10 Ways a Thru-Hike is Like Having a Baby
I’m working on a draft of my first few days on the trail, but in the meantime, I’ve composed a list of all the ways hiking is like having a baby. Enjoy, chuckle, and raise your hand if you’ve been there. I’m sure I may even get a few “Can I get an Amen?” comments or four.
1. Your Feet Get Wider
No really. One gem your fellow girlfriends seem to forget to tell you is: how much your feet will change while pregnant. And on the trail. They swell. They get bigger. They get wider. Whethere you are hiking or pregnant, you are carrying extra weight. Something has to support that weight, and it’s your feet. Your body will create a base to support that weight and activity. As you’ve experienced on the trail, your feet get bigger and wider. Your shoe needs may change. Then again, we usually like shopping for shoes… or really anything hiking related. Which leads me to:
The only people that talk more than pregnant women is hikers. Truly. I have really not had any other life experience that has more gear than having a baby, but hiking comes in a close, photo-finish, second place. There are so many options! Tent, tarp, hammock… or is it crib, bassinet, pack-n-play, side sleeper? Strollers, car seats, and high chairs have the hiking equivalent of stoves, packs, and bags. The options are limitless. The opinions are steadfast. And you almost have to try them all out first before you pick your favorites. Those choices too all depends on the kid, er… type of hiking. Which of course, leads to:
Walk into any hostel, REI, outfitter, campsite, shelter and the first thing you all start talking about is the one thing you have in common. THE HIKE. It’s not different when you’re pregnant. Due dates, doctors, development, baby showers, it’s all you talk about. When you see a fellow hiker, you share that nod of mutual respect and understanding, and then you the “shop doors” open and it’s all you can talk about. Your “back home” life takes a back seat. Just like when you’re pregnant and your pre-pregnancy life takes a back seat. What was I doing before all this happened? I don’t know, but let me tell you about the monster mile I just had (or hey, the baby kicked!). Am I right? So, you hiked the Whites? Well, let me tell you about that 13 hour labor with no drugs.
Opinions abound on everything from how to labor (with or without drugs), how to feed your baby (breast or bottle), and how to raise your kid (you name it!). There are no fewer opinions on hiking the AT. Purist, blue blazing, yellow blazing, slack-packing, taking time off, there are no less opinions than options available. Hike your own hike. Have your baby and raise. Whatever you do, enjoy it!
3. Sleepless Nights, Early Mornings
Let’s face it… babies keep you up all night with their demands and there is no such thing as sleeping in. Babies are cute and cuddly during the day, but they are noisy little creatures at night. Sleeping like a baby is a lie. Babies are terrible sleepers. They are noisy sleepers at best, and demanding of frequent diaper changes and food. And truly, is the trail an different? Noisy campers keeping you up? Frequent bathroom breaks after dark? We’ve all been there, especially early in the hike with eager anticipation, excitement and newness everywhere you look. But as you settle in and nerves calm down. You start to sleep better, just like a baby. See what I did there? But, those early mornings never seem to go away. Babies and birds always know when the sun is coming up and the new day has begun. Enjoy it. Sunrises are beautiful both on the trail, and those at home with newborn babe nestled in your arms.
4. Carrying An Extra 30 Pounds
While the number may vary from person to person, whether its pregnancy weight gain or pack weight, it changes you. Your center of gravity is not quite the same. There is big bulge somewhere on your body and it’s working to drag you in the opposite direction of where you want to go. Pack or baby, things are quite right. I’ve fallen a few times (okay, okay, more than a few times!), with both a pack and a pregnant belly. It’s not graceful. Neither is getting up. Righting yourself with a full pack, food, and water is no easy feat sometimes. And it’s no piece of cake if they bulge is on the front. I have bumped into more than few things I was sure I could clear with that extra weight. However, one awesome thing about hiking, that you can’t do while pregnant: taking the weight off at the end of the day. Or, even better, walking around with a pack for a whole day. Can I get a collective sigh of relief here? I bet I can. It feels oh so good to take that weight off!
5. Instant Camaraderie
There are no other places on earth where two strangers can bond faster than on the trail or in an obstetrician’s waiting room. You just know. You see each other across the trail or room, and it’s an instant bonding. This is going to be person I can relate to. They will get me. They will know why I am here and there will be no judgement, just a mutual understanding. You glean wisdom from those who have been there before. You share your own personal stories. When you see each other weeks later, whether in that same office or another town on the trail, you recognize their face, sometimes their name (trailname), but you know their story. It’s your story. It’s like the only time that has passed is how long it takes to catch up. And, catch up you must! “How have you been? What have you done? What next?”
6. Pain Is Relative
Remember how sore you were after your last big hike? No? Not really? What about your first big hike, were you sore? You’re thinking back, and saying to yourself that you must have been sore. Surely you were. But, there is a fog in your head. You remember the miles. You remember hard work. You remember the views, the friends, the hostels, the trees, the mountains, trail magic, and more. But pain? Um… You have to stop and think. Labor and delivery is really not different. You remember that you were in pain, at one point, but the prize was so sweet. The pain didn’t last THAT long. The pain wasn’t THAT bad. Hmmm… when’s the next hike? Sorry, I’m done having babies, but I couldn’t really tell you how bad it hurt. It kinda did. I think.
7. Photos, Photos And More Photos
Do we ever stop taking pictures? You just saw the most amazing view. And, rightly so, we have to get a picture. You don’t want to just remember it, you want to re-see it! Really who can blame you? I have photo albums, scrapbooks, and walls full of pictures that I took on my trips. I love looking at them and re-living in my mind’s eye those experiences. It’s not different with babies. You have to get every shot. Every second of them growing up, even before they are born we are eager to get baby’s first photograph (the sonogram picture). I have shelves and shelves of photo albums both baby and otherwise. Come, sit, and take a look with me. I’ll show you my kids, and my hikes.
8. It’s Not Cheap
Babies and thru-hikes are not cheap endeavors. You can try an budget, borrow, and cut corners, but in the end both cost a considerable amount of money. And time. Investments like these are huge and life-changing. You can only cut so many corners with either experience. Cheap gear can still be expensive, for baby and hiking, if you have to replace it all the time. And the good stuff, costs a pretty penny, too.
Okay, do I really have to say any more? Really? Chocolate soothes all pains: both hiking and pregnancy. Alright, maybe not. But, it comes awfully close!
10. Wouldn’t Change Your Experience
For all the pain, for all the money spent, you wouldn’t change your experience for the world. Whether having a baby or thru-hiking the trail, the experience is amazing.
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I’m hoping to get out there in a year or two. This list seems pretty accurate! Thanks! I’m excited to be following your journey!
Love the comparison between the two. Spot on! 🙂
Enjoyed your post and wishing you all of the best as you go forward on your journey! My baby (25 yo) will be doing a thru hike next March so I am trying to learn about what people go through to do this. You’re a great writer.