Babies and Boulders: A Personal Essay by Kristin Re

Kristin is a mother to a super rad 3-year-old, an alternative high school and local community college teacher, doctoral candidate, and entrepreneur.

An active member of the rock climbing community in the northeastern United States, she is extremely devoted to the empowerment of women through climbing, and teaches ladies technique clinics at climbing gyms in Rhode Island.

I began climbing in 2011, nurturing my newfound obsession as the spring and summer gave way to the crisp air that provided the best friction. That fall, I went on my first real climbing trip to the Red River Gorge, led my first 5.11, and began working my first V4. Then, my intuition told me something was wrong; I took a pregnancy test before going to the gym one night, and my fear became a reality.

I had not planned to become pregnant and had been told by doctors that, due to a medical condition, I would not be able to have children.  So this came as quite a shock. Some of the first things that went through my head were about climbing; I wasn’t sure if I could keep doing it, or what would happen to all the progress I had made during the months of obsessive climbing. I spent much time anxious about these questions, even after I had discovered I could keep top roping. I bought a special full-body harness that allowed me to climb throughout my entire pregnancy. Although it wasn’t always easy, I actually got stronger for a while, climbing my first 5.12 in the gym at four months pregnant. I took another climbing trip to the Red when I was seven months pregnant, and still managed to follow some amazingly fun 5.10s. Even though my shoes were so tight they displaced the water from my feet to my ankles, I climbed until five days before my daughter was born.


Pregnant in the Red

I won’t lie, it was rough afterward. My body was wrecked from the very real trauma of childbirth. I was forty pounds heavier than when I began the journey, I was exhausted from having a newborn, and all of a sudden my center of gravity was shifted (this was much more difficult than slowly growing bigger over the course of nine months); but, two weeks after Eleanor graced my life with her presence, I was back in the woods climbing beautiful granite boulders.

Nearly four years later, I admit it has been hard at times. It took me three years to finish losing the weight I put on and I can’t always go climbing when I would like, but I just sent my first V7, I’m stronger than I’ve ever been in my life, and I have experienced climbing in a way that is forever changed. I’ve challenged myself, not only physically, but mentally and emotionally as well; climbing pregnant forced me to change my style, hone my technique, and conquer the challenges that come with failure and hormones running amuck simultaneously. I have accepted my body as it is and learned that I could strive for better and push myself to climb even though for a climber I was “overweight.”

I have some great girl climber friends, none of whom yet have children; they haven’t been ready to give up their priorities for kids. Yes, children may make things slightly more difficult; you might have to be more intentional with your decisions and plans, but they don’t mean the end of climbing. Eleanor adores playing in the woods while I climb. I will say that my rope climbing days are few and far between, but bouldering is a joy with my daughter. She is an active member of our climbing community in her own right and is exposed to so many different, smart, and interesting people out in the boulder fields; I embrace this and think that this kind of exposure to a vibrant and diverse community will enhance her upbringing.

You can think of it this way – we are afraid of what we do not know. The first time I went to Bishop, I was overwhelmed by the height of the boulders in the Buttermilks. I really wanted to climb the Hunk (V2), but realized about ten feet off the ground that there would be no chance of backing down if I made another move; I ended up dropping off. Highballs are terrifying when we have no experience climbing them. After being in Bishop a few more days, I acclimated to the towering blocks of granite, and began feeling more comfortable climbing higher. Having a baby is like highball bouldering; it sounds and looks terrifying, but once put in the situation, it isn’t as bad as you thought. I’m going back to Bishop in two weeks and, like I’ve embraced motherhood and found a way to make it work in conjunction with climbing, I plan to conquer my fear and send the Hunk.


Baby Eleanor Bouldering in Bishop

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