I can hardly believe that this time last year I was just coming to terms with accepting my pregnancy, and now my little Charlotte is here.
It has been five months of learning, changing, growing, laughter and tears. There are days when I question myself as a mom, and as I put her to bed, I find myself asking if I loved her enough that day. I often feel guilty that I cannot be around her all day, but then I also feel guilty when I am relieved to get away.
I continue to breast feed, and I have no idea how long I will keep it up. This seems to be a popular question along with, “is she sleeping through the night?” Thanks to Babywise and sleep training I can say she is. I don’t know why people think I can predict the future in guessing how long I plan to breast feed because honestly that depends on Charlotte. I can say that while the act of feeding her has gotten easier, keeping up the supply has not. There are times when we have to supplement because I have to go to work as a flight attendant, and I have not saved up enough breast milk to feed her while I’m gone. She is awake more now, and therefore eats more, and so when I am home my life revolves around feeding Charlotte. Our bond has grown over the past few months, and I know now that she recognizes who I am and my voice, and she will reach for my face and hair with her hands. There is never a dull moment around my house.
As summer comes to an end, I have felt myself drawn to the mountains once again and was able to gather a group of girls together to hike a 14er. While I love my time at home with Charlotte, I do feel I need to get away and do something for myself here and there. My workouts have suffered the most since she was born due to my flight schedule. And the fact that I am not able to always take time during the day to workout, especially since my gym has no child care.
So hiking these mountains has become even more important. In order to minimize my time away from home, I decided we should leave Denver around 8PM on a Saturday night, drive to the trailhead and hike Mt. Antero straight away in order to make for sunrise on top of the mountain. Then we would hike down and drive home. The trip reports all said the hike was about 6 miles roundtrip but this was from the start of the top of a road. After driving a short distance up the road I did not feel comfortable going further so we stopped and began hiking. This greatly increased our mileage of hiking, but fortunately it was dark for the majority of the hike so we could not see the great distance that lay ahead.
One of my favorite parts about hiking is the fact that there are no distractions. There are no cell phones or iPads, televisions, or anything else to distract from nature and conversation. The four of us hiked through the dark, alternating taking turns in the lead and discussing everything from workouts to relationships. Sometimes we said nothing to each other at all and just enjoyed the stars. It rained, the wind blew, there was darkness and cold, but we marched on in the night hoping we were following the right path to the summit. Some moms like to get away to the spa to refocus and re-center, but for me, there’s no greater place than the mountains for meditation.
Just as dawn began to break on the horizon we started our ascent to the summit. Mt. Antero is located in the Sawatch Range. It iss not a difficult mountain to climb except for maybe the last 200 feet. There is a jeep road that leads to about 13,000 feet on the standard route, and it made for an easy hike in the dark because the route was fairly straight forward. In my opinion, this mountain is not an exciting or particularly scenic hike compared to many other 14ers, so I wanted to do something special on the top for sunrise.
Considering the fact that over the past few months my breasts have seen the light of day more than they have in 32 years, I decided a topless summit photo was in order. Luckily the women I chose to hike with shared the same sense of playfulness and adventure. They were game to go topless as well. As much as people may think they know me and who I am, I have to say I am not particularly comfortable being naked. I can wear a bathing suit, short shorts and sports bras all day long but there is something about baring it all that makes me feel too vulnerable. This coupled with the fact that I was probably the last in my school to develop, and I was teased relentlessly by my friends for my small cup size, has led me to not take much pride in my look and shape of my breasts. After giving birth and breastfeeding I now see my body from a new perspective. After having my best friend and complete strangers see me in the most vulnerable position I could be in, I now no longer care what anyone thinks. So in honor of breasts, being at 14,269 feet and the wilderness which is the greatest equalizer among us…we bared it all.
It is rare to make the summit of a mountain by sunrise, and even more rare to have the summit to yourself. On this day, my 30th climb, we had both. I was reminded on this day that even the most ordinary mountain becomes extraordinary when you add the right mix of weather, friends and one bare-it-all idea. The air was cold, and I’ll admit it felt crazy to take our shirts off up there at 6:30AM, but it also felt right and freeing.
While I missed my baby love and my greatest hiking companion (my husband), it felt good to get out and do something for myself. To walk among the trees, to breathe in the fresh mountain air and to talk uninterrupted with people I’m just getting to know. As the sun began to rise in the sky, we made our way back down the mountain to our car, passing a few other groups here and there on their way up. The lower we got in elevation the more cars and four wheelers we passed on the trail reminding us that civilization wasn’t far away. Yet on that mountain, on that star lit hike towards the sunrise, we were alone and felt a million miles away from everyone but each other. To come back down was like coming off a drug induced high, and I felt myself grow more and more tired the closer we got to the car. I was up for 31 hours straight until we reached my house. I have no idea how I did it other than as a new mom I can function off less sleep now.
Fortunately I have an incredibly supportive husband who, even though I was gone most of the day, continued to watch Charlotte so I could nap when we arrived home around 3PM. I have never been so tired from being up so long in my life. However, the fatigue faded, and I was thankful for our adventure and for the three women who joined me on the journey. A lot of friends express interest in hiking with me but not many people actually follow through. These three were open to the adventure, taking off our tops, and did not complain through the cold, the rain or the fatigue. I can only hope seeing the sunrise on top of the mountain moved them as much as it did me. All the hard work was worth it, as it often is in life!
Hiking a mountain to me is a lot like motherhood these days. It can be exhausting. There are times when you don’t think you will make it, and there are moments where you want to give up and even cry. Yet, when you reach the highest point you prove to yourself why it is you started in the first place. While you know every summit won’t be perfect in the end, if you have support along the way then you can find your way through, and eventually make your way back home….
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About the Author: Natalie Magee writes a regular column for Happiness Series about what motherhood and beyond - from prenatal to postpartum. Her intention with her column, "Baby & Beyond - What No One Else Will Tell You" is to give practical advice and tips to the busy mom and mom-to-be. She also shares her experiences good, bad and ugly as a woman, wife, mom, flight attendant and fitness instructor. Natalie is also a regular fitness contributor on Happiness Series. She will continue to create great, effective workouts for anyone - including the busy moms out there - who wants to get fit and stay in shape.