Adventures in Pregnancy (Or, How I Balance an Active Life With a Growing Bump)

Adventures in pregnancy (or, how I balance an active life with a growing bump)

When I found out I was pregnant last summer, my first thoughts immediately flashed to what life would be like for the next nine months. A cursory browse around my blog paints an accurate picture of what life usually looks like with my husband: week-long road trips, backpacking adventures, snowboarding off summits, powering through whitewater.

And after hearing many a sad story from my mom friends about what they couldn’t do during their pregnancies, I’d sort of accepted that these types of adventures would have to take a backseat to more moderate activities like walking and swimming.

But much to my delight, I found myself rafting, hiking, snowboarding, and cross-country skiing well into my third trimester. I’m now eight months pregnant, and just returned from a weekend of cross-country skiing that included my favorite part of cross-country skiing, the downhill trails!

By no means am I advocating that every pregnant woman participate in this level of activity. But if a woman is healthy and not a high-risk pregnancy, the myriad of opinions expressed by people who are not her doctor, not in her shoes, and do not know her can be very discouraging.

When that pink line appeared on my pregnancy test, I promised myself that I’d continue to have fun as long as I was physically and emotionally able to. I would share the positive aspects of pregnancy and show other expectant moms that a growing bump doesn’t have to equal a new life in a bubble.

What I’ve realized is that terrible tales make for better anecdotes. The heartburn, the cankles, the snoring, the waddling — people love to talk about the ills of pregnancy.

Oh, but it’s worth it. That, and you’ll see… two phrases I’ve come to dread when I receive well-meaning advice from other mamas. I don’t discount the symptoms that many of them faced, but as any doctor can tell you, every pregnancy is vastly different.

Aside from the five weeks of fatigue I experienced in the first trimester, pregnancy has been kind to me. I regained my energy fairly quickly, and there are days I even forget I’m pregnant (in a good way). I may walk a little slower, and lift lighter and fewer things, but for the most part, life has continued like normal and I’m thankful for that — I know I’m among the lucky few.

Or is that the lucky many? I’d like to think there are just as many women out there with easy pregnancies as there are those with more challenging journeys. I don’t hear their stories as much; maybe some women are afraid of being too boastful, or afraid of the backlash they might face when they admit to snowboarding with a baby on board.

But when I look at this picture, I’m awash with waves of happiness.

Snowboarding at Mt. Bachelor

I was 32 weeks along and enjoying a babymoon in Bend, Oregon. Some women take trips to Hawaii to release all their baggage and sun those glorious bellies, but since Will and I live in a place that I jokingly call “72 degrees and sunny” nearly year-round, a winter vacation was a dream for us… especially this winter, when the west finally got a generous dose of precipitation.

Powder day at Mt. Bachelor

A winter wonderland in Central Oregon

Babymooning in Bend, Oregon

We’ve been snow-starved with the drought, and being able to strap on my powder board and slash through clouds of soft snow on Mount Bachelor was my idea of the best babymoon ever.

We went midweek when crowds were light, and to be safe, I skipped the halfpipe, the tree lines, and the little jumps I like to take off cornices and cat tracks. I mostly stayed on the groomers, cruising through the powder and reveling in every fresh, untracked run. Snowboarding while pregnant was heaven.

Reveling in powder on Mt. Bachelor

I stayed hydrated, I felt balanced, I loved the warmth of the sun on my face (apricity — my favorite feeling and favorite word). All the endorphins did me right. By the end of the day, I felt stronger, lighter, and more energetic than I had in months.

I didn’t decide to snowboard to prove I could still do it that far along. I didn’t do it to be a badass or to show off how “fit” I was. (And I’m certainly not what one would consider fit! “Couch to crush” is the motto I tend to live by.)

I did it because snowboarding has always been a big part of winter for me, and with all my experience in the mountains, there was very little risk but plenty of reward. I could even put on my own boots without my husband’s help!

In pregnancy, there’s a fine balance between maintaining your sanity through a love of outdoor adventure, and honoring your body which is already working overtime to produce a little human being. But certainly many women are smart enough to know when to forge ahead or call it quits, and sometimes it’s not even a choice we can make. Being active means different things to different people, and it can even change throughout the course of pregnancy.

Now that I’m in the homestretch and have adventured up and down the west coast for the last eight months, what have I learned about being active with a growing bump?

One, I always listened to my body and gave myself a break when needed.

Around my eleventh week of pregnancy, I was on a four-day rafting trip on the Rogue River in Central Oregon. I was originally going to kayak down the river, but as my body was still recovering from first-trimester fatigue, I realized I might not have the energy to paddle those long, sometimes tumultuous stretches of whitewater.

Instead, I opted to sit in a multi-person raft so I could have additional support when necessary, and still had an amazing trip.

On the other hand, I had no qualms about snowboarding with a bulging belly, because I was an avid snowboarder pre-pregnancy and had I needed to catch my breath, a cup of hot cocoa was just up the chairlift at the lodge. (Not to mention that at that point in my pregnancy, sliding down a slope was so much easier on my body than walking up a hill!)

Two, having the right gear should not be underestimated.

Surfing and climbing were out for me this past summer, simply because I couldn’t afford a new wetsuit and a full-body harness. (And there were plenty of other things to do outdoors in summer.)

But when I found a pair of waterproof bib pants for $25, I was thrilled I wouldn’t have to give up snowsports this winter. Those pants, along with a winter shell borrowed from my husband (and later, a larger snow jacket that I’ll sell after the pregnancy), set me up for snowboarding, skiing, and snow play all season. It was a small investment that helped me feel like myself in the third trimester.

I lived in these one-size-fits-all leggings all winter, and long road trips were tolerable thanks to a pair of compression socks. For me, staying active was dependent upon staying comfortable.

Three, if I woke up feeling fabulous, it was the world telling me to conquer the day!

To be honest, not every day is rosy. Most, but not all. There are days I stay on the sofa all day, too lazy to tackle my to-do list. But on the days I’m feeling spry, I’m all for getting outside!

I’ve been taking this pregnancy week by week, well aware that at any turn, something could happen and put me on bed rest for the remainder of the pregnancy — which was all the more reason to enjoy every moment and take in the fresh air that made me happy.

Our bodies are capable of incredible things, bearing a baby being only one of them. If you know your limits and you’re feeling fabulous, embrace that burst of energy! Even if means something simple, like a walk along the beach.

Finally, I listened to other people’s advice, but didn’t let them distract me or influence my activities.

Three pieces of advice, in particular, stood out when I announced to my friends that I was expecting: that the first trimester was hell, the second trimester was a honeymoon, and to enjoy it while I could because it would all go downhill again in the third trimester.

None of it proved to be true in my case, and the lesson learned was that I can’t compare my pregnancy to anyone else’s.

Maybe I’m an anomaly, but I haven’t gotten the urge to nest. I haven’t gotten to that point where I want this baby out of me, now. I’ve continued to sleep soundfully like I always have, and please, please stop saying I should sleep while I still can. (It’s not like I can stock up on sleep and cash it in once the baby arrives!)

If you’re an outdoor woman who’s used to a higher level of challenge, accept this kind of advice with an open mind but know that pregnancy does not always mean you’re doomed to the insomnia, nausea, and pickles-and-ice-cream scenarios people often depict.

I kept waiting for “that day” to come when I’d be miserable in my final months, but I’m glad I didn’t dwell on it, and I’m doubly glad I didn’t let other people’s judgments stop me from pursuing passions that my doctor and I deemed safe and healthy.

So, to all the adventurous ladies who are pregnant or planning to be pregnant: be optimistic, be realistic, and be good to yourself, whether that means resting in bed as long as you need to, or hitting the slopes as long as you feel up for it!

About Author

I'm a plant lover, passionate road-tripper, and cookbook author whose expert advice and bestselling books have been featured in TIME, Outside, HGTV, and Food & Wine. The No-Waste Vegetable Cookbook is my latest book. Garden Betty is where I write about modern homesteading, farm-to-table cooking, and outdoor adventuring—all that encompass a life well-lived outdoors. After all, the secret to a good life is... Read more »