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.
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.
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.
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!
EsteeMay 20, 2022 at 6:40 pm
Inspiring! I am a Midwife and encourage my clients to scream from the rooftops about their positive experiences. Too much fear around pregnancy and childbirth.
NicoleJune 27, 2020 at 1:01 am
I know that this post is older but I’m so glad I came across this! My husband and I have been wanting to try river rafting & wanted to do it this summer. We found out in February I was pregnant! Not wanting to stop from doing our fun adventures I searched the web to find like you said people doubting & saying you shouldn’t. So I asked my midwife who said “your healthy, you work out so I don’t see a problem in it. There is nothing wrong with “extreme” sports”. Not only did your post just encourage me more then I had in my mind to do it, I’m glad I’m not the only mom to be who has felt that there is a lot of negative comments about being pregnant. I am 23 weeks along & have felt amazing! The first maybe 4-6 weeks of the first trimester I had a little bit of nausea & just a little bit of fatigue, but besides that I feel like myself! I still eat healthy & lift weights/ workout! My husband even got me a long board (bucket list item) for our anniversary & wow did our parents feel like that was the most dangerous thing to do.
I just want to say again thank you for sharing your story! I felt the same til I read it & it’s good to know that not all women have horrible pregnancies. I can’t wait t read more of your post!
EOJune 8, 2019 at 1:16 am
I know this was a long time ago but thank you for posting this!! I’ve desperately been searching for another pregnant mom out there that feels the same way about pregnancy as me and can validate my feelings. I am 17 weeks and have been lucky to have a great pregnancy so far. I want to backpack this summer and am going rafting in a week. My husband was a raft guide and I feel very comfortable going. My family and in laws do NOT approve which is making it really hard. Did you experience that? How did you handle the backlash?
Linda from Garden BettyJune 9, 2019 at 11:21 pm
Congratulations on your pregnancy! I think it’s fantastic that you still want to get out there and continue your adventures. As far as naysayers disapproving of your activities… there’s not much you can do to change their minds if they’re very traditional/conservative like that. Just show them how happy and healthy you are, and assure them that you (and your doctor) always have your and your baby’s safety top of mind. But if they’re constantly nagging you for your decisions, it’s probably best to not bring them up as it will just cause unnecessary stress on everyone.
I’ve found, in general, that people who are outdoorsy are much more accepting than those who are not, so try to balance the negativity with a great support network of people who love to engage in the same things you do, whether they’re pregnant, have kids, etc.
I joined a local snowboarding mom’s group when my daughter was one year old, just so I could meet other adventurous moms. Now that I’m pregnant with #2, it’s been so nice to be surrounded by women (and their families) who ascribe to the same values. They cheer me on when I get out there, but never say “I told you so!” when I’m completely spent the next day. They share the same passions I do, and understand that being outside is what makes us all tick!
Jeanette WoodFebruary 17, 2016 at 7:18 am
Linda, this was so much fun to read! Staying active in my pregnancies always made me feel so much better. I am a momma of 11 (six I gave birth to physically and 5 were born from our hearts through adoption). Oh, I wanted you to know went I went to the web version from my email it didn’t show any photos. I had to click to the blog to see all the photos.. which I LOVE!! It looks like you had so much fun! I love the snowman. My husband made a snowman last snow that we had…. needless to say, our’s wasn’t near as cute as yours! Keep enjoying this season of life!
Linda Ly of Garden BettyFebruary 24, 2016 at 3:40 pm
Thank you Jeanette! And the fact that you stayed active in your pregnancies surely brought a lot of joy and love into your household!
KirstenSeptember 1, 2022 at 3:02 am
Thanks for balancing out the fear-based majority of information out there. As an outdoor athlete who is pregnant, I was so surprised when my doctors gave me the green light to keep doing the activities I loved pre-pregnancy. Apparently most first-trimester miscarriages are due to genetics, and rarely impacted by our activity levels. I think you’re right: the key is listening to our bodies. I unfortunately was too nauseous and fatigued to follow through with a rainier climb early in my first trimester. It was a hard decision to make, but when I was napping mid day and constantly quesy that week, I was extremely glad to not be at higher elevations contemplating a logistically challenging evac through heavily crevassed terrain…
Now I’m 11 weeks, the nausea just magically disappeared, and I’m and headed out on a long weekend river trip, on a stretch I’ve been down before. I’ll also be sitting in the raft instead of paddling my own craft. Nature time is so healing and restorative for me that the benefits outweigh the risks it seems. I am so grateful for your perspective and encouragement. I’m also hoping for some third trimester skiing. As someone who has enjoyed skiing for as long as I’ve been walking, the idea of giving up that activity seems impossible. I am thinking mellow terrain and only going out for those powder days when it’s really worth it.
I am aware of my joints being a bit more relaxed / ligaments looser so avoiding falls feels important, and achievable if I stick to familiar terrain and difficulty levels. I generally am avoiding running after some new and unusual knee pain cropped up after a trail run last week.
My doctor gave me the green light on surfing throughout pregnancy- so we’re planning a trip to warmer waters for the winter where I won’t need to stuff myself into a wetsuit, but for now I still fit in my suit and cannot get enough of how great my body feels in the water.
My final thought on the biggest difference for me staying active is that I find I need to snack way more frequently than before, so having a variety of delicious and healthy options stuffed in my pack is critical for me to stay comfortable out there. Also, I’m always prepared to take a break or a nap, as soon as my body starts asking for it.
As for the nay-sayers: it is time for people to start empowering women to listen to their bodies, and stop imposing their ideas about what is right for others onto one-another. No one knows what is right for someone else better than their own internal sense of knowing. That feminine intuitive intelligence is powerful. it’s time for people to empower each other to get in touch with their own body’s wisdom! People have been having babies for as long as there have been people. Our bodies know how to do this way better than our minds!
Thanks again, and adventure-on mamas! I think it’s good for the babies!
A.MaeFebruary 16, 2016 at 8:13 pm
You are brave for posting yourself doing such an activity while preggers! I got such a lecture from my midwife just for riding my bike at 8 months pregnant to the farmers market. I hope your labor goes equally as smooth as pregnancy has so far.
Linda Ly of Garden BettyFebruary 24, 2016 at 3:38 pm
LOL! My mother (who’s fairly old-fashioned when it comes to pregnancy) is worried when I drive, much less ride a bike! But if that’s an excuse for my husband to start driving me around in my final month, I’ll take it. 😉
Thank you for the well wishes!
Brandi YoungFebruary 16, 2016 at 2:23 pm
I have never had a baby but I think that it is wonderful that you are having such a great pregnancy. I think the key is that being healthy and active pre-pregnancy and then maintaining those habits. I love Alicia Silverstone’s Kind Life and Kind Mama books and she shares the same premise- that women should not always be sick and tired and should expect to feel healthy and comfortable.
Linda Ly of Garden BettyFebruary 24, 2016 at 3:34 pm
It’s a wonderful way to look at it. We need more encouraging messages like hers!
CherrylFebruary 15, 2016 at 2:45 pm
Definitely, your pregnancy experience speaks to me. With both of my pregnancies I continued to do the physical activities I always enjoyed. In my case, ultralightweight backpacking for days at a time, often hiking for 12-14 miles a day on the AT with my husband and our friends. If my Native American maternal ancestors could do it, why not me? I never had morning sickness, swollen ankles, heartburn, or really any “symptoms” that people attribute to pregnancy. I didn’t know I was pregnant with my second child at all until well into my fifth month. I had natural births, and went home and did my grocery shopping the same day. Because I’m on the short side, there was a moment or two in the last week where I did kind of want the baby out of me, but my level of energy and physical activity was never compromised.
It shows how important it is to be true to yourself, and to let those pregnancy horror stories and advice roll off your back. We are all individuals and experience pregnancy and childbirth in different ways.
Linda Ly of Garden BettyFebruary 24, 2016 at 3:27 pm
It’s so true, we as a culture have it immensely easy during pregnancy! But I think all of our doctors’ tests and restrictions make us more fearful of what COULD or MIGHT happen. I’ve always felt that going into it with an open mind and a positive outlook plays some small part in a healthy pregnancy, so if women are physically up to it, there’s no reason they can’t continue doing the things they enjoy.
P.S. I am in awe of your story! Hiking the AT, grocery shopping after the birth? Love it!
CherrylFebruary 24, 2016 at 3:43 pm
We were stationed at Ft. Dix and my husband got called into work after driving all of us home, #1 son, #2 son, my parents, and me. And yes, everybody got to be in the delivery room, my dad mostly by accident. When we got home I needed to go to the commissary and took my dad. They let him come in and push the cart, which I loaded up. I left #1 son and # son with mom. I don’t advise hopping up and going shopping immediately after childbirth, but it wasn’t a big deal. I hopped up after having both babies and took a well earned shower, too! You’ll see. >^;^<
jeanniebeansFebruary 15, 2016 at 8:49 am
This is a wonderful post, and I appreciate it immensely as a fellow woman and someone who will likely have a baby at some point! I, too, believe that WE know our bodies best (but, only if we know how to listen ;P), and I’ve read from only a few other sources that at the end of the day, everyone’s experience is indeed unique – there is no norm! And, I love that you point out the backlash women generally receive “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” and I highly respect your attitude about it all. What an awesome pregnancy you had!! And, congratulations!!
Linda Ly of Garden BettyFebruary 24, 2016 at 3:16 pm
Thank you! It saddens me that in this new world of social media, so many people are quick to jump on well-meaning moms for things that are not in alignment with their own lifestyles. What’s risky or difficult for one person is not risky or difficult for another, so I hope women will continue to trust their bodies and their instincts, and not let the naysayers get to them!