Hiking Toward Parenthood

December 27, 2017
hiking while pregnant
Courtesy of Elizabeth ParadisoHiking while pregnant, the author summits Mount Madison in her first trimester.

The second morning of our weeklong hike in the White Mountains was blue-sky beautiful. Standing with my group outside AMC’s Greenleaf Hut, I bent over to tighten the laces of my boots while our leaders outlined the hike ahead.

It would be the most challenging day of the trip, and we were lucky not to need our rain gear. Yesterday’s trek along Greenleaf Trail had offered a not-too-strenuous route, moss like velvet, and ample fresh air to help me ease into hiking—a getaway from my Brooklyn routine. I felt strong and alive, but I knew day two would test me.

I hoped I would make it. I hoped we would. I was three months pregnant.

I had the green light from my doctor, my husband, and the hike leaders, who reminded me to hydrate. The blogs I’d found by women who hike while pregnant were encouraging. Everyone agreed that exercise and fresh air should be good for me. But would my body agree? On training hikes with my friend Crystal, when my morning sickness was at its worst and my energy lowest, I felt unsure.

Before leaving home, as I was packing my sleep sack and moleskin and prenatal vitamins, I glimpsed a quote attributed to Paulo Coehlo that I had posted on my bookshelf years before: “A boat is safe in the harbor, but this is not the purpose of a boat.”

Hiking boots are meant to climb, not to sit in a Brooklyn apartment.

The initial ascent on day two made me sweat, but the oatmeal and eggs from breakfast at the hut kept me going, as did some advice from a friend, who once assured me that finishing a hike is really about putting one foot in front of the other. If you keep moving forward, step after step and day after day, you reach your destination with a sense of camaraderie and accomplishment. (Now, two years later, I have found this to be true about hiking, pregnancy, and parenting a joyful, spunky toddler.)

By lunch, we had climbed to incredible views and scooted down what I was sure was a small waterfall but was, in fact, the trail. My parents tell me my own first sentence was, “I do it self!” But on the trail, I realized that accepting help makes everything more pleasant. A leader tended to a hot spot on my foot to prevent a full-blown blister. I followed tips from fellow hikers about which handholds to use and where to air out my wool socks so the whole bunkroom wouldn’t smell.

There were moments on day two when, as I pushed myself to keep taking one more step forward, I felt my body moan, “Nooo!” But it helped that fellow hikers were rooting for me and Little Pumpkin, whom they nicknamed after learning of my passenger in utero. With encouragement and snacks, we all made it to Galehead Hut before our well-earned dinner was on the table.

Taking off my boots, rinsing my face, and lying down on the bunk felt particularly sweet. I made it, and I enjoyed it. We did. I rubbed my belly each night in the Whites, whispering words of hope to my baby-to-be—and to myself, too, that the rest of my pregnancy would go smoothly and allow me to remain active. Indeed, I was still hiking in my ninth month, carrying almost as much weight from my now-not-so-little pumpkin as I had in my backpack on that trip through the Whites.

When the time came, my husband and I walked the few blocks to our hospital in Brooklyn. I was nervous about labor and all of the adventures ahead. I hoped I would make it. I hoped we would. And we have. One step at a time.

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Elizabeth Paradiso

Elizabeth Paradiso is a public school teacher currently enjoying a sabbatical year. A Brooklyn resident since 2003, she has been an AMC member since 2015.