Feb 18 2014

Climbing Pregnant: Steph Davis Interview – Decisions About Having Kids

Steph Davis is one of the most accomplished female climbers of the past 20 years. She has established routes in the mountains of Pakistan, to first free ascents on El Cap, to hard routes in the desert. On top of all of that, she has one of the best blogs out there and runs Moab B.A.S.E Adventures. She also is a great friend of mine. I have interviewed several women climbers and how they dealt with pregnancy and having children. I wanted to interview Steph about her decision around having kids/not having kids. I feel that not much is given to the decision not to have kids, but a good majority of my friends are on this side of the equation.


Steph was kind enough to answer some questions on the topic. I hope you enjoy this different perspective from the uber pregnancy heavy posts that have occupied this blog for a while now.


You are one of the most prolific women climbers of the past two decades, with hard first ascents in the mountains, to El Cap, to the crags of the desert. I know you’ve made the decision not to have kids, can you tell me a little about how/when/why you arrived at that decision?


I grew up babysitting, from age 12 to 20.  Though I enjoy kids, I never saw myself having any.  After college, I started living in my car, and then traveling all over the world.  As a sponsored athlete I have never felt that I have or will continue to have reliable financial security in my life, and I would not want to manage that pressure and uncertainty with the responsibility for a child.  But more than all of that, I have always cherished the wild life and freedom above all—it’s just who I am, and all of my life choices have been steered by that.


Do you feel if you were in another career field you would have made a different decision around kids? Or was it purely personal?


Honestly, I believe that alpinism, free soloing and base jumping don’t mix with having kids.  I have seen too many friends die and leave their children, and what children want are their parents.  A parent can never be replaced. This summer my husband died on a wingsuit jump we were making together. I know that it can happen at any moment when you are moving in environments with death consequences. I think for a child, the loss of a parent is something that can never be eased, and I think people need to make choices. The truth is you can’t do it all in life, at least not at the same time. Sometimes you have to choose, and I think people live many lives over the course of our time here—if I were to have kids now, I would not base jump or free solo.


Have you ever found yourself regretting or second guessing that decision?


No, but I don’t really do that.


You are such a caring person with your friends and animals, have you always been this way?

I love my cat and dog beyond belief, and my friends too.  Aside from freedom, love is the most important thing to me.


Do you find that not having kids allows more time to devote to your career?

That’s hard to answer.  I do feel incredibly busy all the time from sunup to sunset and I really wonder how I would be able to do everything if I had a child.


How do you see pregnant professional climbers in the future?

I am impressed by how many professional climbers have children and go on to climb as much and even better than before, especially in sport climbing–it does not seem to be a limiter in any way.


And lastly, how have you seen the population at the cliffs and crags change over the years? Do you see more pregnant women and mothers?

There are a lot of people climbing with kids at Rifle 🙂


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  • This is a really interesting interview, Beth. Steph provides some perspective I don't often hear. Many alpinists who have children have their own way of justifying the risks they take. I'm not sure if there's a right or a wrong approach, but I can definitely see where Steph is coming from. Her sports of choice are dangerous, there's no doubt about it. Her lifestyle aside, I can see why she wouldn't want to introduce children to the mix.

    February 19, 2014 at 2:24 am
  • She may not have children but she's a great parent. I think part of being a great parent is making a conscience decision on whether or not to have children. She made the choice not to have them knowing it was best for her. I'm sorry for the loss of her husband but she seems to have a great perspective on life.

    February 19, 2014 at 3:57 pm
  • Thanks so much for your comment Meghan! I really appreciate it. Steph is really great and super wonderful to add her perspective to the mix.
    Thanks again for the comment and all my best!

    February 20, 2014 at 9:36 pm
  • Thank you so very much for your comment! She truly is a wonderful person 🙂 and is an amazing dog and cat mom. It was great to get her voice in the mix.
    Thanks again and all my best!

    February 20, 2014 at 9:37 pm