Climbing With Kids: Year One
There are things about big-wall climbing that you rarely read about in magazines. Climbing through sticky, urine-stained cracks. Avoiding the fly-ridden poop that is smeared on your foot hold. And being just so tired that you clip your helmet strap into the anchor to hold your head up while you try to get a few minutes of shut eye before the strap cuts off all circulation to your head, and it’s time to climb again.
Basically, I tell my partners to count on at least one meltdown per route. And when I was pregnant, I told the same thing to Randy. When it came to climbing the big-wall that is motherhood, we can just expect that there will be meltdowns along the way.
And yet somehow, at the end of each big-wall, short-term amnesia sets in, and my only memory is pure joy. The joy of climbing perfect splitter cracks one day, and the satisfaction of being too sore to even open a jar of applesauce the next. Somehow, you’re already planning the next adventure.
It’s hard to believe that just over one year ago, I was bed-ridden with a teeny, tiny 7-pound little boy nestled on my chest. Now it’s been a year. A whole trip around the sun, with Theo. There’s been pain, sleep deprivation, anxiety, digging deep and loving harder and more intensely than I ever thought possible. And as I sit here and reflect back on one of the toughest yet most fulfilling years of my life, I feel as if I’ve achieved one of my biggest accomplishments ever.
One thing I’ve learned about motherhood is that it tends to fit its stereotypes to a tee. That whole thing about “hard yet rewarding.” Yep, most definitely.
And the whole thing about “time flies.” Like a freaking race car. Why hasn’t someone invented the pause button yet?
Right after Theo’s birth, the only time I left our mattress was to crawl to the bathroom and pray my insides wouldn’t fall out along the way. I’d crawl back to bed, insides still magically intact, only to find more congratulatory messages from one of my friends, telling me to, “Soak up this precious time!” and “Enjoy it while it lasts!”
What are they, crazy?! I couldn’t stand upright. I bled profusely. And feeding my baby was more painful than fist-jamming in a crack made of broken glass.
But, I did my best, and soaked up as much Theo as I possibly could.
And now, one year in, I’ve realized something. They were so very right.
I’ll miss those moments of him cooing and wriggling, when I could just stare at him for hours on end and constantly be in awe. I’ll miss those blurry days that became sleep-deprived nights, when normal time ceased to matter and it was all about taking care of the needs of just this one little creature. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I’ll even miss those months of forced bedrest, when Randy was home taking care of both of us, and every minute of every day was spent on family.
I’ll miss not ever having those days with Theo again.
And yet, I feel as if this is simultaneously a time of excitement. The best thing about motherhood is that each day presents a new, fulfilling challenge. It’s like constantly finding a new climbing project—some days I send, and some days I don’t. But either way, I feel just fortunate to be given that opportunity to try and give it my all.
When I was pregnant I had so many worries about how having a child would impact my carefree climbing lifestyle. I’ve written a lot about my fears of losing my professional climbing career—or worse yet, losing climbing altogether. Change was inevitable, but it was the unknown that was so hard to prepare for.
Now that we’ve survived the first year, and I’ve had a chance to reflect on it all, I can honestly say that I cannot imagine life otherwise. The gains drastically outweigh any loss, and climbing is still a huge part of our lives. Of course, those days of spontaneously taking climbing trips to the desert or getting alpine starts in the mountains for a huge day of mileage, or doing one last pitch by headlamp, aren’t part of my life right now.
But that’s okay. I’m happy with where we’re at. I know that I’ll have that part of my life back soon enough — again, time flies. All those things seem so insignificant compared to seeing Theo’s face light up when he finds a rock to chew, or an ant to follow, a boulder to crawl over, or a puddle to splash around in. No need for toys. Nature really is the best entertainer, for babies and adults. I’m climbing as much as I want right now, and honestly still getting my body back after birth.
I’ve gone from a place of not being sure that I’m going to survive the crawl to the bathroom, to having crazy bouts of anxiety about keeping our son protected, to now being excited by the opportunity I have to show and share with this little person the natural world that we love.
If climbing has taught me anything, it’s about being genuinely passionate, dedicated and pouring your heart into something you love. The same goes for being a mom. There are bumps and detours along the way, but at the end of the day, knowing that I tried my best through everything is what keeps me going. It’s what has fueled me for climbing for two decades and what continues to fuel me for each wonderful, sleep-deprived, squealing, poop-filled day with Theo.
And just like big-wall climbing, it really is pure joy. At least that’s how I’m choosing to remember it. 🙂