Apr 14 2014

Climbing Pregnant: Slowing down in Month 7

After having my best month yet last month, I was optimistic that I would ride that feel-good wave through the rest of my pregnancy. Alas, by month 7, I found myself looking round, feeling slow and becoming increasingly useless.


When you’re a health-conscious, athletic person, there are a few things in life that you’d never imagine yourself experiencing: like having to wear loose, over-sized clothing or waddling around like a stuffed penguin on flat ground. I was plus 25 pounds, and feeling every one of them.


I didn’t climb at all this month, and it was harder to let climbing go than I expected. I’ve heard from so many women around the world who were able to climb until the day they delivered, and I had hoped that would be my experience as well.


It’s funny that I titled this blog series “Climbing Pregnant”-which suggests that I’ve always believed that I could achieve some kind of harmonious state between the two. Maybe I still do. But one thing I’ve learned is how that these two important aspects of my life don’t always see eye to eye. In fact, they can pull and tug me painfully in different directions at the same time.


Month 7, for me, was the month that Pregnant beat Climbing. Climbing just didn’t feel good to me. It didn’t feel “right,” the way it it has in the past. While I’ve heard from many women who have climbed till delivery day, I’ve also heard from other women who say that it’s more important to listen to your body. Lynn Hill told me she stopped climbing in month 5, which certainly made me feel like I was in good company.


So, reluctantly, I let climbing go.


Even working out and going for walks was becoming increasingly painful. I kept it up about once or twice a week, just to maintain some sort of sanity. But for the first time in my life, being sore felt awful. I’m normally such a hammerhead that I LOVE being sore, but now, it felt terrible. I was becoming the stereotypical pregnant woman: beach-whaling it on the couch, and anytime I showed my face in public, getting asked by every random stranger if I was due in the next week. Clearly I was looking huge!


My pelvis was stretching and widening, getting ready for birth. In fact, every time I rolled over in my sleep, one of my hip joints would pop-that’s how loose it was getting. Finally, about a week into month 7, my left SI (sacroiliac) joint totally went out as I performed the “extremely demanding” task of carrying a bottle of OJ to the fridge.


The SI joint pain was debilitating. I couldn’t walk from the bedroom to the bathroom without Randy’s help. Actual exercise, of course, was out-which left me feeling quite down and blue. I just spent my day sitting in a recliner with a heat or ice pack, or lying in bed, wondering if every pregnant person has to go through this.

I did put that time to good use though. We still have a lot to sort before baby comes, so I spent a lot of time researching the best baby products to use. I also enjoyed looking at ideas for our nursery and found some lovely nursery wall decals that I would love to have up on the wall. I managed to buy a few bits, so I guess my time wasn’t completely wasted.

There was one way in which I was not the cliched pregnant lady from the movies, however. My appetite. With climbing or any exercise out of the question, I figured I could use this time and just do some good old fashioned pigging out. I bought several different boxes of vegan cookies and brownies, made reservations at our favorite restaurants, and set my happiness on indulging. However, one thing they don’t show you in the movies about being pregnant, is the lack of room you have in your stomach. Even though I wanted to eat like a fiend, sadly, I couldn’t get more than a single cookie down after dinner!


I was feeling pathetic: I couldn’t climb. I couldn’t walk. And I couldn’t even eat a whole box of brownies!


As month 7 drew to a close, and I began reflecting about what I wanted to write about this month, I realized that these past 30 days have been really important for me to realize that “not climbing” while pregnant-and learning to be truly OK with that-is a huge and important step in this whole transformational experience. So many of us climbers are defined by our climbing and our lifestyle-I know I certainly am. I was really hoping to be able to waddle my way up climbs throughout my entire pregnancy, but I think if there’s anytime not to push through something, it’s while pregnant. It’s hard to give up that “hardman” attitude that we climbers strive and aspire to embody. That hard-headedness is what gets us up climbs we never thought we could achieve, and attain the summits of our dreams.


But success isn’t just about beating your head into the wall. Equally important, I think, is letting attachments go. This was a tough month for me because I had to let go of some of the very things that I believed make me who I am. And without those facades there-of being a climber, of being an athlete-you can actually get a more clear picture of yourself and who you are.


I’ve got a little less than 2 months to go now, and my round, slow self is pretty psyched to meet this little guy. But I would be lying if didn’t say that I’m also excited to get my body back. Not that I want to be sending 5.14 in a few months, but it would be nice to not feel uncomfortable and in pain all the time, and do mundane things like cook and walk without injuring my joints!


I’m also looking forward to taking this guy outside to crags, and learning all about how that works. I know I have many sources that I can learn from, but if anyone has anything that was their “key” thing or idea that helped them, I’d love to start that conversation going. I’m OK with not climbing right now, but it would be nice to experience it vicariously!! It would be nice to hear about climbing through you cragging moms out there, even though I’m not really doing much of it 🙂

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  • Hi Beth,
    Thanks for writing this series. I'm sure a lot of women will benefit from reading about your experience – I know I have.

    I'm expecting kid #1 too, not far behind you, and despite not being a professional or even particularly good climber (not even close!), climbing has dominated my life in recent years and I relate to the thought processes and mental & physical adjustments you've had to make.

    ​This post really resonated with me – My SIJ pain started at 5 weeks (!)​, but I managed to keep climbing until 20 weeks when SPD kicked in as well, and a day of easy top-roping left me unable to walk for a week. Despite consulting a myriad of health professionals and trying every trick in the book, it's progressively worsened and now at 30 weeks it's painkillers at night in order to sleep, and a good day is making it to the letterbox and back.

    I'll admit it's been a pretty tough mental struggle! It's easy to feel useless and pathetic, and to let self-pity dominate. However, I wanted to reiterate your comments about letting go. For me, the process of accepting just how life-changing this really is has been an important journey that I clearly needed to make. It's enabled me to put my self-imposed expectations aside and see a more realistic perspective – instead of beating myself up for not crushing right til the end, I can be happy and confident that I've done the best I can, with the best intentions. I'm learning how to really listen to my body, and more importantly to be gentle with, and take care of, myself.

    Reality is, it's such a short time in your life. Letting go of what I perceived to be the "right" way is now allowing me to look forward to the recovery process – how amazing will it be when I can finally walk up to the boulder field again! And take our little man with us.

    Good luck for the rest of your pregnancy!

    April 23, 2014 at 3:17 am
  • Hi Erin – Thank you so very much for your amazing message and note. It is so wonderful to hear from other women going through similar things, even if they are very difficult. It makes the journey seem so much less alone. However, I am terribly sorry to hear that your SI pain is still so bad! I hear you about going to see all the "right" people and nothing works – it can be very frustrating. I'm hoping that you are getting some sort of relief?
    I wish you all the best in the rest of your pregnancy! When are you due? We're about a week away, but you never know if he'll be on time or tardy 😉
    Thanks again, I really appreciate your message.
    All my best.

    April 23, 2014 at 8:18 pm
  • Hi again Beth, sorry to hear the it's not going easy on you! I'd be interested to know what proportion of women experience these difficulties – it seems like a lot! I went into pregnancy assuming I'd be tired and weak because that seemed to be the norm, but instead felt a big boost in strength and stamina, and started delving into the literature about it. Turns out there's an increase in blood volume, heart size, and circulating cortisol during and just after pregnancy. So the bright side is that you might expect a post-delivery boost when you are able to get back to physical activity. Here's an encouraging article:
    As for climbing with a little one, there's climbing "with" the little one – i.e. finding a way to include a child in your climbing life, and then there's finding the time (and the will) to get away long enough to get some serious training and climbing in. I can speak to the former but not the latter! It's pretty easy when they're still in the "handbag" stage, so enjoy that time – find a safe spot, throw down a blanket and some toys, and go with a group – everyone is happy to take a turn playing with the baby. But after about 8 months it's just not manageable anymore – they are mobile and easily bored. At that point, finding other climbing families to go on trips with is great, to locations that are family-friendly. Fontainebleau is fantastic with kids, for example. I'd love to see a list compiled of other family-friendly venues around the world. Hopefully you'll start a "climbing with kids" segment on your blog and initiate such a thing. 🙂
    You must be really close now! Hope to see a picture or two of the wee man on here very soon!
    Amelia in Scotland

    April 24, 2014 at 8:45 pm
  • A week away! How exciting. Hope it goes well for you.

    I still have 9 weeks, more-or-less (here's hoping less..). Good news is I finally found something that helps – 4 extra duvets folded up underneath the bedsheet. Doesn't fix the problem, but helps a lot for getting a good sleep, which in turn makes the days much better. A trick none of the experts suggested, interestingly.

    As for family-friendly climbing areas around the world – my local, Castle Hill, New Zealand should definitely be high on that list!

    April 25, 2014 at 5:31 am
  • That's wonderful you were able to find something that allows you some sleep, I'm so glad!
    Castle Hill is definitely high on our list! So be prepared to see us there at some point in the future 🙂
    Good luck and I look forward to hearing about the arrival of your little one 🙂

    April 27, 2014 at 3:45 pm
  • Hi Amelia! Thanks again for the wonderful message and comment! Yes, Fontainebleau is high on our list – even without a kiddo it has been a favorite of ours! Looking forward to having him romp around in the forest.
    Luckily, this past month has been much better for me in terms of how I feel physically, which has been a welcome surprise 🙂
    Thanks for the article – that is very encouraging!

    April 27, 2014 at 3:48 pm