I grew up in a small town in the middle of nowhere, so being outdoors was always a part of my life. When I had my first child in 2010, I knew that I wanted to share my love of hiking with my children. When she was two months old, I put her in a carrier for the first time, packed enough baby gear to last three weeks, and headed out on a short trail. When I finished that hike, I knew that hiking would continue to be a huge part of our lives. I had no idea at the time, but that one hike would open the door to a future of healing from trauma that I never saw coming.
Fast forward three years, to the birth of our second daughter. It became clear on the day of her birth that I had suffered an unknown complication that left me unable to use or feel my right leg. I found out months later that the damage had been caused by pressure on the nerve during labor, but the trauma that occurred in those few days in the hospital was more than just physical.
About a month after her birth, I sat in the neurologist’s office as she told me “You might never walk again.” I was devastated. How was I supposed to take care of two small children if I couldn’t walk? The next question out of my mouth was “Will I ever hike again?” Her response of “Not likely,” was both devastating and motivating. I was suddenly determined to prove her wrong, because I couldn’t imagine giving up something that I loved so much. That next week I talked to my physical therapist and made a plan to get back out on the trails.
Six weeks after her birth I told my husband that I was ready to get back out there. I found a good brace to stabilize my leg, put my daughter in the carrier, and very slowly made my way down that same trail that I had taken my first daughter on three years earlier. I finished it. I was slow, but I did it. I knew that day that I was going to use hiking to help heal my leg. Six more weeks passed, and I hiked halfway up a mountain trail that I had never done before. I set a goal to make it to the top the following summer, and I eventually did just that. My physical therapists were amazed at how well I was recovering, and they credited a lot of it to my weekend hikes.
Just under a year after her birth, we attempted a hike that we couldn’t complete. The wind was crazy that day, and the snow was blowing in our faces. The kids weren’t happy, so we turned around. My reaction to that hike in the following weeks made something very clear to me. The trauma that I had endured in those days after her birth was affecting my life way more than I had been willing to admit. With her birthday approaching, I found myself in a therapist’s office, asking for help. It wasn’t long before I was walking out with a diagnosis that felt heavy over my head. PTSD. Four letters that were supposed to explain the chaos that had completely taken over my life.
Months of therapy later, I had learned one thing for sure…hiking was better than anything any doctor could offer me. When the chaos became too much, hiking was my happy place. My calm. My ability to breathe again. When life gets overwhelming, I know that I can put my kids in the car, drive until my phone cant bother me, and put some dirt under my feet.
I still fight a delicate balance. While hiking is my calm place, it can also cause a struggle within me. The fear of failing, of not being able to finish or complete what I want to do can be paralyzing:
What if I can’t make it?
What if I get lost?
What if my kids refuse to go on and I am trapped with no way to get out?
What if I can’t physically do it…again?
I have found more courage within the Hike it Baby group. I know that I won’t be left behind, so I am able to go out and find that happy place more often, without the fear of failing alone.
What obstacles have you overcome either to hike or by hiking? Share in the comments below or via this form.