The Adventures in Parenthood: Counting Down the Days

Featured Bottom A, Outdoor Kids

Submitted by Meghan J. Ward (editor’s note: Meghan is a friend of one of our other bloggers from north of the border, Tanya Koob.  Meghan will be submitting a story from time to time on her transition to motherhood and other outdoor excitements.)


Finding my new stride on skis at 24 weeks pregnant. Photo by Paul Zizka Photography.

Living in the Canadian Rockies, where outdoor enthusiasts abound, I often find myself at the centre of discussions about how one can pursue adventures with small children. Many outdoor enthusiasts struggle to brave the changes that would result from starting a family, fearing it would negatively affect his or her adventure-filled lifestyle.

Being one such adventurer, I was eager to dig into the topic. So, back in May 2012 I started The Adventures in Parenthood Project with the goal of exploring the transition of outdoor adventurers to parenthood. My intention with the project was to cover the spectrum of adventurers – from professional risk-takers to the people who quietly go about their outdoor activities – and set off to research the topic through interviews and survey questions.

Then in July of last year, two solid lines on a piece of plastic told my husband and me that we would be joining these outdoor adventurers in the transition to parenthood, adding a whole new layer – a memoir component – to the project. In the few years before this news we had been hiking and climbing throughout the Canadian Rockies, backpacking in the Caribbean, ski touring in the remote wilderness of Baffin Island, and trekking in Nepal. We now faced the greatest adventure of our lives, and for me it started with the pregnancy itself.

My husband, Paul, and I announced the news of our baby to come with a photo taken at the top of the Bear's Hump in Waterton Lakes National Park. Photo by Paul Zizka Photography

My husband, Paul, and I announced the news of our baby to come with a photo taken at the top of the Bear’s Hump in Waterton Lakes National Park. Photo by Paul Zizka Photography

Just a month before I found out I was pregnant, I had spent some time interviewing Caroline George, a mountain guide based in Chamonix, France, about her journey to motherhood. Caroline stayed incredibly active throughout her pregnancy, even ski touring on the day she gave birth. I remember thinking: What will it be like for me? How much will my body be able to handle when I am pregnant?

As it turned out, I still managed to hike and ski a fair amount over the months that followed, but these were pretty tame trips. I quickly learned that even if my body was holding up well, I couldn’t ignore that little voice in my head that acknowledged things were different. This wasn’t me. I was fully aware of how much my body could normally handle, and how apprehensive I was now feeling out on the trail. Even to this day, 38 weeks later, I have struggled with feeling like I’ve lost touch with that part of myself. I miss her – that woman who felt so comfortable pushing her body through the wilderness. But I know she’ll return, and most likely with even more gusto and motivation than ever before.

Though I have deeply missed the rush of adrenaline that washes over me in the outdoors, I have taken advantage of these more sedentary times to cultivate a deeper sense of compassion and gentleness with myself, to learn how to just ‘be’, and prepare for motherhood. My husband and I talk excitedly about the places we’ll take our child and how we’ll be able to rekindle our own love for the outdoors and the mountains here in Banff by returning to places with a little person in tow.

Silhouetted at Vermilion Lakes in Banff at 35 weeks pregnant. Photo by Paul Zizka Photography.

Silhouetted at Vermilion Lakes in Banff at 35 weeks pregnant. Photo by Paul Zizka Photography.

Furthermore, our concerns about how a child will affect our outdoorsy lifestyles have mostly vanished. Thankfully, it takes 40 weeks or so to grow a baby – enough time for anyone apprehensive about parenthood to ‘get over’ the things that might be constrained for a while and to learn to embrace the amazing transformations to come. While fears still bubble to the surface from time to time, as I sit here 11 days from the baby’s due date I am only thinking about taking care of and loving this sweet, new human being, and how I’ll do anything to provide for my child. That is the magic of becoming a parent – it forces us to step outside of ourselves to a large degree, and we are entirely willing to do it. But we also keep a quote on our fridge that offers a good reminder each day:

“The greatest burden a child must bear is the unlived life of the parents.” – Carl Jung

This quote has many meanings, but for my husband and me it means that we must continue to live our lives as passionately as we can, and to do what we need to do to care for our child while keeping that in balance with the things that make us most excited about life. We will ultimately be better parents if we do. The real adventure in parenthood is figuring out just how to make that happen.

Post adapted from The Adventures in Parenthood Project.

Last modified: February 28, 2018

17 Responses to :
The Adventures in Parenthood: Counting Down the Days

  1. wendykerr says:

    Well all I can say is I can’t wait to check out your interviews at the Adventures in Parenthood Project and see what you think once you are on the other side :). I work for the International Mountain Bicycling Association and am too both a passionate outdoors woman, adventurous traveler, and very focused on my career. I have now been a mother for 2.5 years and yes, its amazing, but it has been MUCH harder than I had imagined to bring my child along on that ride (or even ride at all). Of course most of the women I work with do not plan to have children since mountain biking is not the easiest sport to share with an infant and I have hardly met anyone who has tried to do both, like you and I. For a good year and a half after my son was born, I was spread so thin I wasn’t proud of my accomplishments as a mom, professional, or mountain biker. I am only now starting to find ways to carve out some riding time, still layered with lots of guilt for the family or work-time I’m ducking out on to get out the door. We did also just take the plunge into international travel with our toddler – which was a miracle for many reasons. We are now trying for a second and I find myself riddled with conflict. Do I really want to be tethered to an infant again, when I’m just starting to get reacquainted with adventure? Have I learned anything on this adventure in parenthood to “unpave the way forward” with the next one? As you can see, I am looking forward to continued discussion on this topic and I would love to meet more mothers like you!

  2. Lyndsey says:

    Great timing! I’ve just reached 15weeks pregnant and am encountering the biggest wave of ‘you don’t know what it’s going to be like, you’ll never manage to get out and about again’ and ‘but we thought you loved your lifestyle too much’ comments.
    I know that it will be hard, and pregnancy has been harder than I ever thought – I’ve been exhausted and quite sick but my answer to the naysayers is that If my husband and I manage to do half the amount of outdoor adventuring that we used to do, it will still be twice as much as most people!!
    And we’re off to buy a campervan on Sunday to give us a more infant-friendly (and prenant woman friendly) basecamp for this summer and beyond.

  3. Lyndsey says:

    @wendy – I belong to a women’s mtb mountain bike club here in Scotland and have seen a good few women get back into fitness and skills/guts after having children. They are an inspiration to me. As are the families I see every day at our local trail centre with mum, dad and kids riding the green and blue routes – I know I need to get fit again after the birth because I need to be able to get up those hills before my child can ride his or her balance bike!

  4. Congrats on your new family, Meghan! I too am eager to hear how you feel once on “the other side.” Having a child was a such a huge life change for us as we adjusted to not being able to take off on the trails whenver we wanted and learned how to fit small adventures in when we could, while juggling work, feedings and general life. Baby backpacks sure help with hiking, but most of my riding is solo these days. Though I have to say, I appreciate that along time on two wheels more than ever before! My two-and-a-half year old is now on skis and a strider bike, just as we are expecting #2 and starting all over again! Moving to a home with trails out our backyard has certainly helped, but overall, our adventures are more low key and less frequent than they once were. However, as, Lyndsey said, even with half the outdoor adventuring we once did, we’re still twice the average of most people. Priorities change I guess, but our passion remains the same and it will certainly still be there in five years when our kids are passing us on the trail saying, “c’mon mom!” Happy new baby adventure!

  5. Thanks for all the wonderful comments, ladies! This is something I really love about the online forum – it allows for amazing discussion no matter where we are! I, too, am curious about “the other side.” In some regards my expectations are low, though I am strongly motivated to give everything a try, even if it’s hard. No doubt, there will be an adjustment period, and we will likely need to adapt our activities, but even if we get out just a little bit with the wee one, we’ll be happy! We’re lucky that one of our favourite things to do is hike, which at least while we can carry the kid will provide a good option for us through this coming summer. To me, it’s ALL an adventure, whether it’s learning how to breastfeed at home or how to change a diaper on the trail. Stay tuned for more!

  6. Kat Wheeler says:

    This is EXACTLY what I needed to read this morning! I’m 28 weeks pregnant as of Friday and have slammed head first into the biggest struggle yet, the naseau filled first three months included! My husband and I, like all of you are adventure fiends. It’s who we are, it flows through our veins in a higher concentration than blood. Children were never part of our “plan,” though we always knew that if it happened we would see it as a blessing. Seven months ago I was out for a mountain bike ride and just knew something was different. A long car ride back home to Flagstaff and two lines proved my hunch to be true. I’m incredibly excited to share my passion for the outdoors and adventure with the little man on the way, but as I hit the third trimester and the single track goes from snow covered to intoxicatingly tacky bliss, I can’t help but feel a pang somewhere deep inside as my husband kisses his wife and son goodbye before clipping in for an afternoon therapy session with the mountain. So many women around me, even in a mountain town, have completely lost themselves and given into the false assumption that you disappear as soon as you become a mom. I hear day in and day out that my life will never be mine again, that I can forget about my dreams of mountain biking and fly fishing in Patagonia. I know within my soul that this doesn’t have to be the outcome and that this passion I have for adventure is one of the greatest gifts I can pass along to the little kicker growing inside of me. So as I close my computer, shake the cobwebs of pregnancy hormones and self pity from my head and dust off my boots for an afternoon hike, I’ll find peace in knowing there are women out there like me, who have found a balance.

    Thank you, all of you, for being the voices that this scared mom to be needed to hear, to get her tush back in gear!

  7. Kat Wheeler says:

    ^^ And I mean nausea not naseau…silly autocorrect!

  8. wendykerr says:

    Doesn’t it seem like Dad shouldn’t be able to MTB in the third trimester (or snowboard or drink for that matter)?:The thing is, all three of you are probably better off to let him has his “therapy” even if you can’t join him. I ended up mountain biking once in my third trimester, but a super mellow ride and of course the whole time feeling guilty. I also borrowed a cruiser bike from a friend so that I could continue riding to work until only a week or so before my due date,which the doctor still doesn’t recommend but it was a sanity saver for me and I am lucky to live in Boulder where I get to ride along a beautifully creek away from any streets the whole ride. Even though it is really hard to watch all my co-workers take off to ride and road trip and ski and party every weekend (I work at IMBA), its also nice because once I arranged things with hubby, I now have 2 days a week that I don’t have to be home from work right away and its pretty easy to convince one of my office mates to join me for a ride before heading home (because you know if you stop at home, you’ll never get back out). My husband has always been my best adventure buddy, and I miss doing all these things with him. We do tap grammy as much as possible to have “sleepovers” on Friday nights with the little guy, so we can have date night, then get out the door super fast in the early am to go snowboarding together and try to come home early too. Soooo, if any of you can take advantage of similar opportunities I would strongly recommend it!

  9. Kat, I’m so glad that the post provided you with some encouragement! Every since starting the project and talking to people about it, I have discovered many, many people who are still dedicated to their active, outdoorsy lifestyle while they transition to parenthood and beyond. Nature will be our children’s greatest teacher!

    As Wendy touches on, I think it’ll be key to have a good arrangement with our partners to make sure we get out as a family, as individuals and as a couple. If it is a common goal between the two of you, I think that will make things much easier! I definitely saw my husband leave on many mountaineering trips last summer while I hit the easier trails. Was hard, to say the least, but I know it was all worth it. We can’t wait to explore with our little one.

  10. Just wanted to mention that I’ve signed up to marshall a couple of mtb races this summer in order to keep in touch with the scene and keep my passion for riding alive while I can’t race myself. Anybody in a similar situation might want to do the same.

    1. Lyndsey, I think that’s a wonderful idea. A great way to keep contributing and stay involved even if you can’t commit to training and racing yourself.

  11. Kat Wheeler says:

    I think all of your insight and words are amazing! My husband is my biggest fan and has been very adamant from day one of this new adventure that he will make sure I get all the time I need to ride and pursue my personal goals. I am truly very blessed, I realize that. It’s very inspirational to hear from so many like minded women who have managed to stay active with their partners, as a family and also solo.

  12. Jennifer says:

    Meghan’s daughter arrived!

    “I am so excited to introduce you all to our little adventurer, Mistaya Joy Zizka! … Her name, Mistaya, means “grizzly bear” in Stoney Nakoda and is the name given to a few of our favourite features here in the Canadian Rockies, including Mistaya Canyon. Joy is my middle name, as well as my mother’s.”

    1. Thanks for the announcement, Jennifer! Yes, our babe made her way into the world on March 22. We are loving every moment with her so far. 🙂

  13. Niki Hurst says:

    Congratulations on the safe arrival of your baby! I came across this article from a friend of mine and I do hope you can find the balance you seek now that your little bundle has arrived. I am an avid trail runner and feared when I was pregnant that once the baby came my life and my goals would become second fiddle to the life of the little lady’s; luckily that that hasn’t been the case at all. I am lucky to have a husband that agrees that it is not enough to simply “be there” for our daughter and that we have to inspire her by still proceeding after our own goals. With his support I was able to be out on the trails 3 weeks after she was born and most days get a good two-hours of training in in order to be ready for race season this summer. He and I may not both be able to get out on a hike or ski or trail run together like we used to but with some team work we still get the quality outdoor time every day that we both need and I think it makes us appreciate the time that we spend together with our little 3 month old even more! I hope you will be able to find the same balance and never let go of your own pursuits. Best of luck with everything!

  14. Great article and intersting reading the comments. It was my 8-5 job and other things that I allowed to distract me from being outdoors. I actually am outdoors more now with my children (4 yr and 10 yr), usually day hiking every weekend. I started my daughter out by carrying her in a backpack when she was not quite two. By three she was hiking on her own upwards of 5 miles. The key is planning. The key is to ignore the naysayers. And don’t underestimate kids. They love the outdoors and thrive in the fresh air and dirt. Plus there is no better way to experience nature than through the eyes of a child. Enjoy this precious gift!

  15. Thanks Niki and “AA”! I am finally getting to your comments now. The little one is now 2 months old. Every day we see “progress” in terms of finding that balance again and finding time to pursue the things we love. My daughter loves the outdoors, which is superb, and we have already been on a few hikes with her in the front carrier. Like Niki, my husband is incredibly supportive, which is definitely key to helping us strike that balance. You can read my other posts in this series to see how things have been going!

    Good luck with race season, Niki!

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