When I found out in the spring that I was pregnant, the first thing I did was calculate my due date. The second thing I did was calculate how pregnant I would be in August. I had plans. I had a long list of hikes and mountains to climb this summer, including a multi-day backpacking trip complete with a summit of Mt Adams. But I would be 5 months pregnant in August. I naively thought perhaps these things were still possible.
As the snow melted and trails opened up for the summer, it was clear that my hiking days would be limited. After a few months spent doing nothing but napping, I returned to outdoor life. But I was completely out of shape and out of breath on even the easiest of trails. Well, if I wasn’t going to climb a volcano while pregnant I at least wanted to do something besides hobble down an easy trail without passing out. I decided that I would try backpacking.
This was not an immediate decision and I went back and forth about it over and over again. Would it be comfortable sleeping on the ground? How much weight could I carry in addition to my growing belly? And of course, most importantly, was I going to hurt my baby? After doing some research, I decided that I could do it as long as I didn’t carry much more than I normally carried on a day trip. That wouldn’t be possible with just me and my husband, but luckily, we had some family coming to town who offered to carry the extra weight.
We set out on a hot August morning on the road to Mt Baker. We chose to hike up to Twin Lakes since it was an easy road hike and people would be car camping up there so we could get a ride down if we needed it. That gave me some peace of mind. It was also a short climb with stunning views and we could visit one of my favorite lookouts on Winchester Mountain.
I shouldered my backpack and felt comforted by its heft. I knew I could take more but I let the others carry my weight. I would have to get used to this. I’m not accustomed to letting others help me and I know I have to let go of the urge to prove I’m strong by imposing unneeded suffering on myself. This just seems like an unhealthy parenting style to me and anyways, I don’t have just me to think about anymore, but my little growing baby too. I let it go.
As I trudged up the road at a snails pace and sweating buckets, I was instantly grateful for my light pack and for my husband who hiked slowly with me. I thought about giving birth and how it was going to be infinitely harder than this. I told my husband that when that time comes and I’m struggling, to gently remind me that at least there are not swarms of black flies in the birthing suite trying to eat my flesh. I vow to keep all things in proper perspective.
It wasn’t too long before we reached the lakes and had lunch. We found perhaps one of the best campsites in all the North Cascades and set up camp. We wandered back down to the lake and dipped our toes in the ice cold water. It felt so good. I found the most comfortable patch of grass and laid my head on a smooth rock and took a nap with Nali curled up at my feet. That night we cooked up some delicious food and played Yahtzee until the sun set and we had to use our headlamps. Before we went to sleep my husband and I snuggled on a blanket and watched the stars come out.
The next day we trekked up to the lookout on Winchester Mountain. I had no pack this time but I was still incredibly slow. Young couples glided past me and I envied their normal-sized bodies and their infinite energy. A few fit young moms carrying their toddlers on their backs passed me and I thought it insane that a body can go from this to that and decided there is no way that my body will ever do that. I decided to just not think about it and have a snack instead. Pregnancy is humbling in so many ways…
I used the following day to rest while the others went to hunt for mines. I took out my sleeping pad and sleeping bag and piled all the soft things I could find up at the top to prop myself up. The air had just a hint of coolness that made it the perfect temperature to put on my beanie and lay in my sleeping bag and read. I was reading about mindfulness. I read through the body scan meditation and really felt every sensation happening to and around me. I don’t think I’ve ever been more relaxed than I was right there snuggled in my bag, Nali curled up next to me with nothing else in view but mountains.
I thought about getting up to grab my camera or phone to take a picture so I could remember that moment forever. But I knew if I got up the spell would be broken. Instead I took a moment to commit it all to memory. The contours of the peaks on the horizon, the waving evergreen limbs of the trees, the hum of the bees buzzing in the wildflowers nearby. It’s all in my head now, there to recall whenever I need it. When the pain comes, this will be my happy place.
Bonus Camp Read!
Mindful Birthing by Nancy Bardacke
This is the mindfulness book that I was reading on this backpacking trip. I really recommend it for anyone who is pregnant and anxious about the birth. Bardacke teaches meditation to prepare the body and mind for relaxation during the birthing process. This is a whole new way to think about pain and endurance. The jury is still out for me on whether it works or not, but I know that it has already helped to calm my worried mind in preparation for birth and I can only hope that it helps someone else as well.
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