Climbing Through Pregnancy: Tradwalking, Falling And Getting Real

This post originally appeared on Beth Rodden's blog. For more info, check out her athlete page.

Month five started my best couple months yet in pregnancy. I think it was the openness that I finally gave to the pregnancy. Being able to share and talk about it with other people was more relieving than I ever imagined. With the announcement of our pregnancy, I've been learning how excited some people get about kids. Some people are over the moon about kids and others are a "normal" amount of excited. I find it really interesting and sweet to see who all these people are in my life.

It's felt great to go to the boulders and crags with Randy and friends and be able to be honest about why I'm not climbing that day, or not projecting anything hard right now. It's also been amazing to hear how many women have questions about how it's been for me so far. The messages and letters have filled my inbox and provided tons of great conversations.

In terms of climbing, this month I started what I call "trad-walking." Basically I stopped trying anything much harder than 5.7. I'm only climbing in a full body harness and only on top rope. My joints have been getting progressively looser, my belly is starting to jut out even further, and most importantly the thought of trying hard doesn't sound appealing at all. If there's one thing I've learned it's that you should listen to your body while pregnant. So, as a result I've got both After 6 and Munginella on lock down! And it's pretty funny how tired and sore I am after doing these climbs. I get winded on a 100-foot pitch and high stepping is out of the question. But there’s a bright side to being a 5.7 climber: I am getting to experience all the easy classics of Yosemite. That’s been a real treat. In addition, we've had our driest season on record—scary in terms of what the means for the environment, next summer’s wildfires and water, etc. … But great for never-ending climbing season!

Month five brought some welcome energy back into my life after a tough, draining first trimester. I feel like I can go through the day and get things accomplished. The pregnancy brain has subsided, at least for now. However, each day I notice how much I'm slowing down physically. Walking up the stairs to the house is now a two-pitch climb for me. I have an amazing flat dirt road near the house that I try to walk on each day. In my normal physical state it's a running trail, but now I consider it good exercise just to plod along at a snail’s pace.

I'm not the most coordinated person—I tend to hurt myself doing mundane things like opening a jar of tomato sauce or walking a dog. With the onset of winter, a recent snowfall added a new and challenging dimension to my plodding, pregnant self.

I'm not to the point yet where I think about being pregnant every minute of every day. I'm sure that will change when I am super uncomfortable and huge in my third trimester—but for now I only notice it when I put on my socks and shoes, go up the stairs, put on a pair of non-cotton lycra pants, etc. I have noticed that my center of gravity is off.

Recently I took Bodie (our new dog) outside before bed for his normal routine bathroom stop. As I was walking up the hill to the back door I completely slipped and face planted hard in the snow. My belly, being the most protruding part of my body, was the first thing to impact. At first I was just shocked and glad I didn't hurt anything like my shoulder or wrist. I went inside and thought nothing of it, as it's a normal occurrence for me in winter. 

However, when I started cramping later that night, I thought, “Oh, right … I’m pregnant. Crap, I wonder if that fall was really bad?" I did a little research online—again, not the best thing to do. I decided to see how I felt in the morning, hoping the cramps would subside and I'd be all good.

At the house in Yosemite, I'm a good 4 hours away from my OB, and a good two hours away from any hospital. There is a small family practice clinic in the Valley, but they don't have much in the way of OB equipment. In fact when I called them asking, they had to check if their doppler monitor even worked.

I woke up the next morning and the cramps were worsening. I called my doctor and they said to come in just to make sure everything was okay. I drove the four hours back to the OB's office. After a quick ultrasound and check up, they concluded everything was OK.

"Let's try not to make this a regular occurrence, okay?" my doctor said, laughing. I completely agreed and drove straight to REI to outfit myself in gumby ice-walking equipment. I bought Stablicers, which are basically rubber things with metal spikes that you strap on the bottom of your shoes. I fished through the garage and found my trekking poles. Now, anytime I go on my completely flat walk, I look like I'm outfitted for a North Pole expedition.

They say that an adventure means facing the unknown. And what I’ve been surprised to learn so far is that adventure comes in many forms. Going the Karakorum and getting kidnapped. Free climbing El Cap. And somehow, that mental toughness needed in climbing is also needed in pregnancy. Waking up each day brings a new set of challenges and changes. Each day is an adventure.