Pregnant in the Backcountry
Why does the title make this article seem like the set up for a horror story?
Between the lack of outdoor active maternity wear and ideas I already had about pregnancy, I was sure “Pregnancy in the Backcountry” should be a horror story, also. Luckily, throughout the last eight months, I’ve been able to spend time off-grid, out of service, and active, even without “made for pregnant women” activewear.
“I have had to listen to my body more in the past few months, than I have the rest of my years combined.”
I am currently thirty-two years old, and thirty-four weeks pregnant (pregnancy is measured in weeks, and there are 40 of them, if you take the time to do the math, that’s 10 months — cue the confusion, that will last the entirety of the pregnancy). My twenties were spent living in a van, backcountry snowboarding, backpacking, and writing. I am most comfortable outside. When the pandemic hit, vanlife came to a halt and my partner and I moved into my mom’s house to ride out the Corona wave — shout out to my Mom for housing us for over a year — even at 32, she is still saving my butt. Children had always been in the plan, and while we were in one place for a while, and not traveling around the country in 60 square feet of space, it seemed like a great time to grow our family from three (me, my partner, our dog) to four.
The horror stories of pregnancy crept in. Would I be bedridden for ten months? Throwing up for weeks on end? Uncomfortable every day? Waving to my husband as he stepped out the door for an adventure, leaving me to stare at swollen feet? For 32 years I have received so many mixed signals about what pregnancy is, how it’s going to feel, and what I will be capable of. And every pregnancy is different, so what was I to expect?
None of my friends have children, I am the first to take the dive into parenthood. So I had a blank slate to decide how I was going to handle juggling growing a new human, socializing during a pandemic, and my emotional health.
Here’s the secret, the secret to pregnancy, and probably to life: Listen to your body.
I have had to listen to what my body is telling me more in the past few months, than I have the rest of my years combined. For so long I could push past hunger and make it to a summit, quiet aching muscles and snag another backcountry lap, and readjust my backpack to hike a mile or two further for a better campsite. No longer, and I may never go back. Listening intently has shown me a different way to move in the backcountry, and it’s liberating.
So what’s it like being pregnant in the backcountry?
It’s exactly the same, except you move more slowly, take more breaks, eat more snacks, and tire more easily. If you weren’t comfortable in the backcountry before you were pregnant, you certainly won’t be now. You listen to your body and stop when it needs a break, speed up when it’s feeling good, and snack at every opportunity. As I progressed through pregnancy, I had to add in additional physical support, like a belly band, or lighter weight equipment. I only participated in activities I consider myself an expert in; riding my snowboard like everything is a “no fall” zone, and skiing terrain I knew I could do with my eyes closed. There is no horror story, there is no crash that compromised the baby, there is no rush to a hospital from beyond the reach of cell service.
I was safe, careful, happy, and exhausted.
Did I always feel up for a trip? No. Did I always make it to the destination? No. Did I walk if it felt unsafe? Yes. Did I have to wear my husband’s clothing when mine was too tight? Yes. Am I still hiking in the backcountry at 34 weeks? Yes, just slowly, and with a lot of breaks. Do I recommend this for all pregnant women? No. What I recommend is tuning into how you’re feeling. And if that means a day of rest in bed, that is just as wonderful. If it means surfing or climbing a mountain, that is wonderful as well! There are activities that are objectively dangerous, but if a mom-to-be feels it’s in their comfort zone and feel safe (listening to their body), I support them.
What’s next is I have a baby! The biggest adventure of them all. And I will be taking all the lessons learned from adventuring in the backcountry with me as I raise this child. I will be listening intently to my body to see when it’s ready to walk, then hike, then climb. And I will be listening to the baby also – good thing I’ve had so much practice over the past few months.
I am fully aware and thankful that I was never very ill, and continue to have a low risk pregnancy. I know this is not the case for many out there and my heart reaches out to you. You are stronger than anyone knows.
Love to all the moms and moms-to-be out there.