This summer, while my pregnant wife and I were in the Catskills, we hit the midway point in the pregnancy and decided to take our developing baby on her very first hike. As expected of expecting parents, Marissa and I had a few concerns, ranging from the rational to the less-than-logical:
Should we be venturing into the woods this pregnant? What should we pack in the daypack? Do bears have a taste for pregnant women?
“A bear cannot smell a fetus,” I explained as we entered the forest, as we crossed streams, and as we climbed toward Acra Point. But Marissa had PTSD from our prior run-in with a Grizzly in the Grand Tetons. During that Wyoming adventure, after we had completed one of the most incredible hikes, which had us traversing across slopes decorated with wild flowers and through ice fields that could have inspired the tundra scenes of Narnia, the aforementioned bear crossed our path. Marissa dropped to the ground where she chanted her death mantra: “I’m not okay. I’m not okay.”
Though the Catskills was far removed from Wyoming, being pregnant had inculcated in her that sense of motherly fear. She kept picturing the worst.
“There aren’t Grizzlies here,” I explained. “Maybe black bears.”
I wasn’t making things better.
We continued hiking toward the peak. To help calm her mind, Marissa sang songs from the 1980s and 90s, ones that you would only ever turn to in moments of despair, like Ace of Base’s “I Saw the Sign,” Disney classics, and show tunes. Eventually, the songs and the song birds and the transformative ability of nature made her forget about the bears.
At the top of the mountain, Marissa began to feel cramps. We were still hours from the car and weeks from viability. While cramps can be a normal part of the pregnancy, they can also be a warning sign. And nothing makes a warning sign seem more pressing than being stranded in the forest.
Needless to say, I grew nervous.
“Let me hold your hand as we go downhill.” I figured that her mind had to be elsewhere, no longer fearing bears or concentrating on her footfalls, but worrying about the health of our unborn baby.
“I’m fine,” she said and pressed on without my assistance. But for the next hour or so we both did our best to disguise our worry.
“It’s beautiful in these woods, right? Right?”
By the time the trail leveled off, we heard noises up ahead and Marissa stopped. I could read the panic in her shoulders: they tightened up and shot back. The bush up ahead rustled.
But the panic was unwarranted. The noise came from a few hikers walking toward the peak. Strapped to the male hiker’s back was a toddler. Trailing him was his female companion, who had an infant slung from her chest.
Marissa and I exchanged smiles with the passing family.
“First hike?” I wondered, pointing to the infant.
“Oh no,” said the mother, taking careful steps as her vision was slightly impaired by the oblivious baby strapped to her chest.
“We should do that when the baby’s born,” I said to Marissa.
“That’s crazy,” she said, hiking our unborn child back to the safety of civilization.
When I returned home, I looked into all of the different methods for transporting a baby through the woods. Of course there were slings and straps, but there were also all-terrain strollers. Now that we’re at 32 weeks, we started to prepare the nursery for our baby’s arrival. At the moment the only thing in the nursery is her new Bugaboo Buffalo, a stroller that’s designed for taking the baby on trail runs and hikes. Each time I go into the nursery, I look at the sonogram images and that cliche, yet imperative Seuss read, “Oh the Places You’ll Go,” and the Buffalo, and I think about all of the trails we’ll get to explore. I figure some of those trails might have bears, some will have myths about bears, but all of them will have really bad 80’s songs because that’s how you can manage to show your child the world while preserving a little peace of mind.
Here are ten tips for hiking while pregnant, courtesy of The Salt Lake Tribune. Have you or has someone you know hiked with a bun in the oven? Share your stories and tips in the comments below!