Phew we’re all good! Wait is that a line? That’s barely visible. Surely that’s not a line. Definitely not a line. Oh god what if that’s a line.
Three tests and two weeks of ‘holy shit’ later and I’m 12 pages into google search on climbing whilst pregnant. With a bouldering trip booked to Albarracin in a few weeks time I’m desperate to know what is and what isn’t allowed. No such luck. I end up asking the midwife theoretically how high I could jump off of a box on to a crash pad if there was no chance I would land on my stomach, she looks at me strangely but agrees that my proposed height should be okay. I wonder what her answer would have been if I had mentioned the word climbing?
Top roping and seconding seem like the first logical option, no impact if you fall and there are pregnancy harnesses to accommodate for a growing belly, but I work at a bouldering wall and I’m going on a bouldering trip? I decide that easy bouldering and lowball’s are the way forward. I have been climbing for around a decade and a half and can make accurate judgement calls as to what is within my limits so as not to fall from high on the boulder wall, perhaps this option would not be best for someone who has just started climbing. I know how to ski but certainly wouldn't feel comfortable even on easy slopes while pregnant, where as there are many experienced women that ski well into their pregnancy. Listen to your body, you know your own limits.
The first trimester brought with it a world of queasiness and optimism. I was going to be that woman that was lifting weights every day, running 3 times a week and necking back luminous green smoothies all with my growing bump. I was going to be that woman who still had a six pack 6 months into her pregnancy and that could do 10 pull-ups in a row with her big belly. I was going to be that woman that had endless amounts of energy, that ate cleanly and did yoga.
I spent most of my days binge watching Netflix whilst eating anything that dared cross my path.
I still climbed a couple times a week but having not told anyone I was pregnant yet, the name of the game was now faking an injury as an excuse for not climbing on the same things as my friends, or just training on the fingerboards. If you have ever had a climbing injury you will know that at least one person at the wall will suddenly turn into a self proclaimed physio and will try to diagnose you on the spot, so faking an injury was actually trickier than I first thought. “Does it hurt if you turn it this way”, “yes definitely…”.
But I felt happy running round climbing half boulder problems, or training on the fingerboards and using the gymnastic rings, and spending time at the wall was a useful distraction from my uni work. A successful trip to Albarracin over winter, with a couple lowball 6C’s ticked and an exceptional amount of pastries eaten, led straight into the second trimester.
-Lowball bouldering and good friends in Albarracin-
Whoever said that you suddenly get all your energy back in the second trimester deserves to be punched in the face.
I’m exhausted which means I’m struggling to haul my self anywhere, making me feel pretty down which just heightens the tired feeling. Then something clicks, I am growing a freaking human. If I manage to walk to the shops or go to work or actually do some uni work at the same time as growing this human, that’s an achievement. If I manage to do all that plus go climbing or training, I deserve a big freaking shiny gold star, or that extra helping of cake…
My epiphany brought with it lots more motivation and the start of the third trimester. Ironically this is where I did most of my climbing, as the weather was better and the psych was higher, but my bump was certainly a lot bigger. Watching my grades get lower while everyone else got higher was demoralising to begin with, because when I stepped on the wall I didn’t feel like I was pregnant anymore, I just felt normal but couldn’t climb at the same grade. Compared to walking where I was grumbling and huffing and puffing, climbing felt so graceful. Then I realised that was the single best thing about climbing through pregnancy, still feeling that flow, still solving problems and being amazed at what my body could still do, even though I looked like a whale.
Lowdown crimpy traverses became my friend and I would climb back and forward until my arms could no longer take it. I had two move boulder problem projects that only took me a foot off the ground that I was working on. Most importantly I was managing to spend some time on rock, sneaking in the occasional day of multi pitch trad, or seconding things at local crags. Top roping at Moy was great fun, the routes are long and slightly overhanging on good holds. I thought my forearms were going to explode at the top of the 6c I climbed, it was great! Being able to try hard was just so refreshing.
At 35 weeks pregnant I spent my 21st birthday in Northumberland climbing routes, eating biscuits and chatting shit with friends. Bliss. My bump was exceptionally large but it didn’t matter because I was still doing moves and having fun.
-Bowden at 35 weeks, lots of climbing = lots of napping-
Climbing made me feel like me again, not just a giant incubator. I would encourage women to do whatever makes them feel like themselves while pregnant, whether that’s climbing, running, or knitting. You don’t need to be just a pregnant lady, you can still be yourself and grow that little, squishy, cute baby at the same time.