The Power of Not Doing: Thoughts on Climbing and Birth

I remember the odd alpine start on a climb where I was geared up and ready to go, but faced a delay.

Whether a partner needed some extra time or the weather was suddenly looking questionable, unexpected delays such as these have often sucked the energy right out of me. I pump myself up for challenging climbs by compartmentalizing the fear and anticipation that arises into a separate, untapped part of my brain. That way I can I tap in when it is necessary – when danger arises or a decision needs to be made. I’ve had this ability to just ‘not go there’ with my thoughts unless it is necessary, which has been essential in my successful climbs so far. But, when I’m left with too much time before departing, my thoughts can sometimes drift in that direction.

Watching moody clouds roll in on a climb of Mt. Cline. Photo by Paul Zizka Photography.
Watching moody clouds roll in on a climb of Mt. Cline, Banff National Park. Photo by Paul Zizka Photography.

This morning my husband remarked that this is how he feels as we wait for our baby to initiate his or her entrance into the world, and I certainly agree. I don’t think there’s anything quite like waiting for as momentous an occasion as having a baby that will change everything in our lives. At the moment things feel almost anticlimactic even though I know that will all quickly wash away the moment “it” all happens. One of my doulas so wonderfully described it as needing to “relax into the unknown.” Looking at it more closely, this is what I do when I face a big climb, though there exists a considerable difference – beyond the absolute obvious – between climbing and giving birth.

In my yoga class today (I’m loving YogaGlo these days), the instructor noted how there simply isn’t anything one can “do” during labour. The woman can only surrender and let her body perform what it is meant to. Her work lies in letting go, trusting and letting nature take its course. In climbing, on the other hand, there is plenty to do. The results are ultimately up to your own motivation, experience, technique, awareness, use of gear and how you handle difficulties. Of course you can surrender to objective hazards that may compromise your climb and to the skill of your climbing partners, but you can’t surrender your body to the climb or you’ll probably fall off the mountain. You will definitely not reach the top. What’s more: you can choose to turn around. In birth, that baby has one direction to go and it’s down and out.

Despite these differences, one can prepare for both climbing and labour. I have spent the last 40 weeks preparing for birth, and while I wait these last few days for this baby to arrive I am doing everything I can to be ready to surrender: practicing yoga, resting, breathing, eating well, hydrating, having important conversations around birth with my husband and doulas, educating myself on the essentials and getting ready emotionally and practically to bring that little bundle home. Each day I relax into the unknown, then carry on with my day.

It is entirely up to me to trust the system, trust my body and tap into the power of “not doing.”

What techniques do you use to cope with waiting?

Author: Meghan J. Ward

Meghan J. Ward is an outdoor, travel and adventure writer based in Banff, Canada, and a Fellow of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society. Meghan has written several books, as well as produced content for films, anthologies, blogs and some of North America’s top outdoor, fitness and adventure publications. She has a forthcoming travel memoir (Fall 2022), to published by Rocky Mountain Books.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.