Remember the first time you went on a hike with Hike it Baby how you felt? I felt supported, safe, not alone, excited. I felt like I didn’t have to apologize for being slow, tired, forgetful and clumsy. Remember the first time a stranger showed up on your hike that you led? She was that woman who just found the group on the internet or had a friend send her the Facebook link? My first “stranger” to the group was a woman named Kali. She showed up in skate sneakers, a hoody and an oversized North Face jacket (probably her hubby’s) on a dreary, soggy NW day at Tryon Creek. I pretty much expected that I would be hiking alone because the weather forecast claimed hail and 50 degrees. Pretty bleak when you have a baby strapped to your chest.
But then one woman showed up, and another, and another. At 15 minutes after the hike time there were like 28 mamas and babies in total. We all hunkered down under a big wood shelter and contemplated if we should go for it. A few people made carrier and stroller changes. It wasn’t a stroller day. That much we determined. We would be hiking, baby on chest.
Kali had found us by Google-ing “mamas and hiking in Portland”. The website had only been up a few weeks and I was so excited to hear that we were already showing up on Google. I am such a computer dork. Those were the kinds of things that excited me, even with my fatigued mama brain.
Kali’s little girl Dilly was suffering from severe colic and was about 12 weeks old. Kali hadn’t slept in months and was exhausted. Her husband was a nurse and worked long hours so she was alone a lot. And as we all know many hours alone with a screaming baby can drive a woman completely mad. It can also make us depressed, angry, frustrated, annoyed, disappointed, doubtful. All of those feelings are normal when you are a new parent, but the hope is that they’ll pass quickly. But when you are alone and have a baby who won’t stop screaming unless you walk or move non-stop, it’s hard to not get swallowed up by the heavy energy. From the moment Kali joined us I could tell she was already feeling better. She didn’t care about the rain or the fact that we started 30 minutes late because we all kept contemplating if we had enough clothes on and if the rain would stop. She just was excited to have instant new friends who really got exactly how she was feeling before she even said a word.
After 45 minutes of hiking the rain did lift and I remember thinking “wow, this is what it’s all about. We did it together.” I never would have gone for a walk in rainstorm like this alone, but with the group it was fun. It reminded me of when you’re a kid and you purposefully go out and play in rain puddles and even take your shoes off to see just how wet you can get! And then the sun broke through. And we all stood there together and snapped a pictures. We looked like drowned rats and it was awesome. I never felt more alive and satisfied. I remember on that day I knew that something was happening that was bigger than us. We were part of a village of women who wanted to do things just a little differently. We liked our mama groups and our book babies. Swim lessons were fun. But none of these things satiated our soul in quite the same way as a quiet walk in the woods with our little one sleeping peaceful next to our heart as we breathed in fresh mossy wet air.
While doctors don’t advise much exercise before 6 weeks postpartum, we had women out there that day with 3-6 week olds who had huge smiles on their faces. And women with older babies giving advise to those women with new little ones. Our little hike wasn’t about exercise. It was about connection, empowerment, doing things we never imagined we would do with a precious little baby like hiking in rainstorm. That day was also about making new friends, going down a trail literally and figuratively, some of us had never been down before with strangers. And we were trusting that they were there for us no matter what.
It was not long after that hike that I began reminding people on every hike that we had to remember two very important things always:
1. Leave no mama behind. Poopy diaper. We stop. Need to nurse. We stop. Mamas needs a break. We stop.
2. It’s the journey, never the destination. Enjoy the moment you are in and look down at your baby and just love on them and be there!
In our fast paced lives having a baby is one moment when we actually do have a few weeks or even months sometimes to slow down for a second. We can blame our pace on the baby and that’s ok. Having a baby gives us the opportunity to look around at the world with different eyes. And we can chose to look at the world as a big, bad scary place or we can embrace all the beauty. We can build a strong village up around us to allow only the good in if we are all in it together. And that’s what I am finding more and more every day as Hike it Baby grows.
After that hike I knew that something bigger had to happen then just me hiking in Portland with a group of women. I wanted to keep this growing bigger and spread it to other moms. I didn’t have a plan or any real idea how that was going actually happen. I just knew that I had to push on and figure it out as I went. And that’s brought me to today.
As of today Hike it Baby is in 29 cities officially and a few more are in the works and will be announced soon. We had 80 hikes on the calendar last week! We have helped countless women get on the trail, nurse on trail. figure out gear, make new friends, supported them in going back to work and re-entering the “real” world with a smile on their face. We all know exercise can have a dramatic effect on countering depression, but getting outside and walking has an even great effect on your spirit and has been proven to increase creativity! Hike it Baby now offers hikes, urban strolls, fast paced walks, toddler walks and more.
We are a live, thriving community of amazing women (and men) from Anchorage to Asheville to Portland to Houston to Nashville.
Over the next month I am going to ask a lot of you. I am going to ask you to step outside your comfort zone and ask people to help us grow Hike it Baby out. Hike it Baby doesn’t need a lot. This is not about money. This is about building a strong base for our organization that can be sustainable and can support women (and families) all over the country and maybe even world. You will see me and hear me often reference “women” first and then families. This if because I truly believe if we start with the mamas and step in mamas (foster, step, or otherwise) this community will be incredibly powerful. That said, it also takes amazing men! So we welcome all who are contributing to building healthy, happy families to help us with growing Hike it Baby.
Here are simple steps you can take to help it grow:
1. Contribute $5-25 if you can. Totally understand if you can’t. You are all putting a lot of time in leading hikes and helping the organization grow and that is appreciated. Money is just one piece of the puzzle.
2. Post the Indiegogo at least 1-3 times a week on your Facebook feed . Here’s the link and a few potential posts:
Love Hike it Baby. Spread the word. We have kicked off an Indiegogo and it’s an uphill climb! Give us a hand. http://www.igg.me/at/hikeitbaby
Help water our tree and watch it grow! http://www.igg.me/at/hikeitbaby
Don’t know what Indiegogo is? It’s crowdfunding and we are using it to help Hike it Baby climb to the next peak. Check it out and join the push. http://www.igg.me/at/hikeitbaby
3. If you have time take our SAMPLE LETTER and make it your own and send out to people who you think might be interested in Hike it Baby.
The other day a Hike it Baby mama in Portland told me that now when she goes out on hikes with her baby she looks at trails in a totally different way. She looks at them for how they would be for other women with new babies and little ones learning to walk. She has her eyes open for good places to nurse and change babies along the way. She said she’s excited now to “scout” new trails and can’t wait to put them in the calendar after she does them. I love that Hike it Baby has given her a new way to look at her surroundings. I hope you all feel the same way. I know I do.
Watching Hike it Baby grow has been an incredible journey. I am scared and nervous to see what happens next but I am also so excited. I could have never done any of this without all of your support. Every day when I open up my Facebook and see hikes across the country I feel such a warm feeling in my heart. It’s so cool to learn about new hikes and to see so many happy faces. I have a dream that one day Hike it Baby will be in every major city across America and that we can all feel so proud in knowing that we were part of the early growth and making it happen. It takes more than just one person to make a vision become a reality. It takes a village and with you all I have that. Sorry if I sound preachy here. Not meant to be. Just super excited about this campaign and even more excited to be done with it so we can really get down to business.
Helping fund Hike it Baby will do a few things:
1. Insure that hikes are always free for everyone.
2. Create marketing materials for hospitals, clinics, birthing centers and others asking to learn more about Hike it Baby.
3. Pay for the legal costs like insurance, lawyers and waivers to make sure all hikes are safe and protected for everyone leading them and on them.
4. Build out a Foundation that will allow Hike it Baby to give away shoes and carriers to moms and dads who can’t afford to join us on trails because of limited funds!
5. Building a databank of hikes that are family friendly! We are working on improving the website so everything you enter contributes to a huge databank of hikes for you to be able to find across the country. Every hike entered will be recorded, mapped, further researched and added to a searchable databank so you can hike no matter where you are!
Today we launch the Indiegogo campaign (similar to Kickstarter) and it will run from October 1 and the campaign runs through November 5. The most important time to get funding is in the first week so it’s important to push especially hard this first week. Thanks again each one of you for your participation.
Happy hiking and can’t wait to see what the hike calendar has on it for this week…so far it’s 70….we did 82 last week….but this is only Monday. We could still beat that. 🙂
Shanti Hodges and Mason (who is now 15 months old and a super trooper hiker) founded Hike it Baby with the help of her awesome hubby and baby daddy Mark. Without the awesome community of amazing mamas who embraced it all, it never would have become such a cool thing. She hopes to one day get the chance to hike with every single Hike it Baby branch in America.