September 17, 2022

15 Week Victory

 Before I was pregnant, we planned a backpacking and climbing trip with a few friends in the Cascades, in the state of Washington. Our friends had secured a coveted permit to camp in the Enchantments, a place filled with lakes and granite peaks. Our plan entailed a nine mile hike up 6000 feet the first day, a pre-dawn steep hike of 2000 feet over 2.5 miles on the second day to reach the base of the climb, completing a four-pitch alpine climb and hiking back to camp, and on the third day backtracking the first day’s terrain to return to sea level. In addition to the usual camping gear like our tents and cookware, we would need to carry climbing gear: ropes, harnesses, helmets, shoes, and the essential (and heavy) metal cams that would catch us in the case of falls. It would be the first time I backpacked so extensively into a climb.

Once we found out I was pregnant, I was uncertain how I would fare under so much weight on steep terrain. I hoped that since I would be 15 weeks and well into my second trimester at the time of the trip, I would be back to my normal self and able to train a few weeks before the trip. G, being his ever supportive self, never questioned me and let me explore how I was feeling as the date got closer. As the time neared though, my first trimester symptoms continued past 12 weeks (something that people don’t tell you when they’re reassuring you that the first trimester symptoms will get better, is that they sometimes don’t get better well into a few weeks into the second trimester). I realized that I wasn’t going to be able to wait for my nausea to disappear to start training. 

I started carrying increasingly heavier packs up some strenuous-for-me hikes here in New Mexico, hoping that the training at altitude would help me overcome some of my first trimester deconditioning. At the least, the exercise distracted me from the nausea and I grew to accept my body’s slow pace, rather than lamenting it. I also, characteristically myself, got lost a couple times on the same hike and so when I finally reached the right destination on my third try of carrying a 30 pound pack on this trail, I felt a hint of the achievement I anticipated in the Enchantments and was motivated to at least attempt the trip.

The first day of hiking immediately enveloped us in views so different from those here in the desert that there was no doubt for me that it was worth trekking up. I really love the openness of the land and sky in the Southwest, and also love the contrast of feeling flanked by tall steely rock spackled with green forest in the Northwest. I think the lack of altitude made it feel easier, and I was grateful not to be holding people back and to be able to enjoy the beauty along the way. Getting to camp in front of glacier-blue lakes was such reward, especially as my nausea would hit me hard again after the fatigue of hiking all day. 

I felt more confident about the rest of the trip, especially as we could shed the camping gear for the approach to the climb the next day. We woke up before light at 3:30 in the morning, and headed off for the very steep approach to the climb. As its steepness required a good amount of scrambling, it took us about four hours to traverse 2.5 miles. Unlike G I’m not usually a fan of long approaches (I am much less patient than he is and get antsy to start the climb), but this one took us into the core of the Enchantments and was undoubtedly the most beautiful approach I’ve ever done. In the dark, faint silhouettes feel so dramatic and quiet at the same time. As gradual shades of light peel open layers of mountains and lakes before us, I stop every few minutes to absorb the extreme power of this beauty. In this setting the crisp orange sun rise feels like just a glimmer of everything else shining. 

By the time we finally arrive at the base of the climb, which is a gorgeously sharply outlined ridge, rain and wind have started pelting us. Having come so far, we try to wait it out under a large rock cave. After an hour of talking and re-assessing the weather periodically, we decide it’s not worth the misery of cold and wind and head back. I’m disappointed, knowing it’s my last chance to do a climb like that during my pregnancy, but I’m proud of all I’ve done with baby so far. 

The hike back down, and the backtracking the next day (a majority of it in light rain), are actually the hardest for me mentally and physically. Going downhill is not a skillset of mine, and in an effort to pack light we didn’t pack quite enough food to quell my pregnancy nausea. I’m grateful for the camaraderie of our group, a mix of old friends and people we just met on this trip, who were endlessly encouraging and generous with their companionship and snacks. It makes me remember again how much community matters in the nurture of any one person, especially a tiny one still unseen.

Most of all, I am so happy to expose the growing life in me to the magic in this world. I know he can’t see the lush lakes, smell the mountain air, or feel the hazy light of dusk, but I feel strongly that the spirit of it all infuses its way to him. Everything that has been hard so far in pregnancy makes adventures like these feel all the more like victory, for me and for him.

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