Through this blog, I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to interview a lot of really strong and inspiring mamas out there – today’s interview with fellow Trango athlete Melissa Love is no exception! And since HER family dynamic is similar to what OUR family dynamic is going to be in just a couple of weeks, her story is especially interesting to me. Read on to find out how cool she is…
Name: Melissa Love
Crag-kiddos: Two sons, 4 and 1.
Currently in: Boulder, CO
Climbing for: 20+ years
Favorite Climbing Area: Rifle Canyon, CO. It works out great that Rifle happens to be my husband and I’s fave place to climb, as it’s also the easiest place we’ve found to climb with kids! Our camper van is never more than a few feet from the routes – the fridge is always close by for snacks, and when it’s nap time we just fold down the bed!
Proudest Climbing Achievement: Climbing 5.13b a year after the birth of my first son…I was still nursing him, mentally and physically stretched to my limit, so I was psyched I could keep it together to red point at that level at that time.
Did you climb during your pregnancies? If so, for how long? I climbed for all of my first pregnancy, and was still able to redpoint 5.12’s in my 3rd trimester (on toprope of course.) My second pregnancy, I started to feel cramping and continued discomfort in the later months, so I stopped climbing at 7.5 months. It turns out I had a diastasis recti, or separation of the rectus abdominus (6-pack muscles.)
How long did it take to get back on the rock postpartum and what challenges did you face? I had an unexpected C-section with my first, and waited until 6 weeks postpartum before heading back to Rifle and trying to get back in shape. After a couple of months of trying hard I was able to get back into pre-pregnancy shape, but there was definitely an added fatigue with nursing and sleep deprivation. Recovery from my second pregnancy was way harder than with my first. Having had a natural birth with my second, I thought my body was ready to go full on and tackle getting back into pre-pregnancy fitness. What I didn’t realize was that I had a 3cm wide separation of my abs, and the only thing that has corrected the problem was taking time off from climbing, several months of ab exercises, and wearing a medical splint to hold the abs together. I’d advise all women to educate themselves on diastasis, as there are certain situations that can put you at greater risk – already having had one child, being over 30, and doing activities that engage these muscles during pregnancy and early postpartum.
Does your husband climb? Do you all generally hit the crag as a family or do you take turns and leave the kids at home? It is way more challenging for us to climb together as a family at our home crags around Boulder, as these crags often require steep hikes and the cliff base is not very kid-friendly. We take turns and go out separately when climbing locally. Rifle is a 3.5 drive for us, and we’ve also taken family trips to the Red River Gorge in Kentucky, Victoria Canyon, SD, Red Rocks, NV, and Ten Sleep, WY. Everywhere but Rifle is more difficult in that we had to pack in all snacks, little fold out napping tent, books, etc..but well worth the effort! Beautiful and fun for everyone!
Since becoming a mom, has your attitude about risks in climbing changed at all? I didn’t notice any added fear on the rock, but once I became a mom I had the added fear of keeping baby safe at the crag. I would be part way up a route, stop, and look down to ask if baby was fine. Our extra partner would be belaying me and baby would be happy as a clam in the arms of Daddy, but I would constantly have my mind on him. Especially with my first baby, it was impossible for me to not think about baby constantly, which did no make for the most focused climbing experience. But baby is infinitely more important anyway, and I was still able to get back into climbing shape and enjoy sending again.
What age is easiest to manage at the crag? The easiest age so far at the crag has been 0-8 months as baby is not mobile and will happily play in one safe spot at the crag.
What age is the hardest? Toddler time is the most dangerous I think, as they are mobile, but not good at it yet and have lots of energy, wanting to take off in any given direction. After 3 it gets easier again as they communicate well and have a good sense of body awareness and dangers at the crag.
If you could offer one piece of advice to other mama’s out there what would it be? The one piece of advice I’d offer is utilize your community. Find great climbing friends that would be happy to join you and your family on a great climbing trip (even to the local crag). This will make it fun and manageable to climb with your family and friends too! It is possible, just a matter of logistics!
I would like to WHOLEHEARTEDLY echo Melissa’s parting words – finding community is essential for making climbing trips compatible with young kids. We have been so blessed to have a network of partners deep enough that finding that “third” is rarely the factor that limits us when planning trips. (Which is good because with cragbaby #2 expected on the scene any day now, we’ll be relying on those folks more rather than less over the next couple of years or so!) A big thank you to Melissa for being willing to share some of her story. If you enjoyed it too, leave her some love in the comments below! (And for more on Melissa, check out this inspiring video piece from Spindrift Films!)