So I’m in my second trimester and I got extraordinarily lucky: I feel waaaaaay better.
And as soon as T2 hit, I started attending a prenatal yoga class which focuses on preparation for my upcoming natural childbirth. In class, myself and a handful of other pregnant ladies challenge our physical and mental stamina with endless squatting and compromising positions. This builds our confidence to help remove the fear that is often associated with childbirth. It also probably looks hilarious.
After just one class, something clicked.
I was emotionally inspired. So I decided to hike to Tom’s Thumb. Purely because the idea scared me.
I called my most trusted hiking partner and we hit the trail on a beautiful day. She generously matched her pace to mine (a super effing slow pace) and was sure to talk the whole way up so I wouldn’t use precious cardio for chatting. We took breaks, we ate snacks, and I chugged water in spite of my compromised bladder.
The hike to Tom’s Thumb isn’t the most brutal in town (I only rated it as “moderate” in my book). But it’s a healthy 4-5 miles with a 1,300 foot elevation gain. It’s not enough to make you sore for days but it definitely makes you crave a beer (or three) after you get off the trail.
As we painstakingly climbed the switchbacks, I struggled, sure. But I also felt strong.
To my surprise, my hiking partner suddenly turned to me and blurted, “This is too much for you. We need to turn around.” She explained that I was breathing too heavy, I was hiking too slow, and that she was really worried.
Never, ever, in the history of our years of hiking together, has she said something like this to me.
I felt afraid. If she didn’t believe I could make it, how could I?
I quickly decided to bury my fear and convinced her I was fine.
But from there on out, the break in resolve wore on me and I wrestled with anxiety. Each time I’d catch a breath wrong, I’d imagine myself passing out on the trail with a dangerous drop in blood pressure. When we stopped to allow a rattlesnake to cross, I pictured poisonous fangs under every rock, ready to strike. On the final leg of the ascent, my balance was blasted by relentless wind so I often saw myself tumbling down the side of the mountain to land in a bloody heap.
This is not uncommon for me — these images cross my mind with almost every hike. But dealing with my morbid imagination is soooooo much easier when I’m the only person in my body.
Oddly enough, I coped by thinking about the birth. My fear-filled imagination on this hike was surely childsplay compared to what I’ll torture myself with when I begin laboring.
So the hike turned into a scrimmage of mind control. I practiced ignoring the things my mind was screaming in order to listen to what my body was saying. Lucky for me, my body was saying it was perfectly fine. In fact, it was happy to be outside, moving, and absorbing so much oxygen.
Eventually I made it to Tom’s Thumb. And I felt really, really good.
I haven’t told very many people that I’m planning for a natural childbirth. Because almost every time I tell someone, I see a wide-eyed expression followed by some kind of negative comment. Each time, I feel a small crack in my confidence.
I just have to keep doing what I did on Tom’s Thumb: Ignore the noise and trust my body. Obviously, it knows what it’s doing and it will guide me to the right place.
Tom’s Thumb Trail
Distance: 4-5 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,325 feet
Pregnancy Difficulty: Strenuous — Probably only do-able in 2nd trimester
Location: Tom’s Thumb Trailhead in McDowell Sonoran Preserve
Online Map & Driving Directions (click the link and scroll to bottom of page for Google map driving directions)
Full trail description is available on page 241 in Take a Hike Phoenix!
Obligatory disclaimer for the pregnant ladies and all other humans: Check with your doctor before engaging in exercise.