Jan 30 2014

Climbing Pregnant: Month 2: Sickness, Heartbeats and a Nikon Photo Shoot

As I crept into the second month I started to think about being pregnant a lot more. My harness had to be let out a bit, but other than that, I thought I was doing a good job of hiding my belly. Though most people probably didn’t notice, it felt really weird to be getting rounder. Normally in the past if I got rounder, it was because I indulged too much on my favorite food or treat, or laid on the couch too often 🙂 But now, this was normal. This was accepted and what I was supposed to be doing. It was weird, but also reassuring and a bit relieving. Being pregnant was actually alleviating a lot of the weird neuroses that come with being a professional athlete. It was almost like a hall pass, or breathing a sigh of relief.


During this time, Corey Rich, one of my closest friends and an extremely talented photographer, approached me about an opportunity to do a photo shoot for Nikon, a company Corey represents as one of their elite Nikon USA Ambassadors. The photos would be used for a Nikon Experience micro site; check out the amazing final pictures here: http://experience.nikonusa.com/


This wasn’t just a great opportunity to make some cool creative pictures with one of my best friends, but it was also exciting to find myself still working professionally while pregnant. Further, in Corey, and his wife, Marina, I actually found two more people to confide in and share the news with. Corey and Marina had just had their first child, the adorable then three-month-old baby girl, Leila. I knew he’d understand. They were ecstatic and so happy for us, it was wonderful to be able to share in our own tiny little joy that was growing.


We climbers are proudly counter culture. We aren’t typically people who follow the norm: go to college, graduate, get 9 to 5 careers, marry and have kids by the time we are 30. A lot of us live out of vans, never set foot on a college campus and think that marriage is for the birds. I remember a moment last winter when we told one of our climbing friends that another climber was pregnant. His instinctual response was “Oh, shit,” as if her life were over. And to be fair to him, it probably seemed as if her life were over.


That reaction stuck with me-and made me wonder if that’s how most climbers felt. But in the interim, I actually watched many of our friends get pregnant and have kids. In all cases, life was never “over,” and in fact it only seemed to be enriched. And with more and more climbing families having kids, it seems that perhaps our counter culture is shifting a bit. Kids are now a normal thing at crags and in the boulders.


Before the Nikon shoot, I told Corey the news. He was extremely happy for me, and echoed the same encouraging sentiments my friend told me at the Trade Show.


“This is a huge opportunity, Beth,” he said. “Being a dad has been the best thing that’s happened to me. You are just moving further into your roll as a role model for all the young girls and women out there. Who cares if you can’t climb 5.14 for a few months or a year? This is life, this is what people want to know about.”


Clearly he recognized my insecurities and said exactly the right thing.


The week came for the photo shoot with Corey and Nikon and it was a blast.


For anyone who has done a photo shoot with Corey, you know that it’s a lot of work. There is no catered food truck, no assistant fluffing your hair. Instead, days begin well before dawn and end with hikes out by headlamp in the dark, snacking on bars and fruit in between. For this particular shoot, my alarm went off at 4 a.m. each day and my head hit the pillow around 11 p.m. each night.


In my normal non-pregnant state, a schedule like this would be no problem. I’ve always been a charger, someone who can go for a long time with the best of them. Climbing, hiking, running, whatever it takes to get the job done.


However, it was hard to hide everything from the good folks at Nikon. At the shoot there were probably 10 to 15 people from Nikon USA, which is headquartered New York. As we hiked from location to location, I carried a normal pack but brought up the extreme rear of the group. I’m sure these New York creative directors were thinking, “Wow, this professional athlete sure is weak!”


I’d read about round ligament pain during pregnancy. These ligaments attach to your pelvis, and stretch and loosen during pregnancy preparing for birth. Unfortunately, they can also be quite painful while exercising. The pain while hiking uphill during the photo shoot was bordering on unbearable and a heavy pack didn’t help the situation. I felt like a sloth crawling behind racing horses. And even with my unbelievably slow state, I was gasping for air like I was climbing a peak in the Himalayas. Clearly my body was already going through changes in the first trimester – decreased lung capacity, stretching of the ligaments, etc. Luckily Corey knew my situation and was able to give me breaks when needed.


We made some extremely beautiful pictures and it felt great to be out climbing during the best season: fall. Cool air, perfect temps, good weather, good friends and I still wasn’t too huge!


Even though I was constantly sick, I continued climbing throughout this second month. I learned that I felt sick whether I laid in bed or was out doing something, so I decided it would be best to be outside climbing or hiking. I still climbed well below my limit, mainly on top rope, and on primarily less than vertical terrain. I found that climbing on a steep overhang was harder on my loose shoulders and joints. 5.9 was about the max that I tried. But luckily Yosemite and Tuolumne are stacked with the best 5.9’s in the world. During this second month, our little kiddo summited Fairview Dome and Manure Pile Buttress a few of times-again all via climbs that to me were very well below my limit. I still wore a normal harness, but towards the end of the month I started thinking about a full body harness. My joints didn’t feel worse than the first month, but I still tried to make sure that I didn’t climb anything too “tweaky.” If I climbed in my garage, it was just traversing along the base of the wall in case a hold spun or I slipped.


The constant nausea and fatigue-alongside a “healthy” diet of Saltine crackers, Wheat Thins and white pasta-became part of my new “normal.” It was hilarious for me-this person who was so passionate about good, quality, fresh, local food-to look into my fridge and cupboard and see only shades of white and beige. I reminisced about my old fridge of greens, reds, oranges, and how excited I got every time I opened it. Now my enthusiasm for eating barely existed.


As month two came to a close, I was crossing my fingers that I would fall into the lucky group of women whose nausea subsided after the third month. My excitement about this pregnancy was starting to take over, but it still seemed so foreign. Was I getting prematurely attached? Was the little baby growing? Was it all okay? I didn’t want to get my hopes up, just to have them crushed.


All that changed when Randy and I went to get our first ultrasound. There on the fuzzy black screen in front of us was a little heart beating. I felt something toward this baby, and for the first time it wasn’t nausea. It was suddenly very real … and very exciting.


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  • This comment has been removed by the author.

    January 30, 2014 at 5:31 pm
  • Thanks for sharing Beth! This is a fantastic blog! I also climb and aspire to be a mama so it's really encouraging reading your story. Can't wait for your next post! -Kyla

    January 30, 2014 at 5:31 pm
  • Thanks so much for the message Kyla! I really appreciate it 🙂 It's great to hear from everyone out there!
    All my best and thanks again!

    January 30, 2014 at 5:37 pm
  • Congrats on your pregnancy, Beth! And thanks for sharing your experiences. I'm also a pregnant climber – 35 year-old FTM, baby boy due in early April. I'm still climbing 3 days per week and feeling great! I plan on continuing until it's no longer comfortable/fun anymore (lowering in the full body harness is getting pretty uncomfortable these days). I look forward to reading more of your posts!

    January 30, 2014 at 6:08 pm
  • Congrats on your baby boy due in April! You are just about a month ahead of us 🙂 So great to hear that you are feeling good and climbing!
    Thanks again for the comment and all my best!

    January 31, 2014 at 7:04 pm
  • Congratulations on your pregnancy, Beth! And thank you so much for posting this blog. It is really inspiring to see that the mountain adventures continue even when there are two hearts beating in one body 🙂 Keep climbing strong, and keep the posts coming!

    About the cardiovascular fitness: I had the same experience. I dropped from middle of the pack to the tail end in no time. Can be frustrating, until one realizes how much more blood one's heart has to pump. The bland fridge is also familiar. The game seems to be to eat whatever stays in to avoid loosing too much weight. It is an exciting feeling once it gets better. The first apple was much celebrated!

    February 2, 2014 at 11:00 pm
  • Congrats Beth on your pregnancy! Your blog is so much fun to read!
    It was rather timely that I was able to see your post as I am 23 weeks pregnant and had an appointment this morning where I was told that I really shouldn't be climbing any more because its too dangerous if I were to take even the tiniest jolting fall. I am wondering if you could share some of the information your doctors might have on climbing and pregnancy as mine does not have any experience and is only going on caution (which is of course valuable but seems to be rather like how Dr.s treated running before more research on running came along).

    My OB warned me that the next few weeks are particularly delicate because a little fall could still cause the placenta to tear and these next few weeks are such that the baby would be in significant danger of not surviving being delivered this early. While my own OB seemed to understand that I wanted to continue climbing (albeit easy top-roping wearing a pregnancy harness) the other doctors and nurses seemed to treat me with this disdain that I was absolutely crazy for even thinking of continuing such a dangerous activity while pregnant!

    Now that I am firmly in the second trimester and past the sick and exhausted all day phase, I feel awesome and climbing just feels so good! Its been part of my weekly routine for the last 6 years and I don't want to easily give up what makes me feel normal and healthy. But I wish I had more information on which to base the decision to give it up for a few months (like unpasteurized cheese, sushi, and alcohol)

    Have you come across any actual stories of women who have miscarried because of climbing? Are these worries founded on real information or only an abundance of caution? Maybe you'll have more luck finding knowledgeable doctors than mine here in Boston!

    February 4, 2014 at 6:42 pm
  • Thanks so much for the message Sonja! It's nice to hear that I am not alone dropping to the back of the pack 🙂 it's a funny feeling, but totally understandable knowing that we have another little human growing inside of us!
    I'm so happy to be able to eat fruits and veggies again, but still love eating those life saving burritos!
    Thanks again for your message, I really appreciate it!
    All my best!

    February 4, 2014 at 6:53 pm
  • Hello and thank you so much for your message! And congrats on your pregnancy! You are just over a month behind us – isn't it so nice to be out of the nausea of the first trimester??
    I took a really bad fall on snow around my 19th week (more on that in another post). But I went in for an ultrasound and they said everything looked fine – whew! Definitely made me very nervous though!
    I am going to interview an OB that is based in boulder and is a climber and will hopefully help answer some of the questions and worries that we all have.
    I am definitely the farthest thing from a doctor, but I have received tons and tons of messages from women all around the world talking about climbing during pregnancy. I have not heard from anyone that miscarried because of climbing, but that doesn't mean they aren't out there. Are you bouldering or toproping? I have switched to only toproping as it seems like that has the least chance for any abrupt fall. Have you described to your OB about toproping? Mine is definitely very weary of me falling but I've explained to her that I am climbing on very very easy terrain for me (only about 5.7 now because of my extremely loose joints) and only on toprope. She understood and said just to use caution.
    I'll continue to post on other women and their stories from around the world as well as my own. But please let me know if you have any other questions – I'm more than happy to share what I have learned through my own pregnancy. But the biggest thing I have learned so far is that women vary drastically – Lynn Hill (the most famous woman climber out there) stopped climbing at 5 months, while I have friends who are purely recreational climbers that climbed until just before their due dates. Listen to your body 🙂
    All my best!

    February 4, 2014 at 7:01 pm
  • Hi Beth,
    I am so thrilled to have come across your blog! Too bad I just found your blog as I am 40 weeks along tomorrow with my first. I am just not very computer savvy, but I guess I will have something to read about when I have a little one attached to me, which should be happening any day now! But, let me start with Congratulations and what an exciting time for you! I am a recreational climber and started exclusively toproping when I learned of my pregnancy and my number grade drastically decreased each month, which is both difficult to accept and exciting because it means I was getting closer to meeting this little guy/gal! I bought one of the those super rad pregnancy harnesses and started using it around 5 months or so, but it is has been hanging up in the closet for the past month or so.. thank you to one of pregnancy's random ailments… carpal tunnel syndrome! I can't complain too much because since the nausea ceased around 18 weeks, I have felt pretty fantastic. I laughed when you mentioned you could not wait to put color back into your diet! I remember making my husband making some sort of veggie stir fry and I made him put the pan outside right after he started cooking because I just could not even tolerate the smell of anything healthy! All I ate from 8-18 weeks was some form of white bread and muffins. Those days are difficult to forget!

    Anyway, I am super stoked to follow your blog as it motivates me to not forget my very loved passion of climbing since my current existence revolves around things such as the latest breastfeeding book or the best cloth diaper on the market as opposed to planning our next climbing trip! Congratulations again to you and your family, and send positive vibes that this baby makes his or her appearance in the next few days because I never want to hear to words, "Two weeks late!!"

    February 13, 2014 at 5:27 pm
  • Hi Julia! Thank you so much for your message and I hope that when you read this response you have had your little one! I'm so glad to hear that I wasn't the only one making my husband stop cooking, or cook when I wasn't home, etc. Seems as though simple smells wouldn't be so bad – but they were awful!
    I hope that your carpel tunnel disappears or decreases as soon as you give birth. It's so interesting to see the changes that our bodies go through carrying these little beings.
    All the best with the arrival of your little one and again thanks so much for the wonderful message!

    February 16, 2014 at 6:03 pm
  • Hi Beth,
    Just a quick update…I gave birth to a beautiful baby boy named August on Feb 18th! I am in heaven!! Labor was beautiful! I look forward to following your blog and love snuggling this little guy but definitely looking forward to getting back into shape and climbing again.
    All my best!!

    March 2, 2014 at 11:35 pm
  • Oh my goodness! Big congratulations Julia! That is so incredibly exciting! I can't wait to hear how everything goes with you – and I'll definitely let you know how it goes for me 🙂
    Congrats again, I'm so happy for you!

    March 3, 2014 at 10:32 pm