I stayed pretty active during pregnancy, so it felt like a pretty massive lifestyle change when I switched to a more sedentary routine after my daughter Sylvie was born. While I wouldn’t change having her here for anything, new motherhood has also been a time of conflicting emotions – in the first few months after she was born, I found it hard to be inside, watching the last of the balmy autumn sunshine slip away and cold winter set in as I rocked and fed a baby, unable just pop on my hiking boots and get outside whenever the mood took me.
In that first foggy days of motherhood, I also discovered that it’s still pretty hard to find examples of adventurous mothers in the mainstream media, of women who have children but are also proudly adventuring, playing sport, or just working in the outdoors professionally, as I do. Luckily there are more mamas sharing their outdoor adventures both with and without their little ones on social media, which is where I’m now trying to chronicle the time we spend outside.
ADVENTURE AND STAYING ACTIVE WITH A BABY
I was absolutely desperate to get moving after birth, and took Sylvie on walks around the block when she was five days old. I also got back to running as soon as I was signed off by my GP at my six-week check. While getting out in the sunshine felt amazing for both of us, I now think I rushed into fitness too fast, and in retrospect I’d really recommend getting checked by a physio or booking a service such as a Mummy MOT before you get back to sport – my GP saw me for less than five minutes and didn’t physically check me over before I was out pounding the trails. Your body has been through huge changes after birth, and after a few runs I had some aches and pains that I’m now addressing with gym exercises and a more measured approach to running. Sylvie is now almost five months old and I’m in a much better and more measured fitness routine: swimming, running and going to the gym weekly.
I’m easing my way back into travel. While there’s absolutely nothing to stop you hopping on a plane with a newborn, we had some feeding issues with Sylvie that kept us close to home while we learned the tricky art of keeping a baba alive! Now she’s a bit older and more robust, we’re booking our first family holidays – and I’m getting back to work, and will start travelling for a day or two without her next month. We’ve done lots of UK adventures in the meantime – when your baby is still small and portable it’s surprisingly simple to get away (despite the mountain of stuff Sylvie seems to require – who knew someone so mini would come with so much baggage?). This winter we’ve stayed in hotels and glamping sites and simply brought a cot along with us – Sylvie doesn’t care as long as we are there. And now the weather is warming up, we’re planning car camping trips with our bell tent, and wild camping trips with a pop-up travel cot. We’ll also be taking Sylvie out on road trips in our campervan, sleeping on our overcab bed and popping her in a travel cot on the floor.
FINDING TIME FOR ADVENTURE
This is the really big one with a baby – before Sylvie, I’d squeeze in a swim at lunch time or just grab my hiking boots and drive to the mountains on a day off from work if I felt like it. Now, adventures are still possible – they just take a lot more planning. I really prioritise fitness for my own mental as well as physical health, and my husband cares for Sylvie while I go for run or go to the gym, or they both come along and watch me from the shore when I go for a wild swim. On weekends, we all go for long walks together with Sylvie in her carrier (usually these walks are brilliant, with me enjoying a short hike and Sylvie loving gazing at the trees or watching a sunset. Once or twice we’ve gotten the timings or Sylvie’s temperature wrong and had to head home with a very angry babe, but hey, it’s a learning process for us all!). She’s currently in baby carrier and we have an Osprey Poco she’ll be going in as soon as she’s six months old.
The really amazing thing is how much my attitude to adventure has changed. Pre-pregnancy, I was always obsessed with getting fitter, or running further, and wouldn’t have been happy unless I was planning a tough mountain trek every weekend. Now, I honestly feel real joy if I just go for 5k run, or walk Sylvie through our local woods, or get to jump into some ice cold water for half an hour. I no longer care about how far or how fast I adventured, just that I spent time outside – that’s the best lesson I’ve learned from my little one.
Postpartum, I really recommend investing in some new outdoors kit, both because your body may have changed and because a treat will help to motivate you to get outdoors! I was, frankly, a bit shocked to discover my body was an actual different shape after giving birth – my hips sit in a different position and because I’m breastfeeding, my boobs definitely need a lot more support. My main investment has been in some nice new sports bras that fit my now-bigger boobs – I really rate Shock Absorber bras, which have been brilliant for getting back into running, and I also bought a Finisterre Yulex (a more sustainable alternative to neoprene) swimsuit, which offers a bit more support than a fabric swimsuit and comes in a good range of sizes.
I’ve talked a lot about physical health here, but one of the biggest challenges for me after Sylvie arrived was learning how to cope with the mental challenges of life with a newborn. I thought that after birth I would just be myself, but with a new baby – I wasn’t prepared for the huge hormonal crash that hits mums in the first few weeks postpartum. I also suffered from postpartum insomnia, and spent a month in a twilight world, feeling exhaustion so deep that I thought I might fall over and drop my baby. I made sure I asked for help – my GP prescribed me a short course of sleeping pills and I began therapy to help tackle the anxiety that was stopping me sleeping. I also had periods of real frustration that I couldn’t be out adventuring and exploring, but now that Sylvie isn’t a newborn (sob) and we can get outdoors as often as we fancy, I’m so much happier and more confident in my new role as an adventuring mama. The tough early days really do get easier and you’ll be out in the wild in no time – I promise.