It’s hard to remember what the excitement of going on an adventure feels like, since the closest I’ve gotten to anything remotely “adventure-worthy” has been taking a walk around the neighborhood barely holding back vomit. I’ve been almost entirely sedentary for almost three months, hating my life and enduring what feels like the hardest thing I’ve ever experienced – pregnancy. It’s my first one and I had no idea what kind of toll it would take on me.
A lot can change in a year.
This time last year, I was going to crossfit three times a week, my backpacking and camping gear had already worn in for the season and hiking was a norm. I had gone bike touring across state lines, I was well into hosting the stream of out-of-town guests who’d be visiting during the summer, and I was thrilled to dive into summer in Montana. It’s an amazing time of year here, pregnant with opportunities for epic adventures! My spirits were soaring after spring piqued my excitement for the summer ahead.
Those feelings of anticipating adventure have been vague and blurry since pregnancy illness hit me at week 4. I woke up and BAM! I had relentless nausea, no appetite, and violent vomit episodes I didn’t know my body was capable of. Completely fatigued from the pregnancy and lack of nutrition, I would lay in bed like a limp potato…literally all day. If not in bed, the couch. I felt “best” being horizontal and still so I tried to stay that way as long as I possibly could every. single. day. I was miserable and depressed.
As a fairly active and productive person, I had no idea I was capable of doing so much of nothing. Taking a shower or cutting my nails became my one goal I’d set my mind on for the day, but simply couldn’t get myself to do. I could easily go four days until I finally reeked and my hair could no longer absorb any more grease. I’d wear the same thing day and night and I felt disgusting and yet felt so incapable of doing anything about it. I had no problem with feeling like this when I’d be out backpacking, but now the greasy face and unwashed body was merely a result of laying in bed, too ill to move. When did taking a shower become a monumental task? I’d biked from Canada to Mexico before! Why couldn’t I just do it?
While focusing on my diminishing physical capabilities, I didn’t realize that my emotional and mental health had been invisibly deteriorating at a similar rate. At about week 7, I would lay in bed thinking about how the only way this misery would end would be if I had a miscarriage. “Could I cause one? How?” And then I’d convince myself that I’d be devastated if I actually did have a miscarriage. It was true, but what really made me stop thinking about miscarriages was that I’d have to endure all of this suffering if and when I got pregnant again. Why restart all of this misery? I wanted a baby, I just had no idea it came at such a steep price.
Fast forward to week 11 (aka the lowest point). I had to fend for myself for a week while my husband was on a business trip. I was feeling horrible and didn’t want him to go, but figured I just needed to buck up. That Tuesday, a girlfriend sent me an email sharing her concerns about my mental well being. She suspected I might be experiencing some kind of depression given the stream of messages I had been sending her expressing how miserable I was. In kindness, she sent me two articles about prenatal depression which completely unglued me. I wept in bed. Then I wept again while eating breakfast, and again and again and again. All of this misery I had been experiencing had a name and more importantly, I wasn’t alone. Other women felt this too! These feelings of having lost myself, of being barely a shadow of myself…I wasn’t alone. I wept again. The sobbing persisted all week. I’d burst into tears at any moment, but especially at 4pm when I’d pathetically force feed myself something so that I’d have something to throw up besides bile (because that is truly the worst kind of vomit).
I don’t know how I survived that week or any of the prior weeks, but I did. And I’m here now.
Pregnancy has been horrible for me. Actually, I’ve learned it’s quite horrible for a lot of women. At first I found it particularly challenging to know that I used to be capable of so much more and I grew resentful of how this alien inside me was making me incapable of anything. But as I’ve been starting to crawl out of the first trimester weeds, I’ve been able to accept where I’m at and emotionally connect to this tiny human inside me, I’m realizing this experience is expanding my definition of adventure to include all the small victories (like taking a shower or slowly walking to the park) I didn’t even consider before pregnancy. I think I’ll see the epicness of this adventure after I collect enough small victories to see the grandeur of creating new life. I look forward to that day.
Until then, I’ll just keep collecting every tiny victory I can.
Liz is the Creator of Snowqueen & Scout, a website dedicated to making wilderness backpacking simple for women. When she’s not feeling ill or tired from her first pregnancy, she’s building out her website, freelance designing and teaching wilderness medicine.