I always knew I wanted to be a mother, but it wasn’t until I was 35 that the dream became my reality: my husband and I were pregnant with a baby girl. I don’t think any first-time parents understand what to expect in that first year of existence, and we were no exception. But, I can confidently say that I was caught off-guard in what I now view as the most difficult year of my life. It wasn’t the sleepless nights or diaper changes; rather, I witnessed my body fail in ways I had never before previously experienced. As a lifelong athlete, my body’s physical capabilities are paramount to my career and my mental sanity. When we welcomed our new daughter into the world, I also ushered in a litany of physical ailments.
First, we struggled during childbirth, culminating in an emergency c-section where I was knocked out via general anesthesia. I missed our daughter’s birth entirely. Then, pregnancy-onset carpal tunnel nearly crippled me for six months, preventing me from holding a pen or even driving a car. Nursing struggles came next as my body refused to produce enough breastmilk to feed our baby. Finally, in an ego-shattering blow, I tore my ACL during my second day of postpartum backcountry skiing. Of course, there is no way of knowing, but in my initial surgeon consultation, he told me that it was highly likely my knee busted because of the relaxin hormone left over in my body from child birth.
I was shattered, both physically and emotionally. I’d never before experienced a love like the instantaneous bond with our daughter, but how could something so beautiful and pure be wrought with pain and frustration?
Then, in her seventh month of life, I caught a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel. Thanks to my husband’s absurdly generous paternity plan, our little trio was able to take a three-month road trip through the American West. We lived in a tent and showed our daughter the world we wanted her to see: orange and red slot canyons, towering snowcapped peaks, and backcountry campsites far from civilization. For her, it was an introduction to the wild. For me, it was a return to my identity.
It’s been four months since we’ve returned from life on the road. Liliana is now a 14-month-old walking toddler who is quickly leaving her baby days behind her as she sets her sparkling green eyes on the horizon. I went under the knife three months ago to fix my knee and am just now able to try hiking with our daughter again. We swapped breastmilk for cow’s milk and my temporary carpal tunnel subsided months ago.
That’s the thing about the first year of life: it is a wild ride that passes in the blink of an eye. From where I sit now, I feel so similar to the family in this video. I’m inordinately privileged to claim this ride as my own through all of its twists and turns along the way. It certainly wasn’t what I expected but then again, what is? It doesn’t matter whether we’re carrying our daughter through the backcountry or playing soccer in our backyard; the reality is far better than I imagined. In fact, I daresay it’s the best ride of my life.