Growing Up As A Mom, A Human And A Climber

This post originally appeared on Beth Rodden's blog.

As the Dawn Wall excitement exited the Valley, Theo and I got back into our quiet routine in Yosemite. California’s dry and warm weather unfortunately continued, allowing me to keep climbing and start ramping it up. My body slowly felt like it was getting back into my all-too-familiar climbing rhythm, albeit at a much more reduced level. I was actually able to climb with people during the “climbing” part of their day, not just the “warm up” part. It felt beyond incredible to feel like I was getting back into it.

It quenched a part of my drive and desire to stand beneath a route or a boulder problem with someone and strategize about the moves, try, fall, work out beta, try again, fall again. Something I hadn’t had in so long. While I was pregnant and in postpartum recovery, I was able to pour so much energy into non-athletic parts of my job. But I missed actually climbing. I love the problem solving, the actual physical movement of climbing, being able to push myself, set goals, see what I can dream up and try to set my mind to. These are all things that keep the fire burning in me. Through pregnancy and injuries, I have learned that I can be happy without them, but I know that I thrive and shine a little brighter when I have them. I don’t have to be climbing at the highest level, but anything that lets me exercise these aspects of me, makes me flourish a little more.

During the fall season, we had planned a trip to Fontainebleau, France, during the month of March with a handful of our close friends. Most of these friends have babies within a year of Theo's age. Not only would it be a chance to travel with people who are learning how to balance kids and climbing, but it would allow us all to climb in a great place and experience another culture for a little while. Font is one of the best destinations to ease back into things, with tons of problems of every level.

As March neared, everyone started training or prepping in their own way. Some set up full-on training programs, some started climbing more, setting goals and lists of problems they wanted to do. I didn’t set any goals except one: to not get injured. I just wanted to go over there, continue my slow, steady path back from my difficult postpartum recovery, and try to enjoy and learn how to travel internationally with a baby.

A week before our trip, we headed up to Yosemite for one last time before we left. I climbed a little harder than the previous week, and was pleasantly surprised with how I felt. Climbs that I had struggled with a month earlier felt easy. My arms felt a little stronger, my feet felt a little comfortable on Yosemite’s small dime edges. Unfortunately, with this extra strength and comfort, I fell into my old routine of pushing as hard as I could. I tried my luck on a harder climb. I crimped on a small three finger edge and injured my A2 pulley in my right ring finger. My heart sunk. I was devastated. How on earth could this have happened, literally my last climbing day before my trip? As an athlete, I always want a reason, or something to blame. I had been working so hard at easing back into it, trying not to push it too much. However, at some point you have to push it a little. I guess my body just wasn’t ready yet, still in recovery mode.

On the drive home tears welled up in my eyes. Just as I was starting to get something back that I cherished, I would be on the sidelines again. I wasn’t even climbing hard or setting records. I just loved being out in Yosemite with my friends and family, doing something that has been so vital to my soul for the past 20 years. For the five years before I got pregnant I had been plagued by injuries—perhaps unlucky, perhaps pushing it when I shouldn’t, perhaps my body just isn’t as durable as it once was, or perhaps a combination of all of those things. It’s rough as an athlete to not be able to do something that you love because your body won’t allow it. While I was pregnant, I had a much easier time accepting not climbing. Carrying a child was a constant reminder to take it slow and halted any physical desires I had. It was a mental relief. But after birth, I wanted my body to bounce back quickly so I could dive back into everything. A finger injury felt less of an excuse than pregnancy, somehow.

Having Theo with me dampened my crying. I was bummed to lose climbing while I healed, but also scared for my career. All of my insecurities I had while I was pregnant about losing my sponsors returned. I’m not sure if these are founded fears, or a symptom of my sleep deprivation and anxieties returning. I had set up goals for this year, small ones, but goals hoping to get back to a job and a passion that I loved and have been fortunate to have for so long. As these thoughts swirled and spun through my head like a tornado, I could feel my pulse rising. Having to hold back because of Theo stopped my natural unleashing of upset and sorrow, but it also made me stop and wonder. Was I just being petty? Too dramatic over a finger injury? Is this what I want Theo to learn? I took a step back to look at the bigger picture. If there is one thing that I want to teach Theo, it’s a lifelong appreciation of the outdoors. I took a second to listen to my own advice. This would slow me down for a little while, but in the grand scheme of things, a few months is hardly any time at all. It’s hard to change old patterns. Hard to go from thinking solely about myself and worry about my own projects and career. I slipped back into my old routine of when I was solely a professional climber, when climbing full time occupied my entire life and I could be selfish and pout over a finger injury. Now I have Theo. He wouldn’t understand me sulking on the couch for the next few days while I ate my sorrows away with chocolate. He would want to go outside, dig in the dirt, crawl through the leaves, eat bark and enjoy the forest. 

The next day at home, my finger throbbed in pain doing simple tasks like typing, dishes, laundry. I hated that feeling. I remembered it all too well from previous finger injuries. I looked into canceling our trip. That’s what I would have done before Theo. But as I loaded the airline's page, Theo tugged on my pant leg and squealed in delight when Bodie ran by. I paused a second. Yes, the travel was going to be tiring. And it would be hard to watch everyone climb while I sat on the sidelines. But Randy and I both have a desire to show Theo the world. I know Theo probably won’t remember a single thing from this trip. But perhaps starting to travel and expose him to other cultures and ways of life will somehow help him appreciate it down the road. I closed my computer. Instead of making a decision solely for me as I used to, I made it for our family. Fontainebleau was probably the best place to go with a finger injury and salvage any amount of climbing. I set myself up mentally to not climb very much. I could still show Theo the beautiful forest of Fontainebleau. We could still play beneath the sandstone boulders. We could still eat French cuisine and travel with our friends. A part of me still can’t believe I hurt myself yet again. Having Theo is perhaps making me grow up, or at least realize that life can be enjoyed in many ways and many outlets. Life is full off losses, but also full of opportunities. I will get back to those things that I love and cherish again. Now I’ll just need to re-read this blog post as I watch everyone climb the amazing boulders in Font.