Originally posted July 2015.
I was raised in the Southern California Mountains. I had a father who instilled a love of nature and hiking into my soul. It is a part of me. It is my therapy for recovering from a tough week. The thought of simply being out in the woods, on a mountain top, by a stream, just any beautiful spot outdoors, is what gets me going each morning.
So in April of 2014, when my OBGYN told me I had to remain on bedrest for the remaining 4 months of my pregnancy, it was like someone had taken a part of me and thrown it out the window. 4 months, in a bed, only being able to get up to pee (I even had to sit in the shower), it felt like death warmed up.
I realize that many women have hard pregnancies, and some of those pregnancies were worse than mine was. Yet that didn’t change the fact that mine was still terrible, for me. As an outdoor enthusiast who found that being outdoors was what rejuvenated my soul, I was lost.
Jumping forward a few months to August of 2014, I gave birth via scheduled C-section to a beautiful and healthy baby boy. We were in the hospital for a week before we could go home, but it was OVER. And as cliche as it may sound, all of the pain, the inside hell, was WORTH IT. I had a being I had created and he was perfect.
But then what. My body had been ravaged by the pregnancy and the C-section. For another 2 weeks after returning home, it was painful to move, to breastfeed, to try to get to my crying baby without my uterus feeling like it would fall out of my body, and this terrified me. Would I ever be able to hit the trails again?
Of course with time, the physical healing eventually came, but I was facing another challenge. All of the turmoil that was going on in my head and heart during the pregnancy, and the shock of how hard being a new mother was took it’s toll on me. I felt sad often, when I knew I should be feeling joy that my child was alive and healthy, and that my body was on a great path to recovery. But finding the energy to hike, let alone get out of the house, was a daunting task.
I began seeing a therapist who specialized in pregnancy and postpartum depression. It did help, to a point. I was able to say things to her that I was even scared to voice to myself, and oh how relieving that was. But I knew deep down what my true issue was. I was inside, all the time. I felt like the outdoors was drifting away from my heart. I finally realized that the ONLY way to find ME again, was to just do it! So my husband and I went to find the best baby hiking backpack we could find and planned a hike that same weekend.
That first hike post-partum changed everything. I remember waking up that morning and telling my husband that no matter how many excuses I came up with to remind me that this was my path back to myself and to not let me quit.
We got to the trail head, and that was it. I was home. I was free. And to make everything even better, I had the beautiful human being I created sleeping peacefully on my back as I walked through the woods, my loving and supportive husband at my side.
It was hard. My body was nowhere NEAR where it had once been. The muscles that had turned to jelly during those 4 months of bed rest were screaming at me to stop. I didn’t listen. I kept going.
10 months later I am still going. I make it a point to hit the trails at LEAST twice a week. It has been the best therapy I could have hoped for. I even joined a group of other like-minded parents called “Hike it Baby.” It has been a life-saver, just seeing all of these little beings outside in the wildnerness. With each breath of fresh air, each sweat drop that drips down my face, each babbling brook, and each gorgeous vista, I’m 100% back to my old self. I smile all the time. I laugh. I have energy for myself AND my child.
If I could share one word of wisdom with those mothers and fathers who could be feeling the way I did, it is to GET OUTDOORS. Even if you’re not a rugged hiking type, just get your sweet little ones in a stroller and go for a walk. Let the sun shine down those magical vitamin D rays onto your face. Let the wind make a mess of your hair. There is something about the outdoors that I just can’t explain, but what I can explain is that it works your inner-self, far better than any pill could ever do.
Mary Beth Burgstahler was born and raised in the Southern California Mountains and attended college at Cal State University Monterey Bay where she majored in Human Communications. Having lived her entire life in Wilderness areas, she gained an affinity for the outdoors and outdoor activities, one of the main reasons Mary Beth agreed to moved to her husband’s home-state of Minnesota in June of 2013. Outdoor adventure abounds in the Land of Ten Thousand Lakes. Shortly after their move, Mary Beth and her husband, Jacob, welcomed their first son, Jackson, in August of 2014. They now reside in White Bear Lake, MN.