bring your Tums, Gaviscon, Zantac -- whatever the doctor approves. Just the smell of midway food gives me heartburn, let alone eating it. And those giant, overpriced, delicious lemonades will practically throw themselves at you. So be prepared.
2. You're going to want some back-up shoes
(My disappearing feet were ravaged by an afternoon in cowboy boots. I quickly realized the advantage of another pair of shoes.)
In my infinite wisdom, I thought maybe I could get away with cowboy boots. I reasoned that the narrow construction would help keep the relaxin hormone from doing its flattening-the-feet thing. Foolish, I know. Five days of trial-and-error later, and I'm now toting a backpack that includes no less than two changes of shoes. I start with cowboy boots, but also bring along a comfy pair of sandals and a pair of sneakers. The hellish foot pain will ruin your day SO fast.
3. Splurge on the insoles
The shoe changes, however, are not enough. On day four, I found myself desperately wandering the BMO Centre, searching for someone to amputate my feet with an as-seen-on-TV Ginsu knife. Luckily, I found someone selling massaging insoles, instead. I almost cried in front of that nice lady. She gave me a discount. Probably because she felt sorry for me, but maybe because she thought I was dumb for trying to Stampede while pregnant.
4. You have to drink lots of water, but you're screwed if you do
The ultimate catch-22 for a pregnant woman at the Calgary Stampede. You have to stay hydrated (like, really hydrated) but there are not nearly enough washrooms on grounds. Plan carefully and relieve yourself often. You don't want to get caught in a lineup when baby decides to start two-stepping on your bladder.
5. Prepare for unsolicited comments
(Watch what you say. My smile is sweet but these hormones are deadly.)
"Wow. You should've waited until after Stampede to get pregant!" Just like I should probably wait until after Stampede to punch you in the face. But I just did it. Oops. Sorry.
6. The heat will kill you
I decided to film an "Eating For Two Across The Midway" video on the first Friday of Stampede. If you're not familiar, the first Friday is always hot. Always. Ten minutes into filming I wanted to wade into the nearby Elbow River. Eleven minutes in and I was eyeing some toddler's sno-cone, thinking how good it would feel on top of my head. (You can watch the video at the top of this post.)
7. There is no escape from the sun
I swear, nowhere on Earth is there less shade and fewer places to sit than at the Calgary Stampede. All the shady spots are just concrete slabs and all the places to sit get blasted by sun 24/7. Maybe an exaggeration. Maybe not.
8. Love your ice pack
(A round-up of my Day 1 survival kit. I was carting around twice as much stuff by Day 5, including extra shoes, a hat, and far more water.)
An ice pack is a life saver. I wrapped one in a bandana to keep it from sweating all over my stuff and popped it in my bag. Riding home on the C-Train after a long day, the ice pack on the back of my knees, was heavenly. Bonus: I also creeped out an old man who watched me retrieve it from under my long dress. Pretty sure he thought I was pulling the baby out. Ta-da!
9. You may think deep-fried food is your friend. You can be wrong
(A deep-fried peanut butter and jelly kabob with peanut butter cups. My best friend and my greatest nemesis.)
I've allowed myself a few midway treats, because if there's a time to use the "eating for two" excuse, it's at the Calgary Stampede. The food is always good going down, but regret soon strikes, usually in the form of heartburn, sometimes in other gross pregnancy symptoms. Consider yourself warned.
10. Everyone else in Calgary is pregnant
I swear, the law of attraction has never been more evident to me. I feel like every pregnant woman in Calgary has been drawn to the Calgary Stampede and, specifically, to a 20-metre radius around me. And, of course, these women are all much further along in their pregnancies, but look like they're suffering far less than I am. Because that, friends, is the Golden Rule of Pregnancy.
11. Stampede is a lot less drunken than I remember
Seriously. Where did all the drunk people go? Maybe it's because I have an eight o'clock curfew, or I haven't graced the dance floor of Nashville North once this year, but I seem to recall far more drunken revelry. There's always next year!
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