A woman’s body is an incredible thing. We’re able to grow and nurture another human being while also sustaining our own health. That ability comes at a price as our bodies go through remarkable changes for 9 months leading up to the grand finale of delivering a tiny person. As wonderful as it is, recovering from such a task can be slow and discouraging at times.
I learned this the hard way a few months ago when the birth of my second child didn’t exactly go as planned. I went into the hospital with symptoms of back labor, hoping to try for a VBAC (Vaginal Birth After C-Section). When the labor wasn’t progressing and my baby was showing signs of distress, I opted for a second C-section. I went in there thinking it would be business as usual with some added recovery time, just like my first C-section. But boy was I wrong. My bladder had adhered to my uterus following my first C-section, making it very difficult to work around to get to my baby. I ended up with a tear in my bladder and constant bleeding that required 4.5 liters of blood transfusions and blood products. In other words, they had to replace almost my entire body volume of blood. It made for a scary situation for everyone involved.
Getting Back out There
Needless to say, my recovery was harder than anticipated. By the time I was cleared by my doctor to hit the trails again, my once confident hiking demeaner had turned to nervous caution. Not only was I still recovering and building my muscles back up, but I had a second tiny person to account for on the trail. Recovering from such a tremendous experience is rough, and many women face similar circumstances with unexpectedly hard labors and recoveries. So how do we get over the fear and get back out on the trails? Check out these tips and advice from our Hike it Baby community to get back into nature after having a baby.
- I started out going on exclusively toddler-paced hikes because I knew they would take many breaks so I could adjust the carrier, nurse, stop for myself, sit down and they wouldn’t go too far. – Ruth, Lebanon-Hershey, PA
- Remember to go easy. Ligaments around the pelvis can get very sore in just a short time. – Erin, Capital Region, NY
- Be gentle with yourself. You’re going through a big transition just like baby. You probably aren’t as fast. You probably don’t have your old stamina. That’s fine. They’ll come back. Your joints are softer than they were pre-pregnancy and they may stay that way for a while. You will need more water and likely more calories, so plan accordingly. After my first, I climbed a mountain at 6 days postpartum. I was proud of myself for “getting back” so quickly, but I got hurt and it made my bleeding worse. Not my best idea. After my second, I was still back on the trail within a week, but I chose an easy toddler-led walk instead. – Nicole, Mountain Home, ID
- Don’t feel like you have to rush to get back out on the trails. Put you and your body first. Baby will be fine, but often we try to get back on the trail before our bodies are truly ready and do more pelvic floor damage than good. Try to follow up with a pelvic floor physical therapist prior to hitting the trails again just to make sure everything is alright. – Keira, Lexington, KY
- My biggest advice: Plan to leave early, so you have time to nurse and get the newborn settled into the carrier. – Annie, Ann Arbor, MI
- Prepare for possible diaper changes while out on the trail, along with snacks and water if you are a nursing mom. We tend to forget some of these things between babies. – Erin, Capital Region, NY
- Start slow! My first “hike” after baby 3 was a half-mile boardwalk at little kid pace. Also, learning how to nurse/bottle feed while babywearing is hugely helpful. – Melissa, Hampton Roads, VA
Bring a Friend or Join a Group
- Have a friend who can hold you accountable! Start easy and slow and make sure you have a good carrier you are comfortable wearing. Make sure to listen to your body and your baby. Get your other kids involved too. – Samantha, Calvert, St. Mary’s and Charles County, MD
- Make sure you have support on your first couple hikes; that way you have extra hands to help you. And don’t be ashamed to ask for help. – Keira, Lexington, KY
- Be prepared for anything and everything. Don’t ever feel bad to ask for help. Those first few hikes with two kiddos were really hard. But guess what? Another mama will always love to grab some baby snuggles so you can help your toddler use the potty or get a much-needed snack. The beauty of HiB is we have each other. Also, I arrived at hikes 20-30 mins earlier in the early days with two so I could nurse, change diapers, etc. That way, I wasn’t worrying I was holding our group up. – Lauran, Greenville, SC
Give yourself a break
- It’s OK to cry. I cried EVERY TIME I left the house when my youngest was born. I’d get in the car and it seemed like every time we would leave the house, he would have a blow-out or needed to nurse, or he would just cry the entire way to the trailhead/grocery store. I was overwhelmed. Once I got on the trail, he’d fall asleep and I’d sort out my feelings as I’d meditate – one foot in front of the other. That ease and simplicity put things into perspective for me. Nature gives me clarity, so it was so helpful to just get out there. – Annie, Ann Arbor, MI
- Never quit after a bad hike. – Lauran, Greenville, SC
- It was easy for me to dwell on the days I didn’t get out as failures, so setting myself the mantra that the minutes and miles outside are successes and the inconveniences and hiccups along the way are learning opportunities. I’ve found it to be such good training for big siblings, too – how to be patient, not to let frustrating situations ruin a day, how to problem solve. One of my best moments was hiking with a friend and I felt like we’d done nothing but stop and go for me to get situated, change a diaper, etc. My newborn was fussing to be fed and before I even told them I needed to stop, her son pointed to a fallen tree and said, “Mom, that looks like a good seat for Emily to feed the baby.” Warmed my heart so much. I also asked my friends to take lots pictures of me and the baby while out. It’s so encouraging to see the little moments that can be forgotten when you’re tired and not sure you want to try to get out again. – Emily, Peoria, IL
Just do it
- My biggest piece of advice is to just do it! There will always be “what ifs” standing in your way. But the truth is your baby will never be lighter, sleepier and lower maintenance than they are right this second. So take advantage of this precious time! – Vanessa, San Diego, CA
- Almost 4 months ago we welcomed a baby girl into our family of two toddler boys. I have found this postpartum time to be the easiest for me. This goes against what most everyone else is saying. For me, getting back to “life as usual” really helped me feel like myself again. We took about two weeks of resting at home, but getting back out there and doing our usual activities has helped me feel good, while keeping life consistent for the boys. – Jaclyn, Holland, MI
What other tips or advice do you have for hitting the trails again after having a baby? Let us know in the comments below!
Photos courtesy of Rebecca Hosley and Lauran Hender.