It was June 2015 when I first held my daughter in my arms. We named her Tinsley (Tinnie) Ember–it was love at first sight. Then, the next thing I knew I was back at home in my small town in Northern Ontario with my new daughter. A few short days later my husband returned to work and I was left tired, rather battered from labour, and alone with this new little girl. I cried–a lot. I would look at my two dogs who just wanted to go for a hike and I would cry. I would think about my family, the closest of which lived 2.5 hours away, and I would cry. I would look out the window at the beautiful summer that was passing me by and I would cry. I was in mourning for a life that I was leaving behind, a life where I could get up and go wherever, whenever I pleased. I loved my little girl, but I would look at her and think, “what have I gotten myself into?” I had a case of the “postpartum baby blues.”
Then I started hiking again. Slowly, at first, then more and more until I was hiking twice a day with my baby and my dogs. From the first hike I took I knew that hiking was the medicine that this momma needed.
Hiking helped me feel better and to accept my new postpartum body. My body might not look the same now as it looked pre-baby but it sure can do what my old body did, and then some. My new body can still hike all the trails I hiked before, and now with a baby attached to me and a backpack on! My new body can do something neat my old body wasn’t capable of–it can feed my baby while I hike! Take that, old body. You have been replaced by a stronger body that can do more than just look good.
Hiking postpartum helped me bond with my baby. Sure, I bonded with her through breastfeeding and through caring for her. But for me, nothing was better then getting to bond with her in nature. I would put her in my wrap carrier and have her snuggled in close to my body. She would sleep and I could look down at her as I hiked and see her adorable little face. I hiked a lot throughout my pregnancy and I think she felt comforted hiking postpartum because the movement of hiking was something she was use to when she was in the womb. When she got a little older and stronger, I would hike with her sitting up and loved watching her look around at the nature surrounding her. Her eyes would grow large at new sights and she would turn towards the sounds of birds and the wind. Hiking in nature highlighted just how amazing my new little daughter was.
Hiking helped me to feel less lonely in the first few months postpartum. Everyone knows family is important and this becomes really clear when you become a new mother. I live 10 hours away from my family and 2.5 hours away from my husband’s family, so I did not have someone there to help me daily. I thought it was strange how I could feel so lonely sitting in the house with this little baby who needed me all the time–but I did. When I hiked, time passed where I was focusing on something other than the fact that I was alone. I felt calmer and more in control of my new situation. I began to see my daughter as my company and would talk to her as I hiked or sang her songs. I was not alone. I was with her.
As if hiking had not done enough but it helped me stop mourning the loss of my old life and embrace the new life I had before me. I am a lover of all things outdoors. Before my daughter, my husband and I travelled extensively, thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail and would go on a backcountry adventure on a whim. We planned to have Tinnie, but once she arrived I couldn’t help feeling like I had just given up a really good life to have her. Once I got out hiking again, the rain-clouds cleared and I could see all the potential for new adventures that were ahead of us. I had in fact not given up anything but was given the opportunity to see the things I love in a new way–through her eyes.
For me, hiking helped me get over my “postpartum baby blues.” It was something that was familiar and comforting for me and opened my eyes to all the new possibilities in front of me. I am confident now as a mother and am happily raising my little girl on the trails. Hiking has always given to me, and this is just another thing to add onto the list to be thankful for.
Melissa Baum is an avid outdoorswoman with her preferred mode of travel being hiking. Now, a new mother, she is finding room in her backpack for her daughter Tinnie. She is determined to keep putting miles on her shoes while raising her daughter on the trails. She created love.nature.baby, a blog detailing her attempts to raise a baby in nature. She shares tips and tricks on how to make this happen.