Can Parenthood and Adventure Really Go Hand-In-Hand?
When I was pregnant I didn't even consider that mine and Jeremy's love of being outdoors would change once we had a baby. I understood that we would have to 'tweak' it slightly but my thoughts were that we were gaining a little boy or girl who would share in our adventures... and give us an excuse to get out even more.
Having Jeffrey-Jay hasn't stopped us doing what we love doing. In fact it's made me appreciate every opportunity that comes our way. As soon as we got out of hospital and had done the Christmas celebrations I was desperate to do a little van surf trip, like we would always do. Jeffrey had popped out a couple of months early and it was too cold to have him in the Hymer when he was still premature, so we just adjusted our plans- we decided to air bnb it and got a little pad in Braunton for a couple of nights instead. We still did everything as normal, dinner in the thatch at Croyde, breakfast at the Riverside Inn and knackering the dogs out on the beaches between surfing. The only thing that had to change was tag-teaming our time in the water.
At other times when we wanted to surf together we cleverly recruited an injured friend to take Jeffrey-Jay up on the cliff at Kimmeridge for a walk so we could be in the water. On another occasion we combined a trip the the Isle of Wight to visit Jeremy's mum so that she could have 'Nanni' time and we could play in the sea....there was no surf but it didn't matter. It was just a chance to be out in the sea together.
Aside from the mini trips, I find adventure on a smaller scale than I did before. I figure it doesn't matter, as long as me and Jeffrey-Jay are outside in our normal day-to-day lives. When Jeffrey was first born, adventure came in the simplest form as me having a new wetsuit that I wanted to try out. In was New Years eve and Jeffrey was technically still two weeks premature even though he was already five weeks old. We knew that we couldn't do a normal day in the sea so we literally wrapped Jeffrey up so he was super toasty, chucked on our wetsuits and did a super-quick swim before going to get breakfast. It was enough just to feel normal. Aside from the sea, every day Jeffrey-Jay and I go out in the forest and find different routes to walk the our three dogs. We can spend hours out there exploring. Mentally and physically the benefits are great...plus the dogs are knackered! All I have invested in is a good baby carrier so he can be strapped to me, so we can get off the beaten track.
I'm lucky enough to have some amazing friends and an incredibly supportive husband. It's a great feeling when you look at your phone and you have messages saying 'hey come for a SUP', 'want to come coasteering tomorrow?', 'fancy a dog walk to the Square and Compass?'. Obviously I can't always take them up on all their offers but I have managed to go coasteering a couple of times, do some beach fitness circuits and some dog walks via the pub. I even have a friend who will come out with me to find the biggest hill, where we take it in turns to do hill sprints pushing Jeffrey-Jay up and down in his pram. I'd never do this on my own...I'd feel like a complete melon!
My advice to any new mum's is simple:
• As cliched as it sounds, just because you are now a mum, don't stop being you. If I stopped doing all the things I love I'd become pretty resentful. It's important to keep the shared interests and hobbies that I have with my husband. It's what he loves about me and it's how we have fun.
• Get picky. Prioritize what's most important to you once the baby is born. For me exercise and good food is essential! I decided that above anything else I wanted to swim regularly after having Jeffrey-Jay. I now have three set times a week where I go and swim for an hour and my husband will look after Jeffrey. This gives me time away just to do something for me, and I come back feeling rejuvenated and almost 'reset'. Just as importantly my husband loves climbing - he also has set times where he goes off with his friends - don't forget your husband!
• Book friend time whilst you are pregnant. This year is literally the year of weddings and hen-do's. I've had three hen-do's in the diary since I found out I was having a baby. NEVER have I looked forward to something more in my life! Knowing that I have a couple of weekends that are absolutely set in the diary, as time where I get to just think about myself and party, play...cause carnage with a group of my best friends...it can't be put into words. You go from living a life where you only think of yourself and your husband to suddenly putting someone else's needs first, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. For me, I believe it's so important to book yourself a break. Believe me, if nothing else it's just a countdown to where you get some nights of completely uninterrupted sleep!
• Find the fun. Having a baby just means that you have new opportunities to discover. I've had a pair of rollerblades sat in my shed since I found out I was having a baby. I'm DESPERATE to use them. Once the pathways along the Bournemouth beaches are clear of sand, I have a friend recruited who's going to teach me how to use them whilst I push Jeffrey-Jay along in his pram (could be a disaster!). When I returned to work, the first thing I thought of was 'lunch breaks'. I was gaining an hour of 'me-time' each day..this means one thing - open water swimming! I'm close enough to be able to run down to the beach, go for a sea swim and be back in the classroom guilt-free. Then I'll go home and see my son.
• Finally have time away from your baby. It may sound cruel but my husband and I have been leaving Jeffrey since he was one week old. On that occasion it was literally because the hospital staff ordered us to go out for a meal, which we did and then raced back to see him. But the midwives taught us that time together without the baby is good for all parties. It's good socialization for Jeffrey to be with others. Since then, we've had weekends away for valentines day, done simple things like going to the cinema/ going coasteering, and we have had three weddings booked in the diary. These we look forward to as we know that they're nights where we get to let our hair down and act like we used to!
You don't need to fear being 'stuck' once your baby is born. Just start being clever with your diary, get good at forward-planning, be creative with your time and communicate with your husband/ wife/ partner. Make sure you give as much support to your other half as you can. Having a baby is a true team effort; once you establish what's most important to each other when time is precious, you can definitely still keep the adventure, the trips away and your love of the outdoors very much in your lives.