Suddenly I’m counting down the days, not months.
As I write this morning I am taken back to the very roots of this project. On a cold February day back in 2012 my husband and I were skating loops around the rink on the Bow River here in Banff and discussing book ideas. I was aware that many books had been written about being an “outdoor parent” – many with a how to approach – but I had yet to see anyone really dig into the big picture of what it means to transition to parenthood as an outdoor adventurer. My husband and I had chatted about plans to start trying for a baby sometime in the summer, but at the time the conversation lingered on the surface. Over the course of the next few months, the more I thought about what starting a family would entail, the more I realized how deeply this particular choice in life affects people in my circle and my community.
Beyond the usual questions and concerns about pregnancy and raising a family, people in my community up here – let’s call them hardcore mountain enthusiasts – add an additional layer of questioning. And I definitely can’t exclude myself from this group. I would be lying if I told you my husband and I hadn’t had some serious conversations in the past about our chosen lifestyle and what it would mean to introduce a child to the mix. From the outside our concerns, and those we share with our outdoorsy community, might seem trivial, even selfish. But if you live in a place like Banff or Canmore, surrounded by weekend warriors who dedicate a whole room in their homes to outdoor gear, it makes total sense. So, I decided to start exploring the topic through The Adventures in Parenthood Project with the intention of eventually compiling my findings into a book.
When I discovered I was pregnant back in July 2012, almost immediately I wondered what that would mean for my outdoor passions. Just a month before, I had spent some time interviewing Caroline George, a mountain guide based in Chamonix, France, about her journey to motherhood. Caroline stayed incredibly active throughout her pregnancy, even ski touring on the day she gave birth. I remember thinking: What will it be like for me? How much will my body be able to handle when I am pregnant?
As it turned out, I still managed to hike and ski a fair amount over the months that followed (something I’ve written about in a variety of posts), but these were pretty tame trips. I quickly learned that even if my body was holding up well, I couldn’t ignore that little voice in my head that acknowledged things were different. This wasn’t me. I was fully aware of how much my body could normally handle, and how apprehensive I was now feeling out on the trail. Even to this day, 38 weeks later, I have struggled with feeling like I’ve lost touch with that part of myself. I miss her – that woman who felt so comfortable pushing her body through the wilderness. But I know she’ll return, and most likely with even more gusto and motivation than ever before.
Though I have deeply missed the rush of adrenaline that washes over me in the outdoors, I have taken advantage of these more sedentary times to cultivate a deeper sense of compassion and gentleness with myself, to learn how to just ‘be’, and prepare for motherhood. My husband and I talk excitedly about the places we’ll take our child and how we’ll be able to rekindle our own love for the outdoors and the mountains here in Banff by returning to places with a little person in tow.
Furthermore, our concerns about how a child will affect our outdoorsy lifestyles have mostly vanished. Thankfully, it takes 40 weeks or so to grow a baby – enough time for anyone apprehensive about parenthood to ‘get over’ the things that might be constrained for a while and to learn to embrace the amazing transformations to come. While fears still bubble to the surface from time to time, as I sit here 11 days from the baby’s due date I am only thinking about taking care of and loving this sweet, new human being, and how I’ll do anything to provide for my child. That is the magic of becoming a parent – it forces us to step outside of ourselves to a large degree, and we are entirely willing to do it. But we also keep a quote on our fridge that offers a good reminder each day:
“The greatest burden a child must bear is the unlived life of the parents.” – Carl Jung
This quote has many meanings, but for my husband and me it means that we must continue to live our lives as passionately as we can, and to do what we need to do to care for our child while keeping that in balance with the things that make us most excited about life. We will ultimately be better parents if we do. The real adventure in parenthood is figuring out just how to make that happen.