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Mountain Mama

Postby ERIC » Mon Aug 20, 2007 3:48 pm

Mountain Mama
Climbing during pregnancy keeps mother and child healthy for the big day.

The Orange County Register
July 30, 2007 ... -trail-day

To all the single women. To all the hardcore outdoorsmen trying to woo their girlfriends or wives to the mountains. To all the pregnant women, or pregnant-women-to-be: There is nothing, absolutely nothing, better than mountaineering to prepare you for pregnancy. Now, don't laugh. Just read on.

BABY IN TRAINING: Register reporter Natalya
Shulyakovskaya took at 15-mile hike in her
seventh month of pregnancy to keep herself
and baby fit.

It is an early fall in Yosemite. We started hiking up the trail from Tenaya Lake. The flowers are lush. Shadows from the pines cover the trail. The sun is going down and turning the gleaming still surface of the lake the color of honey and rose.

The two of us – me and my husband, Vassily, are going in for a two-day 15-mile hike that will lead us over two passes to Tuolumne Meadows.

Suddenly, in the tall grass we see a deer. Next is a slightly smaller one. Between them is a tiny golden fawn. We stop. They freeze. We stare at each other for so long, I start feeling the mellow wind blowing over my face.

Then, they move. And I burst out crying. I am seven months pregnant. My hormones are raging. I am carrying my child to see sunrise splash color on granite. I have read that infants could see rays of light in utero. I know they could hear from the 15th week on. I want this kid to hear and like the sound of stone crunching under boots.

And it isn't just about her. All through my pregnancy I climbed up the hills and StairMaster, swam in the ocean, walked and did yoga for a very simple reason: There is nothing that makes you – and especially a pregnant you -- feel lean, focused and energetic better than moving.

Eating for two is passe. Exercising for two is my mantra. And with each slow step I take toward our night camp near Sunrise Lakes, I get firmer and firmer in my belief:

This is nothing, absolutely nothing, to prepare for pregnancy better than mountaineering.

First, there is the sickness:

Morning and altitude sickness feel similar and rise from a similar cause. Your body yearns for more oxygen and more red blood cells to carry it at high elevations. It reacts by slowing you down. After a period of discomfort, most people acclimate. In pregnancy, the volume of blood that runs through your body goes up dramatically to accommodate a growing child. Your hormones reshape the body.

So, once you learn how to deal with the first pangs of altitude sickness and nausea it brings along, you are all set for your first trimester. Your saving grace could be in ginger tea. Or candied ginger. Or high carbohydrate snack with lots of fiber. More liquid. Or simply more sleep. But once you zeroed in on your solution in the mountains, it is likely to help during pregnancy.

Then, there is the power of constant movement.

Any endurance sport teaches you to trust your body and keep on moving. It also teaches your mind not to call it quits when you break a bit of sweat or loose breath. The mountains will test the limits of your body and your mind, and teach you to just keep on making one slow step after another until your second wind kicks in and you reach the summit.

This is pretty much a distilled description of labor: One push at a time. Then, a tired bliss.

But back in Yosemite, I was still a month and a half away from Alexandra's birth.

While we hiked about five miles from about 8,200 to 9,200 feet, night fell. We were getting close to the ridge and a huge orange moon lit up the trail.

In books on staying fit during pregnancy, I read recommendations to stay away from high altitude during pregnancy because unborn children don't have a long supply of oxygen in their bloodstream. Since I climbed and skied regularly at or above 10,000, I adjusted it for myself. My limit was at about 10,000. And I carefully listened to my body for any signs of discomfort, prepared to go down.

They didn't come.

The next day, we hiked amidst peaks along the John Muir Trail.

As I carried my light backpack, I felt the light stride I usually get on my second day of hiking. Cathedral Peak towered over us.

We dropped down closer to Tuolumne Meadows, we again got into shadows of large pine trees again and almost ran down. The path twisted. We saw more hikers.

In mid-October, my daughter, Alexandra, was born.

She was small, lean and energetic. She was early, too, which is common for children of physically active mothers.

The day after her birth, I woke up, full of adrenaline after the labor and aching for movement. The 20 pounds I gained during my pregnancy were gone. I marched around the labor and maternity ward while Alexandra slept. And the stride I felt was quick and springy.

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