February 17, 2023

Climbing at 38 Weeks

 During the first half of 2022, I felt really strong and fulfilled while climbing. After sending my first outdoor 12a sport climb in 2021, I set a goal to climb at least two more. Within the first few months of 2022, I was able to project and send three more 12a’s, and also send my first 5.9+ on trad. I started projecting more challenging 12a’s, ones that G and I worked on together which felt like a big step for me after being accustomed to him easily doing my projects; I started thinking about 10’s on trad that I could project, which had never felt like a reachable goal for me before. My mind and body welcomed this liberating opening of possibilities. Our May trip to the Enchanted Tower was memorable for me in how many long 11’s I could onsight, meaning I could complete them without stopping on the first try. I felt very in sync with rock, and felt like there were so many open areas to improve. 

In June, I got pregnant. I used to say that once I was able to climb 12a I’d feel okay taking a break from climbing to get pregnant. But it turns out the wonderfully addictive quality of climbing that pushes me to try harder doesn’t stop feeling intoxicating at a particular number. I was happy to have gotten pregnant, and I was sad about the disruption to my flow of climbing. 

As with many things, it has been most helpful to share with others in the same situation - pregnant climbers. From others, I received mostly unhelpful advice and encouragement. I have much respect for other athletes, especially as I’m pretty much not good at any other sport. But being told that someone was able to hike or work out or ski strenuously up until delivery, was not super relevant to my ability to climb throughout pregnancy. All activities require different muscles and movements, and I wouldn’t conflate what I know about climbing to someone else’s sport. I was also told by many that this was temporary, and that I would regain my strength postpartum. It’s hard to explain how high maintenance a sport climbing can be, and how nine months of pregnancy and an uncertain number of months of postpartum recovery can add up to a daunting prospect of regression. 

That being said, I have learned a lot during pregnancy about how to be a stronger climber, despite climbing easier than in my first year of climbing. In my third trimester, I feel stronger climbing easy than I did while trying hard in my first trimester. The power I feel in my body is so different than anything I’ve experienced before, and I know that childbirth is similarly going to be a uniquely powerful challenge. There is also so much more going on in my mind, and the practice of processing is such a big part of climbing. 

When I mentioned to G that last year’s winter climbing was a really great season for me, he responded that this year’s winter climbing was a great season for me too. And it’s true. I haven’t broken into any new grades, but I’ve carried something entirely new.

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